By Andrew Bell, Policy Intern

2012 Muskegon Conservation District project
Volunteers at the 2012 Muskegon Conservation District project. Credit: Muskegon Conservation District.

For part two of the “Partnership for Trees” celebratory blog series, we’ll take a glance back at 2012, a year that brought nine projects and more than 270,000 new trees to life. Here’s two more projects that showcase not only versatility and a commitment to restoration, but also the partnership’s shared vision of engaging communities for years to come.

At home in the U.S., American Forests and Alcoa Foundation teamed up with the Muskegon Conservation District to host a variety of hands-on, educational outreach and service events through the Woods for Wildlife Initiative. School children, Alcoa employees, interested landowners and the general public all came together to put forest management techniques to the test in their community. In 2012, nearly 23,000 trees were planted by 150 volunteers across 26 acres. That’s 150 more people now invested in their community’s forests. But, interestingly enough, the Muskegon Conservation District was familiar territory for the partnership in 2012 as it participated in the collaboration’s inaugural year. And it hasn’t left since! Each installment of the five-year, 200-acre, 100,000-tree alliance has seen a new project within the Muskegon Conservation District, making it one of the backbone projects of the partnership’s commitment, showing dedication to making a lasting impact and engaging communities for the long haul.

On the international front, an exciting opportunity took American Forests and Alcoa Foundation to West Africa for a project in Sangaredi, Guinea. The partnership connected with a local organization, Association Guinéenne d’Eveil au Développement Durable (AGEDD), to see their “Sustainable Environmental Management in Sangaredi” project flourish in the sweltering summer heat. Planting 28,500 trees across 148 acres of land, while utilizing the help of 2,500 volunteers over the course of the project’s lifespan, the project was a beacon of hope for a stronger community.

2012 “Sustainable Environmental Management in Sangaredi” project
Volunteers at the 2012 “Sustainable Environmental Management in Sangaredi” project in Guinea. Credit: Association Guinéenne d’Eveil au Développement Durable.

Thanks to mining, slash and burn agriculture and animal husbandry practices, Sangaredi’s forest ecosystems were at a breaking point. This wasn’t due to reckless abandon or excessive utilitarianism, but rather an unfortunate price to pay for sustaining a developing community. So, when American Forests and Alcoa Foundation shook hands with AGEDD, all parties involved knew there was much more at stake in this project than restoring a forest. And, as a result, far more was gained.

The 28,500 trees planted were made up of a variety of species, including cashew, mango, palm and African mahogany among others. Such a diverse group is tethered by one commonality: they’re all deemed “useful” by the community and provide much more value when alive and thriving than when cut down. Whether considered medicinal, edible or high-quality timber, all of the species planted contribute vital and practical community services while fostering a green economy. With the partnership’s help, AGEDD was able to teach this practice, known as agroforestry, to the 2,500 volunteers. Alcoa Guinea and AGEDD representatives were joined by villagers, students, school authorities and community leaders in this effort, all working hand-in-hand to strengthen a community driven by a healthy and thriving forest ecosystem. Those volunteers have since passed the torch to an additional 1,500 forest stewards, all engaged in caring for this vital ecosystem for the many years beyond the program’s closure. As the age-old proverb suggests, the American Forests and Alcoa Foundation partnership with AGEDD has taught a community how to fish, in hopes that they will be fed for generations to come.