A Tree is not just for Christmas

For every Christmas tree bought from The Christmas Forest, a tree is planted in Africa through Tree Aid, which celebrates its 25th anniversary this year.

“The Christmas Forest partnership with Tree Aid is supporting villagers living in some of the harshest places on the planet to turn their lives around using trees.  In 2012 The Christmas Forest aims to donate their 100,000th tree through Tree Aid! We are delighted with this ongoing support and the difference it makes for some of the poorest families across Africa’s drylands.” {Philip Goodwin, Chief Executive, TREE AID.}

Kelty Caston has been running the Christmas Forest for twelve years and has become the biggest supplier of freshly cut prime grade Christmas trees in London.  His sustainably-sourced trees are cut in late November and early December, so he can be be sure he is selling trees that are at their best.

Kelty in the fields

Kelty hatched the idea for The Christmas Forest when he was looking for a Christmas tree for himself and was disappointed at his local selection of trees, which were poor quality and expensive. He then decided to take on the mission of delivering the best trees he could find to Londoners at more reasonable prices.  He found a small patch of unused land in Richmond and started out from there, now running seven large sites across London with an online business as well.

Since 2006 he has been supporting the charity Tree Aid and The Christmas Forest has donated over 86,000 trees to projects in Burkina Faso, Ethiopia and this year Mali.  Trees mean life for many rural African families. Living with the effects of extreme poverty made worse by climate change, villagers are learning how to raise and care for trees, and make a living from the fruit and food they produce, thanks to these campaigns.

‘Although every tree we source is replaced by another at a tree plantation, I wanted to go further. Tree Aid really impressed me. In Britain we appreciate trees for their beauty but perhaps we take them for granted: in Africa trees really do mean life for people.’

So why did Kelty choose Tree Aid?

“I had been selling trees for some time.  The business was growing well and I took my responsibility of supplying quality trees to London very seriously.  But it was just business and although multifaceted and challenging I did feel like it was a bit one-dimensional, and a bit just for us.  So I wanted to make a contribution elsewhere. ‘

In a previous incarnation Kelty organized holidays in East Africa.  “If I close my eyes now I can still see the desolate and stark living conditions of the poor rural villages n these dry areas of Africa, where there is no water and no trees.  In times of hardship people cut down the trees because they are an instant source of firewood and cash.  And yet if you cut down the trees you cut down your future because the trees nurture the landscape and provide yearly crops.  I have long been aware that it is a big problem.

Kelty decided this is where he would try and make a contribution and came across Tree Aid.  “I identified with their mission on a deep level.  We seemed like a good match.  I sell Christmas trees and they plant trees in the African drylands, teaching locals to nurture their trees.

So together they came up with the idea of the campaign Buy a Christmas tree and plant a tree in Africa.   ‘It has been a good partnership and has made me, my employees and hopefully customers feel good about helping those whose lives are much more challenging than our own.’

For more information and prices visit christmasforest.co.uk or call 01865 427067.
For more information on Tree Aid visit treeaid.org.uk

Christmas Forest Dulwich is opposite the Harvester at Junction of Lordship Lane (A205 South Circular) and Dulwich Common, SE21 7EX.  Open from November 28th.  Mon- Sun.  8am-10pm.

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