Centre for World Environmental History

Project purpose

The research seeks to understand the long history of tree planting in Lesotho. This history has two distinct, yet completely complimentary and interdependent contexts: bio-physical and social. Interdisciplinary field research methodologies will be used to explore two major sets of interactions: planted trees with their larger landscapes, and planted trees with the communities into which they have been introduced. Because there is a difference between planting a single tree in a garden and planting large numbers together in the landscape, the researchers will need to understand both horticultural and forestry approaches to tree planting as well as the biographies of individual trees and groups of trees. The history of tree planting invokes such questions as How were they planted? How did they survive? What were the effects of weather? How were they taken care of? By whom? and What contributions have trees made to the landscape, ecosystems and human communities around them?

Tree planting also has an historical context. Why were trees planted at all? Why were certain species selected for introduction? How was the actual tree planting exercise managed? Answers to these and related questions will come from interviewing individuals involved with decisions to plant trees and tree planting, as well as a review of the history of ideas about afforestation, denudation, and tree planting.

Despite an institutional component to this history collection, the research is decidedly not a study of the Lesotho Woodlot Project. Its aims and accomplishments will not be reviewed or assessed. Instead, interest is in the introduction of trees and tree planting to a southern African savanna ecosystem, and the woodlot project's trees are the most easily identified groups of introduced trees about which data exist. The researchers believe that this research project is the first ever effort to understand the long-term interaction between trees, people and the landscape in Lesotho, and should provide a useful perspective. While the outcomes of the research are unknown, there is confidence that the findings will be of interest to anyone concerned with aspects of Lesotho's environmental history or tree growth in Lesotho - backyard gardeners, villagers, foresters or academics.