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Celebrities join forces with Bristol tree-growing charity to save a forest in the Great Green Wall from extinction

Chris Packham, Joanna Lumley and Zoë Wanamaker are some of the celebrities backing an appeal that launches today (12 April) to save a special forest in Ethiopia.

Without urgent action, the Metema forest in Ethiopia could be extinct in 20 years, gripped by the devastating effects of the climate crisis. The Bristol-born charity, Tree Aid, is calling for support from the people in the South West to bring the forest back from the brink of extinction, stopping it being engulfed by the creeping desert.

Chris Packham, one of the high profile supporters of the appeal, explains: “People in the Sahel are living with the devastating effects of our global climate crisis. Temperatures are rising, land is becoming infertile and the desert is spreading south, like a wave in slow-motion.

A landscape of Agam Wuha Kebele in West Gonder showing the degraded Metema forest, Ethiopia

Tree Aid’s Future Forest appeal will contribute to the Great Green Wall movement. This African-led movement aims to restore and re-green 8,000kms across the entire width of Africa – stopping the advancing Sahara desert, which has spread 100km south since 1950 – and securing a sustainable future for the millions of people living in poverty in the Sahel. 

 “The Great Green Wall is one of the most inspiring restoration movements of our time,” Packham explained, “and Tree Aid is making a long-lasting contribution. I urge people to support the Future Forest appeal to back this inspiring African solution to the climate crisis.”

Tesfaye Woretaw, a future project participant, stood near her home in Metema woreda, Ethiopia

Tree Aid was founded in Bristol in 1987 by a visionary group of foresters who understood the power of trees in solving environmental issues and poverty – and has since grown more than 22 million trees and supported more than 1.8 million people.

The appeal aims to raise £352,875 to save one of the last green belt areas before the desert, tackling the climate crisis with a solution based in nature. Donations from the public will be matched by the UK government until 11th July, doubling the fundraising total.

Matched funds from the UK government will enable Tree Aid to provide communities in Metema, Ethiopia with tools and training to restore the forest, protect the frankincense trees and create a more sustainable income from them. The Metema forest is extra special as it is made up of Boswelia trees, which produce frankincense – a precious tree resin that is used in essential oils around the world.

Joanna Lumley, Tree Aid’s patron, commented: “I have been supporting Tree Aid for almost 30 years because it provides such an effective, practical solution to tackling poverty and the climate crisis. I urge people to please give what they can to the Future Forest appeal, knowing their gift will be doubled by the government.

Derese Alebe, a future project participant, is photographed at his house in Metema woreda, Ethiopia

“Together, we can fight the effects of the climate crisis to secure a greener, more sustainable future for millions of people.”

The Future Forest appeal comes at an important time, when the UK is set to host the world’s biggest climate change conference, COP26, on home soil in Glasgow this November. 2021 also marks the launch of the UN Decade for Ecosystem Restoration, calling for urgent, global action to prevent, halt and reverse the degradation of ecosystems worldwide.

Derese Alebe with his children in Metema woreda, Ethiopia

Derese Alebe, one of the people that will be part of the Future Forest project, said: “The forest area has reduced by half in our region. The impacts of climate change can be seen in increased wind and rains. I sometimes think that this area will be turned into desert and it might not be able to support human life in the near future. Giving us these new skills will change our lives and the environment.”

Tree Aid is encouraging individuals, schools, community groups and businesses in the South West to join its Great Green Walk from 12 April to 11 July – walking 8, 800 or 8,000km with friends or groups to support the appeal.

To find out more, visit treeaid.org

Main image: Jemila Geta, a future forest participant, in Metema woreda with degraded land and forest, Ethiopia