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Planting Trees

Director of Conservation's Diary

"My name is Pedro Muagura and I'm the Director of Conservation here at Gorongosa National Park. I'm 45 years old, married, and have five beautiful kids. Every day, I go to work thinking about how I want them to experience Gorongosa when they are grown-up and can bring their own children, my grand-children, to see this special place. For Mozambicans like me, Gorongosa is a national treasure, a place that is part of our soul. I am proud that I lead the team in charge of protecting and saving Gorongosa but I also know it is a very important responsibility.

I love trees. I have spent most of my adult life working in the forest and replanting the trees that others have cut down. It's fair to say I have personally been responsible for the planting of millions of trees. It's my passion. For the past few years, I was in charge of our reforestation program on Mount Gorongosa. We employ 50 rangers to oversee the replanting effort. But we also get a lot of help from the communities. They know that trees are their future as well.

You see, the trees on Mount Gorongosa are special for many reasons. First, they are part of probably the largest swathe of "montane rainforest" in Southern Africa. The forest up on the mountain is full of amazing creatures, some of which are completely unique to that forest. Imagine, they exist here and no where else on Earth! But the trees up here are special for another, very important reason: they allow the soil beneath them to retain all the rain that falls here in the wet season. That water is slowly released throughout the year, keeping the rivers and lakes in the valley flowing and keep the entire ecosystem of Gorongosa, people and animals, healthy. Without those trees, all that water would just flow off the mountain in a few weeks and life would be much harder for everybody and everything months later in the dry season.

These little seedlings are sown and nurtured in old sugar cane bags, and tended-to like babies by caring human hands - local people from the mountain who freely give us their time and labor and love. The precious seeds of native tree species like Panga panga and Chanfuta are conjured from the rich soil with ancient songs and secret prayers. After weeks of sunlight and water, now a few inches tall, they are ready for their journey. They are taken from the nurseries and carried all the way up the mountain by the local people. There, in places where trees have been lost and the sun bakes the soil and no birds sing, we place them into the earth. As we do this, we all sing songs to the mountain and the rivers in the valley below. The songs tell the mountain and the rivers not to cry. They tell them we are coming to help. 

Every seedling we plant is a wish and a promise, that this sacred mountain and its soaring, green cathedral of trees will be here for all of eternity." 

"The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness." - John Muir