Finnish Embassy okays ‘Plant A Million Trees’ initiative
Published On May 10, 2018 » 1565 Views» By Evans Musenya Manda » Features
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By Friday Phiri –
The Finnish Embassy in Zambia has welcomed an ambitious public-private partnership between government of the republic of Zambia and the Munich Advisors group to plant up to two billion trees by 2021.
“Plant A Million” (PAM), is joint public-private tree planting initiative that is promoting a tree based economy and sustainable development through local school and community participation.
According to Emmanuel Chibesakunda, PAM initiator, sponsor and project Manager, the vision is to accelerate and scale up a tree-based economy for socio-economic change in Zambia and mitigate climate change impacts.
“This initiative focuses on developing the future of Zambia with the full set of skills and know how, through promoting thought leadership and innovation, social responsibility, leadership skills and helping children to connect to the world,” he explains.
Therefore, he adds, the project has taken a deliberate strategy to entrust the future into the hands of future leaders—children, thus, the emphasis on public schools and community participation.
Under this strategy, he says, education and attitude change are key project outcomes:
“We want to shift away from the focus on number of trees planted as the wrong success factors. Key is how many trees survive the critical first two years, and the value they add to the community. Our focus is attitude change, and it has to start with the future leaders—children.”
And in his appreciation of the project, Finnish Ambassador to Zambia, Timo Olkkonen, provides some guidance to the PAM initiators:
“Finland has directly and indirectly contributed to Zambia’s efforts to have sustainably managed forests, over the last 50 years of development cooperation between the two countries. However, some of the projects and programmes have not been hugely successful; it is therefore imperative for you to understand reasons why some of the initiatives of the past have not yielded much results, there are key lessons to be learnt.”
Finland, an all-weather friend of Zambia’s forestry and related sectors, is a global model of forest management based on clear-cutting – felling all the trees in an area at one go and planting new trees to replace them.
In most parts of the world traditional forestry, practices have usually emphasised selective logging and afforestation. However, because of their model, Finland has produced the world’s largest forest consultancy company, Jaakko Pöyry, and some of the major paper and pulp corporations—most of which are considered global leaders in these industries.
Finnish support to Zambia’s Forestry sector
Over the years of cooperation between the two countries, Finland has provided specific support to the forest sub-sector, and can be categorised as follows:
Research in Forestry (1980s-1990s): The Finnish government support research efforts mainly on finding exotic fast-growing trees to meet demands for straight poles and timber. According to Olkkonen, Finland’s support was towards research on the best species suitable to grow in Zambian conditions, therefore some areas financed include; identification of suitable varieties of Eucalyptus and Pine trees, diseases and treatment, and establishment of orchards for purposes of collecting seed to grow the desired trees.
Plantation development: Finnish support in this area was to meet the demands for wood, at the time, from the Mines who were using wood underground as props and other uses. The said plantations are now under The Zambia Forestry and Forest Industry Cooperation (ZAFFICO) management.
To establish the said plantations; Finland’s support was towards, “appropriate machinery and tools used in cutting of trees and transportation of logs from forests, sawmills that were operating then to add value to the trees, and appropriate management of the plantations, for example, fire management,” explains Ambassador Olkkonen.
Since the 1980s-2005, the Finnish Embassy in Zambia supported a programme called the Strengthening of Forestry Education.
Under this facility, support was to the Zambia Forestry College—the only College in Zambia that trains Foresters at technical levels (Certificate and Diploma). Support was to ensure that there were appropriate tools and equipment for training, Expatriate Finnish Lecturers and strengthening the College curricula to meet the needs of stakeholders such as private sector
Further support was also to the training of Lecturers in Forestry – and this support was to the Forestry Colleges in the South Africa Development Community, SADC Region from the 1980s -1990s from which Zambia benefitted in the training the Lecturers that teach at Zambia Forestry College.
Support to Forestry Policy
Finland’s support to government’s reforms has been in Forestry Policy. Outstanding is the Provincial Forestry Action Programme phase 1 (1995 – 1998) and phase 2 (2000 -2008)
Under this facility, Finland supported government of the Republic of Zambia to pilot efforts in community involvement in forestry management. Under PFAP, the concept of Joint Forestry Management was tried out. And this support was instrumental to the revision of the Forestry Policy of 1965 to the current National Forest Policy of 2014. Finland was among other Cooperating Partners assisting government in these reforms to ensure sustainability in the management of forest resources.
And more recently, the Finland funded project called “Decentralised Forest and other Natural Resources Management Programme” (2015 – 2018) has also piloted the Community Forestry Management concept, and this support has contributed to Government coming up with the new Statutory Instrument (No. 11 of 2018) to the Forest Act of 2015, that gives rights and responsibilities to local communities to manage portions of forests as Community Forest Management Areas, in anticipation that the increased ownership to communities can lead to sustainable use of the forests.
With support of this project, Communities in Chinsali, Nakonde and Shiwan’gandu districts of Muchinga Province as well Kasempa, Mwinilunga and Ikelengi districts of North-Western Province, have set aside about 27,000 hectares of forests which will soon be gazetted by Government as Community Forest Management Areas.
According to Ambassador Olkkonen, the idea of community forest management areas is aimed creating a sense of ownership among community members, which he says, is crucial to the management and protection of community forests currently under threat from unsustainable practices such as illegal logging for charcoal production.
It is worth noting that another more recent support concerns the generating of data on forestry in Zambia. The Finnish government recently funded the project called Integrated Land-Use Assessment (ILUA) contributing to phase 1 (2005-2008) and funding phase II (2010 – 2017), that has seen Zambia carry out the first ever comprehensive forest resources inventory countrywide.
This support has been important to enable Zambia to determine more accurately the annual rate of Deforestation, now standing at 271, 021 hectares per year. However more importantly has been the setting up of the Forest Reference Emissions Levels, the system to determine carbon emissions and also for Zambia to able to monitor the trends in forest cover, contributing data to Climate Change reporting. This will support the country’s reporting efforts under the Paris Agreement on Climate Change.
And so, as Plant A Million (PAM) gets into full swing of implementation, it is inspired by, and will be guided by some of key benefits of sustainable management of forests as learnt over the years by the Finnish Embassy’s active involvement and support to the forest sector in Zambia.
Some of the known benefits of sustainable forest management include but not limited to the following:
– Sustenance of economic activities that rely on forests such as wood industries as well as non-wood products such as mushrooms and honey
– Carbon sequestration that is important in reducing carbon emissions in the air, thus, a major component in mitigation against negative effects of climate change
– Protection of sources of rivers and streams in water catchment areas, to prevent drying up of rivers and streams. While it is generally known that water is life, forests play a crucial role in recharging the springs;
– Wood is an important source of energy in Zambia, though alternatives are needed to reduce the pressure on the forests resources. However, in the meantime, charcoal and firewood remain the main sources of energy
– Zambia’s Tourism is nature-based, and forests are the habitat for Wildlife. The thriving of Tourism depends on sustainably managed forests.
With a wealth of experience in Zambia’s forestry and related sectors, the Finnish government would be a great source of inspiration and information for the initiators of the Plant A Million initiative to learn from.
The call to everyone is to Stop Talking, and start Planting trees!
Zambia – Plant A Million
The Plant – A – Million Initiative is a tree planting movement with the expanse and ambition to become Africa’s premier example of a ‘Tree-based economy’. The vision of the initiative is to create a ‘Tree-based Economy’ which will enable to mitigate climate change with economic benefits for Zambia. Growing Money from Trees!
Stop Talking. Start Acting!
For information contact Emanuel Chibesakunda at info@PlantAMillion.co.zm: +260(211)257800
The writer is District Agricultural Information Officer, National Agricultural Information Services (NAIS), Ministry of Agriculture, Pemba. Email: fphiri200@gmail.com

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