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Schott has three-year plan for trees project


In the last 24 months, Mary Schott has raised $58,000 for her Trees for Tanzania project, bought 40 acres of African real estate and planted more than 9,000 trees there to help improve one of the poorest places on Earth: the Kigoma Province of western Tanzania.

The Trees for Tanzania project of Mary Schott is boosting the economy of Kigoma by providing jobs for many mothers, who bring their small children to work.

Photo by Tessa Ratner

The Trees for Tanzania project of Mary Schott (back row, left) is boosting the economy of Kigoma by providing jobs for many mothers, who bring their small children to work.

But a much lower number – three – may define the success of her project, which is part of her master’s thesis she hopes to complete in 2012.

A trio of Tanzanian women who water trees and pull weeds at one of the two shambas (Swahili for a field used to grow crops) operated by Trees for Tanzania attended an agroforestry seminar Schott hosted on her first visit to the African country in 2009.

“There were handouts, which had been meticulously translated from English into Swahili,” explained Schott, “but the women refused to take the papers. Through a interpretor, they said ‘We really want to learn to read. Can you help us?’”

It was a moment that caught Schott by surprise and made her understand that the goal of Trees for Tanzania must always be greater than her goal of teaching Tanzanians how to grow better trees.

Schott started Trees for Tanzania in 2008 to help the people of Kigoma establish sources of firewood, timber and other tree-based and horticultural products, and so she could conduct research on native and endangered trees.

In November, some 15,000 termite-resistant hardwood trees were planted in shamba II from seeds produced in Schott’s greenhouse at Purdue.

Schott works primarily with the kiaat (Pterocarpus angolensis) and monkey pod (Afzelia quanzensis) trees indigenous to the region.

The branches of the kiaat tree, also known as bloodwood for its thick, dark, red sap, are used for making roofs of huts. Branches become the fuel that cooks food and purifies the drinking water. The richly grained wood is used to make furniture and canoes the fishermen use in Lake Tanganyika.

Natives use the thick, dark sap to treat ringworm and fevers. The sap also can increase the amount of milk produced by nursing mothers.

“It is certainly looked upon as a magical tree,” Schott said.

But she also learned there’s nothing more magical than the ability to read.

Mary Schott has a three-year development plan for her Trees for Tanzania project:

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