Oxfam ‘Unwraps’ 20,000 Trees for South Uist

Cllr Gerry Macleod
Cllr Gerry Macleod

Oxfam is investing nearly £10,000 to help transform South Uist’s wind-swept landscape.

The cash has been used to buy more than 20,000 trees in a bid to boost growing conditions on the island and to protect it from the effects of climate change.

The trees are funded by Oxfam Unwrapped - a scheme in which people buy presents like a tree, a goat or training for a teacher. The money raised is used in Oxfam projects worldwide.

The vast bulk of the money is invested overseas, but this year South Uist was awarded £9,800 from the Oxfam Unwrapped pot. The Lochboisdale Amenity Trust has used the money to buy 21,000 saplings.

There is a mixture of broad-leafed trees like Sycamore, Birch, Rowan and Aspen, as well as conifers - including Scots Pine, Austrian Pine and Sitka Spruce. Smaller bushes like Sea Buckthorn and Creeping Willow will be used to strengthen coastal areas.

Seumas MacDonald, from the Lochboisdale Amenity Trust, said: “In the past, there used to be a lot of trees on the island, but they were felled for firewood and other uses.

“We hope that the trees will be useful in helping dry out wet land, in strengthening the beaches and in giving protection to crofting land and other places, so that crops, plants and vegetables can grow better there.”

Work to plant the trees will start on Friday 17 February and will continue over that, and the following six, weekends. The Trust hopes local people will come out to help.

Some of the planting will create a shelter belt along the road from Lochboisdale to Crooked River. Other trees will be planted in Lochboisdale, around the town’s play area and community garden. Smaller bushes will be planted on the west coast of the island, in an effort to stabilise beaches and protect them from the effects of climate change.

Oxfam has already been helping the Trust to strengthen the island’s coastal beaches by creating sand blow fencing and by bolstering sandbanks using old car tyres and fishing nets. Money for that work came from the Postcode Lottery.

The charity also helped create a unique twinning project, bringing community groups from Govan in Glasgow to Uist to create links and share ideas about community-led development.

The partnership is already bringing benefits. Sunny Govan Radio recently advised local people how to start their own community radio station on South Uist – a channel is now broadcasting live on a Saturday night.

Caluna Campbell, from Oxfam Scotland, said: “Oxfam helps communities around the world deal with the effect of climate change in their areas. That’s as true in Uist as it is in Bangladesh.

“We believe that people in the communities themselves are best-placed to come up with solutions – they just need the right support. The Lochboisdale Amenity Trust is a great example of that.

“We hope that people in South Uist will get lasting benefit not just from the trees project, but also from the links they’ve made with other community groups on the mainland.”

If you are interested in helping with tree planting or having trees planted on your croft please contact Lochboisdale Amenity Trust, email lochboisdaleat@btconnect.com.