San Francisco, CA () November 18, 2010
An Ethiopian-born American lauded by the United Nations for planting 1 million trees in his homeland attended the UN Climate Change Convention in Cancun to raise awareness of the effects of climate change in Africa.
Gashaw Tahir (pronounced Ga-sha Ta-here) and his family immigrated to the United States more than three decades ago. In 2001 he returned to Ethiopia for a family wedding to find the green hills that surrounded his former home eroded and ruined due to years of deforestation.
Over the years, people had cut down the trees, mainly for firewood. The average temperature had risen and malaria was spreading, with more people dying from that disease than HIV/AIDS. Tahir believes the rising temperature is a symptom of global warming as well as deforestation.
"There is probably a difference of 10 degrees from when I left there 30 years ago," he says. "In America, you hardly feel it here. But there you need an umbrella to walk because you cannot stand the heat. That is the reason I wanted to take action."
Inspired by leadership training he received through Landmark Education, an international personal and professional growth, training and development firm, Tahir founded the Greenland Development Foundation project in 2006. Since then the 51-year-old Los Angeles resident has planted more than 1 million trees in Ethiopia, earning him recognition by the United Nations as a Green National Hero.
Tahir will join delegates from around the world Nov. 29-Dec. 10 in Cancun at the United Nations Convention on Climate Change. There he hopes to raise awareness about the impact of climate warming and deforestation on Africa, and to let people know how they can take action to help. In Ethiopia, Tahir used his own modest family income to hire young people to plant trees. He started by hiring 450 young people, both Christians and Muslims, to plant a two-acre plot. He saw the project as an opportunity to promote religious tolerance while helping youth earn money for clothes and schoolbooks.
"I am a Muslim, (but) when I went to Ethiopia I went to churches and shared my plan," he says. "The majority of people living in rural areas are Christian. I put the young Muslim and Christian kids together, and they started working together." The project grew as he acquired more land and employed more young workers. Now woman farmers are planting corn, carrots, fruit trees, and other vegetables to feed themselves and to sell food to generate income. People will be motivated by both the economic boost of the trees as well as the opportunity to take care of the region’s ecology, he says. "It will have a dual purpose." Tahir has established an agricultural research center to educate young people and their parents on modern farming techniques. He plans to hire 1,000 more young people to plant fruit trees to stop erosion, provide shade and help cool the climate. People will also be less likely to cut them down for firewood because of the food they produce, he says. "My motto is making Africa green again, not only by just planting trees, but by planting fruit trees that will sustain, that will make a difference in people’s lives," Tahir says Tahir's work in Ethiopia is among more than 100,000 community projects around the world spawned by Landmark Education. In 2002, he enrolled in The Landmark Forum, a weekend program offered by Landmark Education. More than 1.2 million people have taken courses from the personal and professional growth, training and development company to cause breakthroughs in their personal lives and their communities. Tahir says Landmark Education's courses equipped him to carry out his life-changing project in his homeland by teaching him to overcome fear and other self-imposed limitations. The former building contractor has pursued his project despite physical limitations from several knee surgeries. "Limitation is only in the human mind," he says. "When I give up that limitation, anything is possible." He also learned the joy that comes from empowering others. "The satisfaction is when you really make a difference in other people’s lives," he says. Tahir says he learned through Landmark Education that anyone, regardless of circumstances, can help improve the lives of others. "I am not Bill Gates – I am just a person trying to make a difference," he says. "Look what I could do." Gashaw Tahir is a graduate of the Self Expression and Leadership Program of Landmark Education, a personal and professional growth, training and development company that's had more than 1.2 million people use its programs to cause breakthroughs in their personal lives as well as in their communities, generating more than 100,000 community projects around the world. In The Landmark Forum, Landmark's flagship program, people cause breakthroughs in their performance, communication, relationships and overall satisfaction in life. For more information, please visit here or UN Green National Hero Raises Awareness of Climate Warming