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. 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.
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 two mainland states in Australia. In Western Australia the Society has been active since 1979 and is now known as Trillion Trees. Today more than 2000 members and volunteers collectively grow and plant tens of thousands of trees in a season. In Western Australia we dedicate our greatest efforts to improving biodiversity and combating salinity & soil erosion by planting native trees and understory.
Men of the Trees WA was renamed as Trillion Trees Australia in 2021.
41 YEARS PLANTING TREES
In more than 41 years, with the help of more than 80,000 volunteers, we’ve planted close to 15 million native trees and understory across Western Australia, to combat salinity and soil erosion, improve biodiversity, and provide habitat for thousands of native species.
Through our Trillion Trees Schools program we’ve planted more than 2.5 million trees, involving thousands of students from over 330 schools. We created the Children’s Forest at Whiteman Park, an inspiring project spanning 18 years involving thousands of young children and their families to plant 18 hectares to create a thriving natural woodland.
We have seeded several highly successful environmental organisations including Perth City Farm, Native Plants WA (previously Rockingham Nursery), and Men of the Trees Peel Branch. In 2001,we founded Carbon Neutral Ltd (now known as Carbon Positive Australia). This was WA’s first carbon offset program, helping hundreds of organisations across the country to reduce their carbon footprint.
Several major initiatives were established under our canopy: the award-winning Farm Tree Help Scheme; a research station in Dowerin called Amery Acres; Activate the Wheatbelt youth tree planting dance parties; the annual Pia Wadjari community tree planting for 12 years; and carob tree research, to name a few.
We celebrate many long and enduring partnerships including the 24 year Bowra & O’Dea Memorial Grove partnership which has led to 23 Groves across W.A, providing habitat for native fauna, and places for people to connect with nature.
In 2014, we achieved the Guinness World Record for the largest simultaneous planting of trees – 104,450 planted in 1 hour.
Trillion Trees symbolises a healthy planet and a better future. A place where the environment is regenerating; deserts and marginal land are once again home to vegetation and trees; tree corridors link forests and provide habitat for all species; people are connected to trees; and new job possibilities.