As Tom Hodgkinson says, the first thing you should do when you move to a new house is plant a tree. This we did two years ago, two apple trees and a cherry tree, and over the last couple of weeks I’ve picked the first apples off our little cordon apple in the back garden. Last year it managed one apple the size of a golf ball, and this year there were five.
I don’t depend on my trees, fortunately for me, but a tree can have all kinds of useful functions. It is food, shade, and a habitat for wildlife. They keep the soil together and prevent erosion. To human communities, it may also provide fuel for cooking, construction materials, traditional medicine, and a source of income.
Unlike annual crops, trees just keep flowering and fruiting year after year, with very little work to maintain them. They are a dependable source of food, and in times of famine, being able to forage for wild foods can be a life saver.
All of which makes tree planting a noble cause indeed, and the more barren and windswept the environment, the more important it is. Forestry schemes have so many benefits, from increasing food security to offsetting CO2, to protecting habitats and reclaiming deserts. They’re a great way of caring for people and the environment at the same time.
So today I wanted to mention TreeAid, Britain’s only forestry-based development charity. They have planted over 7 million trees since 1987, training people in how to look after them, working to increase yields of fruit trees, and holding back the encroachment of the Sahel desert.