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Future Forests - Christy's environmental projects in Ethiopia


[click on images for full-sized versions]

In 2001, Christy Collard (son of Future Forests' owner Mike Collard) travelled for a while through Ethiopia by bicycle. Among the many people he met was a remarkable Japanese woman named Kaori. By some wonderfully fortuitous series of events, she had arrived in the town of Lalibela earlier the same day as Christy, and was to take part in a treeplanting ceremony associated with her Japan-based 'Futaro Forest Fund' organisation!

The idea was to bring together her sponsors and local schoolchildren to plant out the trees the children had grown from seed in their school grounds.

Ethiopia has suffered terribly in recent years as a result of deforestation, soil erosion, and overgrazing. Kaori's project addresses the immediate need to recreate the forests.

'Futaro' was the name she had given a wounded owl she had nursed back to health during a trip across Africa some years earlier. She had returned to Japan, written a successful childrens' book about her adventure, and used the royalties to begin her Fund. Kaori had experienced great difficulties finding a forest in which to release Futaro, so the original idea was to raise money for treeplanting projects in Africa.

When she found out that Christy had done some landscape garden work, she invited him to return to Lalibela the next spring to design and build a garden as part of a community recreation park. Lalibela is a place of huge historical and spiritual significance in Ethiopia, where it is considered to be 'the second Jerusalem'.

Here is a drawing of what he came up with:

The thatched structures were partly inspired by traditional regional architecture as seen here:

Although Christy was unable to see the completion of the garden during this visit, he got it off to a fine start and inspired the community with his enthusiasm and imagination, making many new friends. Here are some images of work in progress:





Christy's friend Mary Reynolds, the Irish garden designer now famed for her Gold Medal at the 2002 Chelsea Flower Show, was also able to visit and assist while the garden was being built.

* * *

Christy returned in January 2003 with some ideas for new projects. First, though, he oversaw the completion of the park and participated in an opening ceremony with the villagers. Here we see the self-supporting 'reciprocal roof' being built on the central structure:



Here is the head man of the town cutting the ribbon to mark the opening of the park. Check out the date on the banner. In Ethiopia it is now (2004A.D.) "1996"... and they have 13 months in a year...

This was a traditional coffee ceremony involving some speeches, local music and dance, and a drama to emphasise why it's such a bad idea to cut down all the trees.

children watching the drama about saving trees:

The park was built at the request of the villagers and we hope it can help to inspire an increased awareness of the importance of trees and to reawaken a respect for nature. We hope to eventually use the park as a centre for environmental education. It will also serve as a gathering place for locals and visitors. There will be a tea house run by a women's cooperative. It will hopefully supplement their incomes and also act as a possible outlet for handcrafts. This is the tea house, and one of women's cooperative in the capital, Addis Adiba ("new flower").


Christy and an Irish friend were directly involved in the re-instigation of the Ethiopian National Treeplanting Day which had been started by H.I.M. Emperor Haile Selassie, and abandoned after his overthrow:

and here is Christy:

Other projects of FFF in Lalibela involve growing vegetables and trees in schools with children:

In 2003 they also planted other areas of Lalibela with trees. One of them was called a flower forest and another an agro-forestry experiment.


Building fences and gates that are animal-proof is a challenge. Christy introduced a gate that will leave rights of way open but stop the passage of animals like cows, sheep and goats.



A centre for people to gather under a giant figus tree. We will have to wait some years for the tree to grow!

Here are some pictures showing the introduction of agro-forestry ideas. The trees are planted in lines to allow crops to be grown in between. The tree species are carefully chosen so that they do not compete too much with the crops, and so that they produce important raw materials for fuel, building, food, medicine, food for bees, etc.


Here are some pictures of a local man's garden which could serve as an inspiration to show what's possible using agroforestry practices in Lalibela.


Inside he has terraced the steep slope to conserve soil and water and to prevent erosion.


The terraces are inter-planted with trees which offer shade and protection to the annual and perennial food crops below from the beating sun and the very heavy rains. His crops of coffee are unequalled in the area.

and his bananas... and herbs...


Using rocks and cactuses, he has gone to great effort to stop the erosion caused by the heavy seasonal rains.

Another way to help solve the deforestation problems is by introducing fuel-saving cooking stoves and solar cooking devices. To do this involves researching the possibilities, bringing the technology, and showing the locals how to build the devices themselves. Most importantly money is needed to buy the materials and to get these ideas up and running. Please contact Christy if you are aware of any sources of funding.

Here is a simple fuel-saving stove to cook the local dish Injera.

...and here is a solar cooking device. It focuses the sun's rays into one spot on the inside of the building, allowing the locals to cook for as long as the sun keeps shining.

This solar dish focuses the suns rays and can boil water in 20 minutes.

A bread oven which can be built for 40 euro, and a solar water heating system.


This is for drying fruits and and other foodstuffs:

Ethiopia is dry in the north around Lalibela... but greener in the south.


The rest of these pictures focus the beauty rather than the problems of Ethiopia:















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