“We are facing a complex crisis,” began Dr Iyad Abumoghli at our recent Faith Plans workshop. The workshop, led by Chantal Elkin head of WWF's Beliefs and Values Programme, focused on faith-based tree growing and featured a panel of speakers as well as time for discussion.
If you missed it, you can watch the webinar below and download the resources here.
As well as Dr Abumoghli, Director of the UNEP’s Faith for Earth Programme and Chantal Elkin, head of WWF’s Belief and Values Programme, the panel featured Laura D’Arcy, Head of the Trillion Trees Programme, Supreet Kaur, President (India) of Ecosikh, Rev Dr Rachel Mash, Secretary of the Anglican Communion Environmental Network, South Africa, and Tom Barasa Wafula, Leader of the Kenya Faith Tree-Growing Project. You’ll find a number of their presentations below.
WWF’s Chantal Elkin opened the webinar, welcoming delegates and setting the objectives. Chantel explained that a large number of faith communities are already engaged in tree planting initiatives, and many groups wish to include tree growing as a core component in their faith plans as a result. Chantel then handed over to Dr Iyad Abumoghli to explain how faith-based tree growing can help contribute to conservation goals.
UNEP Faith for Earth Programme
Dr Abumoghli discussed some of the underlying causes of human behaviour that are leading to vicious cycles which, in turn, result in climate change. ‘But,’ he said, ‘these vicious cycles are not inevitable if we all act together. Stakeholders of all sectors have the power, the knowledge, and the technology to reverse the harm and restore the earth.’
"Stakeholders of all sectors have the power, the knowledge and the technology to reverse the hame and restore the earth" – Dr Iyad Abumoghli
Dr Abumoghli said planting trees was one of the major activities that can achieve change. Trees provide clean air, capture and store carbon, provide habitats for biodiversity, and provide resources for and support billions of people around the world. Each one of us, as ambassadors for our faiths, has the power to inspire positive change through bringing people together and making environmentally friendly investments.
Faith actors can also inspire the movement of investment for positive change. Dr Abumoghli explained that faith institutions own more than 5% of the world's natural forests, and therefore have a moral, spiritual, and ethical responsibility to restore, conserve and protect ecosystems and to tell the world what we’re doing. 'So please, tell your story.'
The Anglican Communion Environmental Network
Rev Dr Rachel Mash began by explaining the importance of trees in Anglican teachings, which direct followers to ‘strive to safeguard the integrity of creation, and renew the life of the earth’.
Rev. Rachel emphasised the importance of growing the right trees, in the right place, at the right time. We need to plant for permanence, she said: ‘We don’t just plant trees, we grow them.' By growing the right trees in the right places at the right time we can create a permanent positive shift for the environment.
"We don't just plant trees – we grow them" – Rev Dr Rachel Mash
Rev Mash gave several examples in which planting the right tree species has been successful. In Mozambique, for example, the local Anglican communities now grow cashew trees which bring many benefits to local people, as opposed to previously growing trees for charcoal which causes widespread deforestation.
Rev Mash finished by speaking on the role of trees in many religious celebrations, including baptisms, weddings and birthdays, as well as in memorials. Trees have a role in healing the nation and well as healing the natural world, she said.
Supreet Kaur, EcoSikh's President (India) discussed how using the Miyawaki Methodology, EcoSikh is planting sacred forests around the world, with an ambitious target of planting 10 million trees by 2030, and are inviting all faith communities to create their own sacred forests.
EcoSikh came into being as a Sikh-inspired response to climate change, and Supreet highlighted the importance of buy-in from the community in effecting change and creating micro-forests. By providing workshops, seminars and training for people of all ages, EcoSikh’s hope is that local communities are stimulated to give back to nature.
"People have embraced this movement of plantation worldwide" – Supreet Kaur
Supreet also emphasised that we are all equal beings working to the same aims to preserve the planet for people and nature. ‘People have embraced this movement of plantation worldwide,’ she said. ‘It’s a testimony of our commitment towards making the world liveable for everyone.’
Kenya Faith Tree Growing Project
Tom Barasa Wafula, Leader of the Kenya Faith Tree Growing Project, talked through a number of different perspectives on tree-growing in East Africa. He spoke about the importance of considering the different motivations for tree-growing, and forming effective partnerships which support those motivations.
In some cases, faiths have been uniting to make more progress, he said, giving the examples of Christians and Muslims in Uganda who are working together, as well as other partnerships which are creating opportunities in East Africa.
"Faiths have been uniting to make more progress" – Tom Barasa Wafula
These include partnering with state agencies, which has provided access to state forests for tree-growing, donations of quality seedlings and technical support, and examples of good practice from professional, state-employed forestry staff.
Partnering with NGOs allows communities to receive technical support, grow their resource base, work on building advocacy to speak and share on stewardship, and receive donated seedlings. All of these aspects are important to many projects at grassroots level, in particular, he said.
And partnering with the private sector is enhancing public awareness and allowing more local community members to get involved by providing donated seedlings, along with financial resources.
Trillion Trees Programme
Finally, we heard from Laura D’Arcy, Head of the Trillion Trees Programme at WWF. Laura began by explaining that faith organisations have a unique and important role to play in helping achieve goals to plant, protect, and restore trees around the world.
‘All faiths believe that caring for the environment is part of their responsibility. Tree growing can be undertaken to support spiritual, economic, social and environmental aspirations,’ Laura said.
"Tree growing can be undertaken to support spiritual, economic, social and environmental aspirations" – Laura D'Arcy
Laura shared some practical guidance from the Trillion Trees Programme for organisations who wish to embed tree-growing in their Faith Plans. She highlighted the importance of considering the context in which you are planting, caring and restoring your trees; tree-growing is not without risk, so it is good to identify who is already doing this in your area, and who has specialist and local knowledge to support you.
As the presentations came to a close, we moved into the Q&A portion of the session. Questions focused on practical advice around partnerships and how effective these could be, along with guidance on how to share the work that’s already being undertaken.
Throughout the year we’ll be holding a series of workshops to look at different aspects of the Faith Plans in more detail, and you can sign up for the next workshop below.
Thursday 05 May 2022
Faith and Food: Transforming the Global Food System for People and Planet
Join us for this workshop, led by Faith Plans partner EAT, on faith and food. Every faith celebrates food as a gift of the Divine and teaches that we must feed the hungry, and food plays a central role in the worship and celebrations of many faiths. This session features speakers from EAT, A Rocha Uganda and Hazon, who will discuss the role faiths can play in transforming our global food systems We look forward to seeing you there!