On the 4th of March, an estimated 9,000 runners will be taking part in this year’s Kilimanjaro Premium Lager Marathon. The marathon will take place in the shadow of Mount Kilimanjaro on the hills around Moshi, Tanzania. What started out as an idea to attract runners and tourism to Tanzania (with only 300 – 400 runners in 2003), the Kili Marathon has become a highly anticipated event for runners locally and internationally.
With all the hype that surround marathons, it’s easy to forget the environmental footprint they can leave in their wake. T-shirts, race numbers, bottled water, transport emissions and recyclables all add up. Once the last runner has crossed the finish line, a marathon’s environmental impact can be substantial. All you need to do is compete at one of the world’s larger marathons (i.e. the New York Marathon where 47,000 runners take part) to see the impact marathons can have on the environment.
The plains and slopes surrounding Mount Kilimanjaro are home to many communities who depend upon local forests for their energy needs. Other forms of energy are difficult to come by, especially in the most rural corners of Africa. In Tanzania, it’s estimated that 80 – 90% of people are dependent on fuel wood for their energy needs.
This has meant that a great number of trees are cut down in the Kilimanjaro region each year. Trees are important regulators for local climates (i.e. the cooling effect they have and the moisture transpired from them) and when cut down in large numbers, the local climate can change. Apart from changes to the local climate, soil health and soil retention can also become problematic.
Air temperatures have increased significantly around Mount Kilimanjaro due to an increase in radiant heat, and Kilimanjaro’s glaciers have melted at an alarming rate as a result (for example, scientific studies show that Decken Glacier, could disappear within the next 5 years).
Albeit not a complete solution, this project aims to plant one million trees on Earth Day 2018 (April 23rd). This initiative will be a collaborative one between Trees 4 Kilimanjaro, The Kilimanjaro Project and the Rotary Clubs of Kilimanjaro. Around 200,000 volunteers will come together to plant a million trees. As insane as this sounds, a similar project was completed in India, where 1.5 million volunteers planted 66 million trees in just 12 hours. The project aims to:
- Improve the local climate and forest ecosystems.
- Raise global awareness of local climate change and glacial decline on Mount Kilimanjaro.
- Educate schools and the youth on the importance and process of reforestation.
- Create jobs by empowering local people to grow, plant and maintain trees in needy areas.
- Improve livelihoods by encouraging the development of natural resources and forest products.
- A mobile application will monitor tree survival, health and provide data reporting through an online portal ensuring transparency with organisation and donors.
- Monitor change in local climate through baseline studies, data collection and ongoing efforts.
How You Can Get Involved
- Be a volunteer for a week – You can be a volunteer for a week leading up to the planting, or if you are available during the planting you can help out.
- Donate through the crowdfunding site – Share the project with your friends or donate through the crowdfunding project (click here).
- Get your green on – Run in green during the Kilimanjaro Marathon to raise awareness for the project.