Africa is home to around 15% of the world’s remaining forests – only South America has more. The rainforests of the Congo alone hold up to 8% of all the carbon stored by the world’s vegetation. Africa’s forests provide habitats for wildlife (perhaps including species we have yet to discover) and people, and supply food, fuel and shelter. They’re a major carbon sink, helping to mitigate our species’ impact on the planet.

An average of almost 10 million acres of African forest is being cleared each year to meet the demand for timber and other forest products, plus land for farming and housing. One of the most effective ways we can help is by supporting organizations that actively work on these issues. To mark Earth Day, we’re focusing on reforestation projects in Africa.

What you can do

Africa’s forests can still be restored if we act quickly and work together. As an important first step, the UN has declared a Decade of Restoring Ecosystems. Many African destinations have taken the initiative and begun their own reforestation projects. As a tourist, you can choose to support these projects by donating, sharing information and creating awareness, and visiting and getting involved. Here’s our roundup of seven innovative reforestation projects that are helping to regreen Africa.

Singita Kwitonda Lodge Orchid Project, Rwanda

The cloud forests of Rwanda are nourished by tropical rainfall and rich volcanic soils. They’re relatively inaccessible and therefore more intact than many other forest areas. As well as mountain gorillas, these forests are notable for their population of orchids. This project is part of a mission to catalog, collect and propagate rare orchids before the new plants are returned to the forest. The work began when the site was selected for the lodge – over 5,000 orchids were recovered and brought to the Akarabo (‘Little Flower’) nursery, where tree saplings are also being grown. These reforestation projects will restore Volcanoes National Park to its original size, giving the gorillas more room to roam.

Segera’s Tree of Life Reforestation Initiative, Kenya

Segera’s story has been one of habitat restoration as this former Laikipia ranch has been rewilded. This successful approach has now been adapted to address the rate at which Kenya is losing its natural forests. While Kenya is best known for its open savanna, it also boasts threatened areas of forest. Now an ambitious plan has been launched to plant over 1 million indigenous trees and help to turn the tide of deforestation. Not only will ecosystems be restored, but Segera’s neighbors will benefit from more reliable water reserves and reduced soil erosion, which in turn will boost their food security and protect their livelihoods.

Grootbos Future Trees Project, South Africa

South Africa contains remarkable botanical diversity, including the world’s smallest floral kingdom – the fynbos region in the Cape. The unique trees and plants found here face many threats, including wildfires (some of which are started by people). One such fire ravaged the Grootbos milkwood forest in 2006 – a particularly serious event as there are only ten remaining milkwood forests anywhere on the planet. In response, Grootbos launched their Future Trees Project to restore the woodland, and visitors are encouraged to get involved by planting their own indigenous trees. The Future Trees Project is aiming to restore the beautiful milkwood forests to their original condition. A key resource in achieving this is a remarkable set of photographs taken in 1937 that shows the majestic milkwood trees in all their glory.

Zanzibar Coral Reef Reforestation, Tanzania

Not all forests are found on land – some are under the waves. Coral reefs perform many of the same roles as forests, and their loss is just as significant. Climate change is causing coral to die off, while destructive fishing habits can cause lasting damage. This was the case on the Indian Ocean island of Zanzibar – at least until local NGO Coral Reef Care got involved. Their unique approach involves finding pieces of coral that have broken off naturally, and ‘planting’ them in undersea coral nurseries until they have grown enough to be transplanted to reefs that need to be restored. There, they are attached to ‘reef balls’ which provide a secure footing for the corals, and hiding places for fish and other marine life.

Bisate Reforestation Program, Rwanda

Wilderness Safaris has a proud track record of habitat restoration at its lodges across Africa, and Bisate Lodge is no exception. The lodge is built on former farmland on the very edge of the Volcanoes National Park – many of the local farmers (who all received a fair price for their plots) now work on the Reforestation Program. Their efforts have resulted in over 43,000 indigenous trees being planted in the area, with some 100,000 seedlings being germinated in the onsite nursery each year. The success of this reforestation project can be seen in the number of bird, butterfly, and mammal species that have returned to this newly restored habitat.

Seedball Project, Kenya

The Seedball Project might seem like a bit of an oddball, but it works! Each seedball comprises tree seeds in a protective capsule made from charcoal dust and a nutritious natural binding agent. As the company itself says, “just throw and grow!”. Their goal is low-cost afforestation in Kenya and other East African countries, and they’ve distributed over 13 million seedballs in less than 5 years. Because each seedball is in effect a self-contained mini-nursery, they don’t need any special care or attention, and can simply be scattered in any suitable habitat. Seedballs are ideal for distribution in areas that are hard to reach or return to – the seeds inside them will be perfectly safe until the next rainy season. This type of direct seeding is actually gentler on the trees themselves. Seedballs are also a great way to sustainably use charcoal dust leftover from Nairobi’s main charcoal market.

Gishwati National Park, Rwanda

Another Wilderness Safaris project in ‘the land of a thousand hills’, the reforestation efforts in Gishwati Forest are urgently needed. This beautiful forest area has lost 98% of its trees since the 1970s, and the consequences for the ecosystem and local people have been severe. Without trees holding the soil together and capturing rainfall, the rich topsoil has been washed away. This combination of erosion, reduced soil fertility and silt in rivers has dramatically affected the ability of local people to grow their own food. Working together with the Forest of Hope Association, Wilderness founded a nursery run by Rwandan agronomist Beatrice Nyiransabimana, the nursery has already propagated 10,000 saplings. These are destined for the land around the nursery and the hope is that through reforestation, primate species such as chimpanzees and the iconic golden monkey can be attracted back to Gishwati.

To experience and support these projects first-hand, contact our Alluring Africa team