- A $3,000 grant from the ecumenical All Africa Conference of Churches funded widespread tree planting to provide food, generate income and preserve the earth.
- The United Methodist Church in Zimbabwe worked with the United Church of Christ in Zimbabwe on the project.
- Each denomination received 425 trees to kickstart the tree-planting program.
Addressing climate change is a priority in Zimbabwe, and The United Methodist Church is among those looking for solutions.
Tendai Rebecca Gurupira, who coordinates the United Methodist ministry with women, children and youth, recently accepted a $3,000 grant from the ecumenical All Africa Conference of Churches to fund a joint tree-planting program alongside the United Church of Christ in Zimbabwe.
“After receiving a combined grant,” Gurupira said, “we bought 850 fruit tree saplings, 425 trees for each (denomination) to kickstart a tree-planting program.” The saplings included 400 Washington navel oranges, 200 Eureka lemons, 200 Mandarin oranges and Clementine naartjies (an Asian citrus tree), and 50 mango trees.
“The United Methodist Church,” Gurupira added, “planted 425 trees at Murewa Mission amid joyful celebration.”
Beneficiaries, ages 4 to 16 years, were drawn from preschool and primary and high school classes. In addition, each teacher and congregant received a tree to plant at home.
The Rev. Happiness Chipere, a United Methodist tree producer, supplied the saplings. “A healthy tree starts at establishing it,” he said. “Proper planting and management produce a healthy fruit tree.”
He advised: “Maintain good spacing, apply manure and water. Control pests and diseases in order to enjoy a good harvest. Following good management, one can generate income from selling the fruits and support the church.”
Cephas Maritaona, projects officer for the United Church of Christ in Zimbabwe who accepted the grant alongside Gurupira, said trees have many benefits. “A person who eats a fruit daily is healthier than a person who does not eat a fruit. Trees sink carbon during photosynthesis. They provide habitat for wildlife and reduce stormwater runoff.
“In Mutare, we have spread the project to two schools and five circuits. Our objective is for everyone to plant a tree, and it should start with us church members.”
The Rev. Henry Chareka, superintendent for The United Methodist Church’s Murewa Uzumba Maramba Pfungwe District, said, “I am very happy with this program, which aims at promoting nature and restoring the beauty of the country.
“The Bible, in Jeremiah 2:7, says, ‘I brought you into a fertile land to eat its fruit and rich produce. But you came and defiled my land and made my inheritance detestable.’ Let us restore the earth for the benefit of future generations.”
Juliet Kenjasi with the United Church of Christ in Zimbabwe said she is very impressed with the program. “We have destroyed our natural environment and now need to reclaim it. This program came at the right time, and I am very happy to be part of it.”
Rosemary Moyana, Dangamvura Circuit treasurer for the United Church of Christ in Zimbabwe, said the impact of climate change is real. “It needs a concerted effort to restore the environment. We never used to have cyclones, but currently, year in and year out, we are experiencing them. We have to act now.”
Rhodah Ngura said she is saddened by the “heaps and heaps of waste all over. People are no longer ashamed of throwing rubbish everywhere,” she said. “We need to change our mindset and attitude. The involvement of children was a noble idea because they will understand about the ills of poor management of the environment at a tender age.”
The Rev. Alan Masimba Gurupira, administrative assistant to Zimbabwe Area Bishop Eben K. Nhiwatiwa, said, “I am very much impressed with the unity of purpose between the UMC and the UCCZ. The program was very good, and the enthusiasm within the churches and communities in addressing climate change was wonderful.
“Through this program, people are ready to plant trees. They are now knowledgeable, skilled and know the benefits of planting trees.”
He was especially excited to see children and youth getting involved. “Catch them young,” he said. “If they know the value of trees at a tender age, then we are heading toward a generation with a future and hope.”
Lydia Munedzi, Joshua Dube Primary School (United Baptist Church) headmistress, attended the tree planting at Waterview School of the United Church of Christ in Zimbabwe in Mutare. “We are very happy to partner with UCCZ,” she said. “One day, the learners will enjoy eating the fruits from the trees they have planted.”
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Fifth-grader Calvin Mukutya attends Joshua Dube School. “I am going to talk to my tree as I plant it,” he said. “I will tell her to give me fruits. I learned that trees can give us oxygen; therefore, I should look after it so that it will look after me as well.”
Tatenda Musagumba, 12, said students can make a difference in improving the environment. “I am happy I got my plant, which I am going to guard jealously.”
Ruvarashe Shiri expressed gratitude. “I never thought someone would teach me how to plant trees,” she said. “I do not have any precious gift to give you, Mrs. Gurupira, but just to say, ‘Thank you so much.’ This is the only gift I have for you.”
Crecencia Rarai, Murewa Central Primary School headmistress, noted that it is an all-encompassing program. “Everyone who breathes needs a tree. I am very excited about the enthusiasm within the Early Childhood Development learners. They are happy to partake in the program,” Rarai said.
Sydney Mapisaunga, Murewa High School headmaster, said, “The idea of farming is the talk of the day at Murewa. The school has already prepared, (with) the objective of planting 1,000 trees by the end of the year. We are delighted with this program.”
The ministry reaches all ages.
Watson Daramba Mafuya, 87, was pleased that The United Methodist Church and the United Church of Christ in Zimbabwe joined for the project implementation.
“In the 1890s, when both churches started in Zimbabwe, we used to work as one family,” Mafuya said. “This reunification is God-given and an excellent idea. Climate change affects indiscriminately, regardless of denomination; hence, the need to work as a family.”
The Rev. Liberty Maadza, United Church of Christ in Zimbabwe Chikanga Circuit pastor in charge, recalled Genesis 2:15.
“We have been given dominion over every creature,” he said. “We are the stewards of the earth. Let us do it religiously for trees to benefit everyone.”
Chrispen Chibaya, Murewa Central Primary School agriculture teacher, said, “I am on cloud nine. We established 70 fruit trees in our school orchard and now brought another 70. The participation of children was overwhelming.”
St. Peters United Methodist Church, served by the Rev. Togara Bobo, collaborated with the Nyaradzo Group of Companies in planting 500 plants in Mutare.
“Replenishing the environment is the wish of everyone,” Bobo said. “We are very grateful for this milestone.”
The deputy head of Murewa High School, Farirayi Mugadza, quoted Cecil John Rhodes, former prime minister of the Cape Colony. During a tree-planting day in the early 1900s, Rhodes said, “One who has the foresight to planting a tree is creating himself a monument and capital gains to his successors, while prosperity is incalculable.”
“With this in mind,” said Mugadza, “let us go and be good earth keepers by planting trees.”
Chingwe is a communicator for the Zimbabwe East Conference.
News media contact: Julie Dwyer at [email protected]. To read more United Methodist news, subscribe to the free Daily or Weekly Digests.
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