before1The entry below is part of a week-long series by Steve Fitch, President of Eden Reforestation Projects.

When we first met Maman Sisy, her third live-in husband had just abandoned her and her five children. So once again she and her kids were left destitute. Sadly, this pattern of getting married and being abandoned is quite commonplace in Madagascar. However, everything changed for her and her family when Eden Reforestation Projects hired her in October of 2008 to restore the heavily damaged forest surrounding her home village of Mahabana, Madagascar.

Today Maman Sisy is working as one of our reforestation team managers, and she is making a sustainable wage that provides completely for her family. Her girls are well cared for, and they are excelling in school. Perhaps most significantly her, daughters have been able to escape the tragic cycle of being married at 13, pregnant by 14, and abandoned by 16. Yes, there are still frustrations. For instance, just about every month Maman Sisy reports than an affluent businessman offers to buy one of her daughters as a trophy wife since they are attractive, speak English, and are very well educated. Nevertheless, because Maman Sisy is now making enough money to take care of her children, she is able to respond with an emphatic “NO” to the offer. Being able to provide for her family in a dignified and sustainable manner is making a world of difference. Maman Sisy is why we do what we do!

The best part about what we have achieved together is knowing that Maman Sisy’s family isn’t the only one that has experienced such amazing life changes. There are now hundreds of families in Ethiopia and Madagascar who have similar stories. And don’t forget that Sisy’s village of Mahabana is now surrounded by more than twelve million new mangrove trees that have been planted over the past four years. The other reason we do what we do comes from seeing whole forest systems restored. We report with joy that by the end of August 2011 we will have collectively planted over 30 million trees across our reforestation sites in Ethiopia and Madagascar. Think of all the people and places in those countries that have been radically transformed.

There is one final amazing part to the Eden story, which is that it only costs $10 to plant increments of 100 trees and provide someone like Maman Sisy with a full day of employment. To the best of our knowledge no other group on the planet is able to plant and protect a forest for 10 cents a tree.

Steve Fitch

You can connect with Steve directly.