Dr Cuní Sanchez is working to understand which indigenous tree species thrive under the complex conditions of the mountainous ‘Albertine Rift’ region in Africa.
Alongside her extensive knowledge of tropical forest ecology and indigenous multipurpose species, Dr Cuní Sanchez has strong links with local researchers due to previous work. Her motivation for this proposal is to use such expertise to help society, as she believes that ‘science should be beneficial to people’. Across four sites in Central Africa, she aims to gather data surrounding optimum indigenous tree species and cultivation techniques. With this, she then plans to train local communities on related agroforestry and cultivation techniques.
According to Dr Cuní Sanchez, planting indigenous multipurpose trees has many benefits for humans; they provide construction materials, firewood, fibres, livestock feed, food, medicine and income. Their use in agriculture (otherwise known as agroforestry) also helps to combat food insecurity – these trees improve site conditions in farms by drastically reducing soil erosion and increasing moisture retention. Indigenous trees are often better adapted to the local environment and are therefore cheaper and easier to maintain in the long term. Their use is limited however as cultivation can be difficult. With Dr Cuní Sanchez’s work, reforestation throughout vast swathes of Central Africa may be possible, which could save lives and combat climate change on a monumental scale.