Trees of Life

It took me a while to digest the fact that he said 17,000 trees… seventeen THOUSAND trees!!

Following the 2004 tsunami, Episcopal Relief & Development collaborated with multiple organizations to complement the work of our Church partners. The goal was to diversify our post-disaster efforts in identified areas of need where the Church was not able to respond.  One of these additional partners is the Centre for Environmental Justice (CEJ), a local grassroots organization that assists people in asserting their environmental rights, and in the protection and conservation of nature.  In our program, CEJ’s main activity is to plant mangrove trees along the seashore to restore the coastal greenbelt as a buffer for any future tidal waves or tsunamis.

With over 15 plant nurseries, CEJ has mobilized community networks and youth groups to plant over 17,000 trees along the southern and eastern coasts of Sri Lanka since 2007.

It wasn’t an easy task as CEJ staff had to get permission from local government authorities. They also had to convince fisher folks who depend on the beach to stow their boats in order to dedicate vast areas of the beach for mangrove fields, and organize hundreds of coastal populations to commit time and energy for the planting and maintaining of these mangrove fields.

It continues to be a formidable task, but one that will surely safeguard coastal settlements and reduce the risk of future tsunami disasters.  During my visit, I was touched by the dedication of the youth groups as they spoke of their intention to protect and maintain the mangrove fields in their regions and sustain the program for the future.