Our first conversation was with RuCoNet, an organization we work with in Tanzania. But I (Content Manager) and Luca (Forestry Manager), got the hang of it and decided to have another chat with the person who manages and cares for another of our projects in that magnificent country, so we grabbed the computer and called ...
The Welfare Aware Organization is a non-profit organization in the Mbeya region. It was founded by young people who are passionate about their community. People like Jordan "Japhy" Japhet, the founder of the organization. Jordan is only 24 years old, but he amazed us with his maturity and vision. With him we talked about his story, Treedom and plans for the future.
(Jordan from WAO in conversation with Treedom)
Laurenz: Hey Jordan, but you are in a nursery, right?
Jordan: Yes, exactly! (laughs) I'm at work right now, in our nursery in Ilolo, near Mbeya. This is where a lot of our activities take place, and even the ones that will become trees that will grow into Treedom projects are here at the moment! Can you see them behind me? They are very young avocado plants. After we got in touch to schedule this video interview I said to myself, hey! this is the perfect place for our conversation!
You had a great idea! But at this point I'm curious how WAO came about?
Jordan: Well we need to take a little step back. It all started in 2018 when I single-handedly started trading avocados, but there was only one problem: the competition in the avocado trade is huge! I realized that buying and selling the fruit was not the solution. So I came up with the idea to switch to growing, figuring that the more people I could get involved, the greater the chance of success. If I get people involved here in Mbeya," I told myself, "we'll all benefit in the end.
And did the idea work?
Jordan: At first I was on my own and it wasn't easy. But then I found a mentor at the University of Mbeya - Alfred. He is a guy who is older than me, but from the same village as me. We met while attending some classes, I told him about my dream and he supported me in many things and encouraged me to start my own organization. So, together with my brother, I officially registered WAO as an organization in early 2020 and Alfred joined us. Shortly after, we met Tommaso and Luca, two of Treedom's forest managers...sometimes things are just meant to happen!
Luca: We were really lucky with the timing! I remember very well how it went. We were near Kilimanjaro, we met and ... that was the beginning of the collaboration with Treedom.
Fantastic! Jordan, I've heard that your dad plays a big role too, is that right?
Jordan: That's right! The land we work on here belonged to my father. He was involved in agriculture and agroforestry for years, so it's pretty much in my blood! As soon as he heard about my brother and I's idea, he immediately wanted to help us. So he said, "You're my son and I think it's great what you're doing here. Make it for the locals too." And so he gave us his land. I'm happy to be able to make him proud with my work.
(Luca on his last field trip to Tanzania, Jordan next to him on the right).
At this point tell us in your own words...what is WAO's mission?
Jordan: To put it simply...this world needs projects like us. To protect the Earth and the people who live on it. So our goal is clear: to plant as many trees as possible to help as many people as possible. We plant in agroforestry systems. This means that each tree has a specific task, a benefit for the ecosystem and people. We encourage all people involved in the project to take care of themselves and improve their income. We believe in it! And to date count we have 25 employees here - not including all the small farmers involved.
Luca: And let's not forget the environmental benefits.
Jordan: Right! Our land benefits from our work. Take an avocado tree; it gives us its fruit and medicinal benefits. But the plant also stabilizes the soil, stores a lot of CO2. It attracts bees, which in turn help grow honey and fertilize other plants. It's important for us to plant trees that make sense in our context. This can vary from project to project.
Jordan ... you know how you look a lot more grown up than your birth age would indicate? By the way: I know you've already exceeded what were the planting goals you set for 2021. What's the plan for next year?
Jordan: Did Luca tell you that?! (laughs) Well you're right. There were 15,000 trees planned for the 2020/2021 season - it ended up being almost 20,000. An accomplishment we are all incredibly proud of. But this is just the beginning! We are planning for about 40,000 trees for next season. I'm confident!
Luca: Me too! Of course, Jordan and his team are doing an incredible job! We are extremely happy with how the project is going.
I understand Luca is excited about the collaboration with you! But you Jordan, what do you think about the collaboration with Luca and Treedom ... be honest!
Jordan: Look, I would like to take this opportunity to thank Treedom and the many people who are planting their trees in our projects. We are an association born recently, made of many young people It is not easy for us to get the support we need. With our work we are building something from nothing, which is not always easy! Especially at the beginning it was very difficult. Treedom has given us confidence, the right tools and the necessary know-how to really make a difference. We are extremely grateful for this. We want to repay this trust! That's why we work every day and also I say: Lets Green The Planet!
If you want to plant your own tree in Tanzania come to our website. Also learn more about Jordan's story and the organization, follow them on Facebook. They regularly post new photos of the project in Mbeya.