South Beach, Dar es Salaam: March 26, 2011

On Saturday morning, I joined the Roots and Shoots trip to south beach, where a dozen IST students would be planting mangrove trees to assist the reforestation project of a small coastal community outside of Dar es Salaam. Community service is a large part of the extracurricular program here, and Roots and Shoots was founded by Jane Goodall, who did much of her primate research in Gombe Stream National Park in remote western Tanzania. Given that I haven't done much service work in Tanzania, I figured it would be good to get involved and learn more about the mangroves, perhaps seeing a few birds in the process. Planting mangroves is fairly painless, as you simply have to transplant seedlings from deep inside the dense forest to the edge. We stalked around in the mud for a few hours pulling up shoots and replanting them in small holes, being careful not to damage the roots. The students seemed to enjoy the labor too, clowning around in the rain as several squalls broke up the intensely sunny weather.

Having planted almost a square kilometer of mangroves, with approximately nine mangroves per square meter, we made our way to Kim's Beach for a swim before returning to Dar. Coastal Tanzania can seem a timeless place as the ancient dhows sail under the eternally blue sky day after day without variation. The mangroves are quickly being cleared though for their hard wood as well as to make way for shrimp farms, and the coastal forests are rapidly being converted to charcoal for use in towns and cities as cooking fuel. Even the sea itself is fast being depleted as fishermen continue to fish with dynamite and blast the coral reefs into oblivion. In fact, on our way to the mangroves we walked through a village where two men were preparing plastic water bottles filled with ammonium sulfate. At any rate, it was good to get a few trees planted with the students and to consider some of the issues that aid and development workers wrestle with every day here in Tanzania.

Notable birds seen: Pied Kingfisher, Levaillant's Cuckoo.

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