Press release

‘Trees of Hope’ symbolises Dundee’s Africa commitment

Published on 16 November 2022

The planting of two ‘Trees of Hope’ symbolises the University of Dundee’s commitment to equitable working with partners in Africa.

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The trees – a critically endangered Malawian conifer and a wild sorbus believed to be native to the UK – were planted at Dundee Botanic Garden by Professor Sosten Chiotha, the world-renowned Malawian Environmental Scientist, and Professor Iain Gillespie, Principal and Vice-Chancellor of the University.

Professor Chiotha is visiting Dundee to receive an Honorary Degree from the University at its Winter Graduation ceremonies. Over the course of his career, he has been one of Africa’s strongest voices on sustainability and poverty alleviation in lower income countries.

Earlier this year the University signed a partnership commitment with six public universities in Malawi. The Blantyre Declaration, part of Dundee’s Africa Initiative, commits the University to work with signatories to build more productive, sustainable and equitable long-term relationships that deliver social purpose. The ambition of the seven co-signatories is to bring more partners on board to strengthen the Declaration.

Professor Chiotha’s institution, the University of Malawi, was one of the first signatories to the Blantyre Agreement. The conifer, a Mulanje cedar, has provided by the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh’s International Conifer Conservation Programme. Both trees are being planted with a 1000-year guarantee of care to signify Dundee’s dedication to its African partners now and well into the future.

Professor Gillespie said, “I am delighted to join Sosten to plant our Trees of Hope, which will serve as both a symbol and a reminder for all who come after us of the University’s commitment to equitable working.

“Just as these trees will grow and flourish, we look forward to our partnerships with African institutions strengthening and developing over many years. When I visited Malawi earlier this year, I joined Sosten and Malawian Cabinet Ministers to plant trees symbolising the fight against the impacts of climate change and environmental degradation. These are beautiful symbols of how we can make the world a better place by working together.”

Professor Chiotha’s considerable body of work includes international leadership on ecosystem services, including interdisciplinary research in the area of policy and practice, and delivering sustainable development and climate action.

He said, “These trees are symbols of the growing links between the University and the nation of Malawi, building upon the signing of the Blantyre Declaration earlier this year. Tree planting is a national priority for Malawi as a way restoring degraded landscapes to improve ecosystem services to create jobs, improve well-being and to address climate change as enshrined in the Malawi 2063 vision. 

“The University of Dundee’s pioneering approach to building truly equitable global partnerships that respond to local needs and fully involve local institutions will make a real difference by contributing to climate action in Malawi as well as other important developmental challenges facing our country.”

Notes to editors

Professor Sosten Chiotha is the Regional Director of the Leadership for Environment and Development (LEAD) Southern and Eastern Africa – an organisation which is collaborating with a number of partners to implement research and development projects in the areas of climate change adaptation and ecosystem services, as well as capacity building on the linkage between population, environment and development.

He is one of Malawi’s first Vision 2063 Champions, announced in August 2022.

Previously, he served as the first Board Chair of the Malawi National Commission of Science and Technology, and currently serves on the Advisory Board of the Southern Voices on Climate Change (SDV).

He has been involved in the drafting of the Malawi National Environmental Action Plan (NEAP) and more recently in the drafting of the Malawi Climate Change Policy and Malawi Meteorological Policy.

Professor Chiotha was the lead author of the 2010 Malawi Environment and Outlook Report and apart from lecturing on medical parasitology at Chancellor College, University of Malawi, also served as the University’s Research and Masters in Environmental Science Programme Coordinator.

Professor Chiotha is a graduate of the University of Malawi, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and University of Maryland, USA.


Grant Hill

Senior Public Affairs Officer

+44 (0)1382 384768