Treedom in Tanzania: Interview with RuCoNet

Oct 01, 2021 | written by:

Sometimes you can't help but be overwhelmed by people's enthusiasm.Today we present two of them whose passion literally overwhelmed us, in a discussion that was at times chaotic, but full of joy and animated by a moving natural warmth. A conversation between Treedom and ... Tanzania, one of the countries where our work is growing the most.

Alfred Sella and Wilfred Ngima are the founders of RuCoNet – an organisation dedicated to protecting Tanzania’s forests and promoting local communities. Rural Community Net is one of our partners in this unique country, where Treedom has been working for years, thanks in particular to the work of Luca Panzeri, one of our Forestry Managers, who joined our conversation.

I wanted to talk to Alfred, Wilfred and Luca, to find out what it means to plant a tree in Tanzania. Because when you plant a tree in Tanzania you’re not only helping the planet, but also supporting the great work of people like Alfred and Wilfred.  (Alfred & Wilfred in the interview – together with Luca, our Forestry Manager and Laurenz, Content Manager)

So, let’s start at the beginning: how was RuCoNet founded? 

Alfred: We both come from the Arusha region here in Tanzania, which is where we now run our projects. It all started with… a concern: most people here have no real prospects. So, we asked ourselves: how can we make life better for people here?  Nutrition, health, better medical care and education… these are all essential things, but how do you go about it? Eventually, we realised: by planting trees, we can achieve all of these goals either directly or indirectly.

Wilfred: I had already worked in the NGO sector for several years. That’s why Alfred called on me when an operational role was needed. With my experience, I was able to help immediately. So, we founded the organisation to give concrete shape to our efforts. 

How would you describe RuCoNet’s mission?

Wilfred: We want to help people in our community to make better use of their economic opportunities and, above all, to be able to manage these opportunities themselves. We focus mainly on ethnic minorities in northern Tanzania, groups of people who don’t always have an easy life. And of course we help the planet by planting trees. Actually, maybe the planet we live on comes first and then people... yes, maybe that’s how I’d put it. 

Alfred: Well, maybe the two things go hand in hand... we can improve the well-being of local communities through better land management. To make this a long-term goal, we regularly hold training sessions for the growers who participate in our projects. People need to understand what we are doing and, above all, why we are doing it. This is the only way that what we are doing here can last, we firmly believe this.

(RuCoNet at a teaching session in a local school)

What’s your next goal?

Wilfred: Actually, we’ve just achieved one of our big goals: this year we finally built our second nursery! This makes us much more productive! It was an important step for us. 

Alfred: It’s just like Wilfred says! In 2020, we planted 30,000 trees. This year we’re aiming for 60,000. This will enable us to help even more people! We currently work with 412 farmers from 7 different communities.

Luca: I must admit that initially, I wasn’t so sure about creating a second nursery. Because it means more organisation, more work, more transport. But they convinced me… and they were right. Because the result is something to be proud of!

What are the biggest challenges in your work?

Wilfred: There are small challenges every day. In the region where we work, one of them is access to water. We are experimenting with solutions to supply our nurseries in the most efficient way. But it’s not easy.

Alfred: Finding the right species to make good grafts isn’t easy either. And sometimes the paperwork is quite a hurdle too! But we’re used to it. Compared to when we started a few years ago, all these challenges don’t stop us now!

What do you think about the collaboration with Treedom? Do you get on well with Luca?

Alfred: (laughs heartily) Yes! It’s a joy for us to work with Treedom. For us, the partnership is an enormous help. The best thing is that we can always count on someone being there when we need help or support. 

Wilfred: Absolutely! I must confess that Luca is very organised… more so than we are (laughs). It has to be said that this is an agricultural area and many people are well versed in how to take care of trees. What is often lacking is a partner who can provide the structure and planning needed to properly implement this valuable traditional knowledge. This, for us, is Treedom. We’re very grateful for this cooperation and for the many people who plant trees to support us.  

If you want to find out more about RuCoNet and their work, follow them on Facebook. They post there regularly about the daily life of the project. 

And if you want to plant your tree in Tanzania… it’s easy, all it takes is a click!

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