How we planted more than 5,000 trees during the COVID-19 pandemic

(Credit; Unsplash)

This article is brought to you thanks to the collaboration of The European Sting with the World Economic Forum.

Author: Jake Okechukwu Effoduh, Vanier Scholar, Osgoode Hall Law School & Abdullahi Murtala, Climate and Security Reporter, Humangle


  • The Abuja Hub of Global Shapers took on the challenge of tackling deforestation in Nigeria’s capital with a plan to engage 10 partner institutions to collectively plant 5,000 trees.
  • Despite strict adherence to social restrictions, the were able to surpass their target and plant a total of 5,360 trees.
  • This tree-planting project provided the Abuja Hub with the ideal opportunity to help mitigate the impacts of climate change that are making future pandemics more likely.

The Abuja Hub of the Global Shapers Community emerged as one of the five winners of the Climate and Environment Grant Challenge, initiated by The Climate Reality Project and The World Economic Forum. The Abuja Hub took on the challenge of tackling deforestation in the country’s capital.

With a plan to engage ten partner institutions to collectively plant 5,000 trees within Nigeria’s capital and its environs, the project came up against the Sars-CoV-2 coronavirus which, amongst other things, threatened the implementation of the challenge. However, in line with the World Economic Forum’s Great Reset Dialogue, this tree-planting project provided the Abuja Hub with the ideal opportunity to mitigate the impacts of climate change that are making future pandemics more likely.

Between April and October 2020, despite the uncertainty and anxiety stemming from the public health crisis, and adherence to strict social restrictions, the Abuja Global Shapers were able to surpass their target and plant a total of 5,360 trees around Nigeria’s capital. Here are some of the ways that we achieved this.

Abuja Shapers maintaining physical distancing whilst planting trees along Nnamdi-Azikiwe Expressway, Abuja.
Abuja Shapers maintaining physical distancing whilst planting trees along Nnamdi-Azikiwe Expressway, Abuja. Image: The Abuja Hub

1. We maskedup and maintained physical distance to plant trees

Rather than postpone or cancel the tree-planting exercise, the Abuja Hub decided to go ahead with the planting. However, strict adherence to COVID-19 protocols was employed to ensure that planters maintained their physical distance and were always masked-up during every planting activity. Initial plans were adjusted to accommodate health advisories, and, in some cases, new planting sites were selected. About a thousand volunteers engaged in different segments of the project. Facemasks and social distancing were the hallmarks of field activities, as volunteers and the team began to visit recipient communities, educating locals about the benefits of planting trees and climate action (even in the time of COVID-19). The planting was done in collaboration with the local communities and handed over to them for maintenance.

2. Weplanted in isolation: “each one plant one”

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Abuja Hub had to think of creative ways to engage more people to plant trees. Members of the Abuja Global Shapers Hub reached out to friends, family members and other partners to each plant a tree at home, or in their community, school or neighbourhood. Several participants planted trees within their immediate environs and posted the pictures online as part of the challenge. Several planters shared tips on how they are nurturing their new plants and how they plan to monitor or even transfer their trees from their homes to bigger fields where they can continue growing.

E-flyer inviting the public to join a Webinar panel discussion on the importance of trees as barriers against diseases
E-flyer inviting the public to join a Webinar panel discussion on the importance of trees as barriers against diseases. Image: The Abuja Hub

3. We took the tree planting online using GIS and other technological monitoring tools

The Abuja Hub is developing a digital map on its website to showcase the areas in the country’s capital where the 5,360 trees have been planted. Besides using a geographical information platform to monitor the trees, the Abuja Hub also engaged several local communities and partners by using online platforms to share planting ideas, best practices and information on the project. Digital communication through the use of pictures, videos and webinars had to be employed to prevent less in-person interaction. This turned out to be a resourceful opportunity that kept the tree-planting challenge alive. In May 2020, the Abuja Hub also participated in a webinar session to discuss the correlation between pandemics and biodiversity loss, bringing a positive ecological dimension to the COVID-19 pandemic by emphasising the importance of trees as natural barriers of zoonotic diseases that spread from animals to humans. Days later, the Abuja Hub and its partners discussed in another virtual meeting new measures to adapt to the pandemic, carry out community engagement and ensure the survivability of the new trees.

4. We planted trees to fight against COVID-19

According to the United Nations Convention for Desertification, the active planting of trees can prevent desertification. Tree-planting also makes the air more breathable by reducing particulate matter, and reduce erosion and pollution in waterways. By taking on this challenge to tackle the loss of trees in Abuja and to return the city to its place as the “Green Capital” of Nigeria, this is a fight against the economic downturn from COVID-19. The trees we planted replaced several trees that had been cut down for firewood. These trees planted will also provide food, extra income and play an important role in flood management. The project will capture tonnes of carbon dioxide, a gas known to contribute to the rise in global temperatures.

One of the economic trees planted by young Shafatu Tela in honour of Al Gore for his contribution in global climate action.
One of the economic trees planted by young Shafatu Tela in honour of Al Gore for his contribution in global climate action. Image: The Abuja Hub

Despite COVID-19, the project was able to surpass its initial target and plant 5,360 trees in both rural and urban locations. Beyond planting trees, the planters and volunteers were excited to dedicate some trees in honour of global climate icons who have made major contributions to global climate action, such as Al Gore, Roz Zander, Prof Klaus Schwab and Amina Mohammed.

Also, to ensure the sustainability of these trees, they were handed over to selected children and their families in the communities, who will nurture these trees and hopefully become future guardians of the environment.

The Abuja Hub’s tree-planting project was made possible by the generous support of the Climate Reality Project and Rosamund Zander.

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