Planting Project at Nyere Secondary School
Elizabeth is expanding on a tree planting initiative begun several years ago at Nyerere Secondary School in Mwanga. The school has available a large area of land and is presently dedicating three acres for the cultivation of mpingo and other indigenous species. Pictured to the left are Head Master Mr. Mmbuji and Sister Rose, an environmental teacher, receiving a mpingo seedling to be planted in the designated area.
Elizabeth has many contacts with like-minded teachers throughout northern Tanzania. All are working to instill a love of nature and determination to protect it into their students, who live in one of the most beautiful ecosystems on earth.
The lay missionaries who work with Sister Rose are members of The Grail, a Roman Catholic secular institute for women established in 1921. Its members work for social justice and human welfare and have missions in North and South America, Australia, Europe and five countries of southeast Africa.
Sebastian Chuwa was born on June 11, 1954. His birthplace was the ward of Kibosho East on the southern slope of Mt. Kilimanjaro, the highest mountain in Africa. His father, Michael Chuwa, was a well-respected local herbalist who shared his knowledge with his son through many years. After a childhood education in Tanzania and Kenya Sebastian studied at Mweka College of African Wildlife Management where he earned a certificate in Wildlife Management in 1974.
After graduating he found employment with Ngorongoro Crater Conservation District, one of the most popular tourist destinations in Africa. He quickly established a reputation as an astute botanist, environmentalist and community organizer. Collecting botanical samples within the District, he established a herbarium for park visitors and sent specimens in duplicate to the Royal Botanic Gardens in Kew, England. He ultimately identified four new species; two were named in his honor.
Working to protect the endangered black rhinoceros he instituted a monitoring program that has been duplicated within other national parks on the continent. Organizing communities surrounding the Crater area, he assisted them in setting up tree nurseries and instituting educational and environmental programs. During this period he assisted Mary Leakey, world-renowned paleoanthropologist, in documenting plant species in nearby Olduvai Gorge. In 1990 he received a scholarship to study at Kew Gardens, where he earned an international diploma in botany.
In 1991 Sebastian left employment at Ngorongoro to work as a safari guide for Wildlife Explorer-Tanzania. He and his wife, Elizabeth, moved back to the Chuwa ancestral home on Mt. Kilimanjaro. Elizabeth secured a job as a primary school teacher and together they began to institute a focused program for environmental conservation. The task was formidable—to reverse decades of environmental degradation that had begun to deleteriously affect ecosystems on the mountain and thereby the lifestyles of millions of people living on its slopes and within its vast watershed area downstream.
Since youth education was a primary focus, Sebastian and Elizabeth held teacher conferences to raise awareness and conservation studies were soon part of the normal curriculum. They teamed up with Malihai Clubs of Tanzania to establish youth conservation groups. They established tree nurseries in schools and community nurseries to provide trees for domestic needs and environmental repair. They traveled to schools and communities throughout the area to spread their ideas and find support for a more enlightened approach to environmental remediation.
Sebastian had long been concerned about the future of the African blackwood tree and in 1996, together with James Harris from Texas, USA, founded the African Blackwood Conservation Project (ABCP) to establish replanting programs and educational outreach to help insure the future of the threatened species. A nursery was established in Mijongweni for the cultivation and dissemination of blackwood and other indigenous tree seedlings.
Sebastian was also influential in the founding of a number of women’s environmental groups, helped establish a biogas cooperative and worked with communities on Kilimanjaro (which is a major coffee growing area) in establishing nursery facilities to grow newly developed strains of disease-resistant coffee.
During his lifetime, Sebastian was responsible for the planting and distribution of five million trees: 1 million mpingo, 2 million coffee trees and 2 million other indigenous species. He helped establish 71 Malihai and 45 Roots and Shoots conservation groups. For these efforts he received the following awards:
• 2000 – Charles A. and Anne Morrow Lindbergh Foundation grant.
• 2002 – Spirit of the Land award, presented by the Salt Lake City Olympic Committee.
• 2002 – Associate Laureate Award from the Rolex Awards for Enterprise Committee.
• 2006 – Conde Nast Traveler magazine “World Savers” award.
• 2007 – J. Sterling Morton Award, presented by the National Arbor Day Foundation.
• 2011 – Malihai Clubs of Tanzania award for 30 years of service.