President Hosts Reception in Support of 'Laudato Tree' Project

Project aims to combat desertification in the Sahel region of Africa.


 President Higgins launches the 'Laudato Tree' project.


President Higgins hosted a reception in support of the 'Laudato Tree' project at Áras an Uachtaráin yesterday evening, 26th March.

Inspired by Pope Francis' 2015 environmental encyclical 'Laudato Si' and the 'Great Green Wall' project across 11 African countries, the 'Laudato Tree' project aims to build support for climate action and tree planting, in Ireland and the Sahel region of Africa.

The initiative has been spearheaded in Ireland by the Society of African Missions, SMA. The SMA co-founder, Fr Augustine Planque was the founder of the Missionary Sisters of Our Lady of Apostles [OLA].

Yesterday's event was attended by Ms Monique Barbut, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification [UNNCD].

In his wide-ranging address, President Higgins referenced Donal Kerr, one of the authors of Laudato Si: An Irish Respose, in which Mr Kerr highlighted the 'fundamental connectedness' of our world. President Higgins also warned that climate change and future population growth in Africa present a chllange to our world.


Srs Phil Mulligan, Mary Usifoh, Kathleen McGarvey, Maria Lee, Julie Doran and Mary Crowley with President Higgins.

"More than any other place on Earth, the continent of Africa is now the crucible for the global challenges that we confront. It is bearing and will continue to bear the greatest consequences of climate change. The United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs has estimated that by 2050, the continent will contain 2.5 billion people, 1 billion of whom will be young people. By mid-century then, Africa will be the continent of the young, with nearly forty percent of the young people on this planet – it promises to be a continent of promise and opportunity, one that will carry so many of the hopes and the dreams of our shared planet.

"This growing population will require food, water, energy and shelter and all the mental and material resources required to lead a fulfilling live. In Africa, these needs must be met on a continent in which 46% of the land is now affected by land degradation and where, as a result, the livelihoods of nearly 65% of the people are jeopardised. This is nowhere more critical than the Sahel Region, home to over 100 million people, and the area most vulnerable to desertification and the gradual encroachment of the Sahara. By 2050, the Sahel is projected to be home to over 340 million people.

srs sc.jpg

Srs Phil Mulligan, Mary Usifoh, Maria Lee, Kathleen McGarvey, Julie Doran and Mary Crowley with Sabina Higgins.

President Higgins also empahsised the role of riural women in Africa who are the 'backbone of the agricultureal labour force' and also perform many household taks such as the collection of water which is becoming more4 'difficult' in areas such as the Sahel.

The President concluded his address by acknowledging the role that Irish missionares have played in Africa which came about due to a 'shared experience' which has 'given rise to a special solidarity, one that has reached its highest expression in the work of the Society of African Missions and the Missionary Sisters of our Lady of Apostles'.

"For many years, Irish women and men from the OLA and SMA have answered this call, and may I say to you today that your compassion, hope and courage has been truly exemplary. Most of you have committed your lives to standing in solidarity with communities across the developing world.  With them, you have built schools and clinics, and you have planted trees. You have helped the most vulnerable within those societies and stood with them against injustice and oppression. Many of you have lived within communities in the Sahel Region and in other areas facing similar challenges and have supported them in their efforts to withstand and adapt to the changes that we now speak about.


A map showing the eleven countries in which the 'Great Green Wall' is expected to be planted. Image courtesy of


"I would like to acknowledge the enormous contribution you have made in your careers. You have been wonderful ambassadors for Ireland and for your faith. By your actions you have humbled us, and by your words you now draw the attention of our country to climate justice.

"You understand far better than most how the structures we have created at a global level can impact on people living a precarious existence. How changing climate patterns and reducing yields due to soil degradation can be catastrophic. You are well placed to help teach us, in Ireland, of why this matters to us and how we can act to help.

"...we are one global family: we must recognise that the problems faced by a farmer in Niger are our problems; that the struggles of women in Mali to live decently are our struggles; that the hunger of a child in the Sudan is our hunger."


Fr Michael McCabe, SMA Provincial, makes an address during yesterday's reception.

In her address, Monique Barbut contended that groups like Boko Haram have emerged a result of the rapidly shrinking Lake Chad. The lake has lost over 90% of its area.

The event concluded with some words from Fr Michael McCabe, SMA Provincial. He noted that the work of Irish missionaries, including the SMAs and OLAs over the last 150 years, is part of the 'Irish impulse' to reach out to the world.


  • Read President Higgins' full address here.
  • Listen to an audio recording of President Higgins' addess here.
  • Click here to visit the SMA Ireland website.
  • Click here to visit the UNCCD website.

 mc mu.jpgSrs Mary Crowley and Mary Usifoh with Dr Uzoma Emenike, Nigerian Ambassador to Ireland.