Men of the Trees was founded in Kenya on 22 July 1922. Richard St Barbe Baker, a forestry officer in the colonial service, was employed to issue timber felling licences. But he had a conscience about the forests. He undertook long safaris through the rain forests to assess the annual increment of the trees with commercial value. He would never issue licences that allowed the forest to be cut other than on a sustained yield basis.
His research took him to the great bamboo forests and then eventually into the northern highlands of Kenya. Here he found a devastating situation. Instead of the lush tropical forests, he found sparse scrubland. He had come to the southern fringe of the Sahel. Here the native Kikuyu people followed the practise of ‘slash and burn’ agriculture. The land soon ceased to produce crops and the people would be forced to move on, clearing more scrub to grow their food and not restoring the cleared areas. Their traditional enemies, the Masai, called them ‘the forest destroyers’.
St Barbe held conferences with the tribal elders and eventually they agreed that trees were valuable and that the way to improve their land and avoid mass starvation was to revegetate. This great work began with a great Dance—the Dance of the Trees. That first great dance drew the participation of 3,000 Moran warriors. But before he would allow the dance to proceed St Barbe chose 50 volunteers who would become the first ’Watu wa Miti’ - Men of the Trees. Each member took a solemn oath to serve the principles of planting and caring for trees in order to save their land from desertification. Each upheld that promise, and the secret password ‘TWAHAMWE’ meaning “we are all one”.
Today, this idea has spread worldwide. Men of the Trees is now active in many countries including every mainland state of Australia. In Western Australia the Society has been active since 1979. Today more than 2000 members and volunteers collectively plant more than half a million trees in a season. In Western Australia we dedicate our greatest efforts to preventing desertification, erosion and salinity by planting masses of trees.
To bring people together to plant and grow trees, and to achieve healthy, productive, sustainable landscapes.
This is the year 2020. MOTT WA is well respected nationally for its leadership role in engaging with community and, together with partners and volunteers, has improved the health, productivity and sustainability of 40 000 hectares of degraded land.
In 2010, MOTT WA changed the scale of its operations to best use its resources to combat salinity, soil erosion and strengthen biodiversity. In 2011 MOTT WA commenced acquiring degraded sub catchment land in the Wheatbelt. To date, 7 million trees have been planted on degraded land and the rehabilitated sites have increased the occurrence of native flora and fauna. Flora and fauna surveys have shown a return of rare species and threatened ecological communities.
MOTT WA branches specialise in various aspects of landcare and revegetation including propagation, revegetation, floral surveys, food production, community engagement, capacity building, environmental education and research. Profits from MOTT branches and services are channelled towards working in the Wheatbelt.
MOTT WA has five community nurseries: Hazelmere, Rockingham, East Perth, Margaret River and Geraldton which have become local community interaction and hands-on education centres for local area revegetation programs. The Community Tree Growers programs support the nurseries as required and support partnering landcare groups, community and research projects.
There are five bases from which MOTT WA’s revegetation services are conducted: These are Hazelmere, Geraldton, Pemberton, York and Merredin. Through these services MOTT has worked with 65 farmers buffering and /or linking 1,200 hectares of remnant vegetation with multi species revegetation using local plants. The 1,200 ha under improved NRM has assisting the control of weeds of national significants. Landowner partners have contributed to suppression of feral animal population
In 2010 City Farm became MOTT WA’s Environmental Education and Community Engagement Centre for lifelong learning in landcare, environmental sustainability, permaculture and organics for diverse communities. In 2011, MOTT, assisted by Indigenous groups, developed a Reconciliation Action Plan providing a strong and clear way forward to learn from the first people of this land and to share our resources in collaborative projects.
The combination of trees, food and community has been a focus providing varied community entry points to the reality of the WA environmental situation. Rural and urban connectivity activities have increased through community, business and government initiatives. In 2013 MOTT became a Registered Training Organisation.
In the past 10 years, MOTT WA has brought 30,000 people together and collectively they have made a huge contribution to environmental sustainability work in Western Australia. The MOTT community has proven without doubt that it is sustainable and is a leader and a model to be followed. And yet, what has been achieved is only a small percentage of what needs to be done to set right the imbalance that has been created.
- Care for and respect the Land
- Care for and respect People
- Share the Surplus.
* The above Principles are based on Permaculture Ethics developed by Holmgren and Mollison. MOTT has adopted these as MOTT has not been able to better these principles as guiding principles for the whole organisation.
Our key goals are:
- To acquire and revegetate 2,000 ha of Wheatbelt land to a hydrological and ecological steady state, and
- to champion biodiversity plantings across WA to improve the health, productivity and sustainability of degraded land.
- To become a leader in environmental education specialising in revegetation, food and community engagement.
- To achieve 200 new active champions to help MOTT achieve its vision.
- To ensure continuous improvement to achieve excellence in financial and organisational management and governance whilst maintaining a strong community spirit.