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SDSS grad putting forestry degree to work in Africa

Mitch Wilson helps establish tree nursery in Tanzania

Tsawwassen's Mitch Wilson is part of a team that's establishing a tree nursery in Mahenge, Tanzania.

Wilson, 24, was in Mahenge in 2009 to research the potential for a community tree nursery as part of a forestry degree at UBC.

"Once I started researching the area, I found it was the perfect place for this sort of project. It's an ecologically sensitive area and part of the eastern arc mountains, which are considered a biodiversity hotspot by Conservation International," he stated in an e-mail to the Optimist.

Wilson said there is a high amount of deforestation in the area and that with many people earning less than $2 a day, they depend on trees to provide them with free fruit, firewood for cooking, medicine, building materials and many other products.

"Most importantly, this community is the perfect location because of the people. It's a privilege to work with the enthusiastic, university-trained forest professionals who are managing the nursery. Community members are eager to plant trees and understand the importance of planting trees after seeing first hand the difficulties deforestation has caused," he said.

Construction on the nursery started last month and Wilson, who's listed as having a public relations, sponsorship and promotion role with the team, expects work will be complete before the end of the year.

He said the nursery will supply 100,000 seedlings to the community each year and that it costs 15 cents to sponsor a seedling.

He described the project as a community solution to a community problem.

"The need for this project was identified by the community and the solution was presented by the community. Seeing their motivation and enthusiasm I knew I had to be a part of this project. It's an exciting initiative to support."

The SDSS and UBC grad will be continuing his studies next month when he goes to Germany to study tropical forestry at Dresden Technical University.

Wilson said he's receiving an Erasmus Mundus scholarship from the European Commission and is participating in a sustainable tropical forestry program.

Visit for more on the nursery project in Tanzania and how to sponsor seedlings.

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