Since our conservation work began over 20 years ago, Women’s Institute ladies from around the country have lent their fantastic support to our efforts. From collecting hundreds of thousands of fundraising tokens from our Yorkshire Tea and Taylors coffee packs, to protecting trees on behalf of family and friends and even knitting and donating tea cosies to help save the rainforest, we have been bowled over by their involvement and encouragement.
During our Trees for Life campaign, they not only worked on projects within different federations to plant trees within their area, but also collectively helped to create a 32,000 tree wood in Ethiopia. The WI forest was planted in the village of Harefema Utuba in Hararghe. Before the project took place here, there was no vegetation due to de-forestation, and drought and flooding were common. Villagers had to walk 20km just to get firewood which their children had to help carry, meaning they were unable to go to school.
In 2005, two WI ladies visited the wood and saw the difference it had made. Young tree seedlings were given to farmers to reforest areas of their land. From an area that was once completely barren, the hillside was now green and lush, with lots of trees and foliage, and even a man-made running stream.
Since the planting of the wood, the lives of the villagers have improved immeasurably. Now they have firewood and feed for the animals growing on the hillside and at their back doors. Their children can now go to school and through working in the tree nurseries, women have been able to buy their children clothes, mattresses and warm blankets. The trees are helping to bind the soil, making the area more fertile and self sufficient. One villager’s words rang home with the visitors, ‘Two years ago the land was brown and useless. Now it’s green and green means hope.’
In June 2009, we started our new campaign to save an area of rainforest the size of Yorkshire and even within the first 18 months, the WI had helped to raise over £40,000 for our work in Peru’s Amazon rainforest. We are continually grateful for their personal interest and involvement in our environmental projects and their support has had much to do with encouraging us to plant three million trees around the world and now to save many millions more.
Sam Gibson, Ethical Projects Officer at Bettys & Taylors of Harrogate, helps coordinate activities to raise funds and awareness for the Yorkshire Rainforest Project