The Man behind the trees
He is famed across the length and breadth of Sunyani and the Brong Ahafo Region at large.
Mr. Isaac Yaw Brenya is neither an actor, a member of parliament nor a retired footballer. The fifty-five (55) year-old professional teacher teaches Ghanaian Language (Asante Twi) at the Sunyani Senior High School (SUSEC) and is a long-serving assembly man at the Area II electoral area in Sunyani.
Spotted on his campus or in town, the old but active man would respond to his cherished nickname, Koo Zee. Beyond teaching and working as an assembly man, however, Mr. Brenya bestows on himself a task the world pays and encourages others to do. He voluntarily plants trees!
“I have planted over 12, 000 trees in and around the Sunyani municipality now,” he said as he wiped beads of sweat that dotted his face.
Mr. Brenya recounts that he started planting trees in early 1982. “[But] my first and major point of tree planting was the Sunyani Anglican Cluster of Schools in the Brong Ahafo Region.”
He says that he taught here [Anglican Schools] as a classroom teacher in the late 1990s. With plant seedlings then supplied to schools by the Forestry Division, he took it upon himself to help green Ghana as a way of fighting against the depletion of the ozone layer.
Mr. Boakye Dankwah, Deputy Regional Manager of the Anglican Schools said: “Brenya has given Anglican Schools a serene environment with his trees.”
Clad in a spotty cap with his Lacoste that kissed the waist-line of his trouser, Mr. Yaw Brenya hurriedly led me on a tour through the various spots he has planted [his] trees.
Our first point of visit was the Odumaseman Senior High School, Brong Ahafo Region. This School was his second site for tree planting. As our vehicle screeched to a stop near the school, he hopped out and walked straight up to the school’s entrance.
He kicked his right leg against a dwarf pillar, but ignored it and shot a finger, signalling me to follow him.
“In 1996, a teacher at the Odumaseman Senior High school called on me to plant some trees around the school field. She called me to help… and I responded to her call positively,” he said.
As of the time of this visit to the Odumaseman Senior High School, team members of the football club Kumapem Stars were taking respite under Brenya’s trees before the start of their training. Their hearts were full of gratitude for his selfless effort.
At the Sunyani Senior High School where Brenya teaches, he has planted over two thousand trees on the compound to offer a beautiful landscape and serve as wind breakers.
Upon entering the school’s compound, the acacia trees that flank the shoulders of the walkway seem to hum a warm ‘welcome’ hymn to visitors with a fresh, soothing breeze. Straight ahead is the administration block with a greenery scene of trees at its forecourt. At a turn to the right, one is met with the Tano House. Behind it are a number of Brenya’s trees.
Walking onwards from the road behind the Tano House, one gets to the girls’ dormitory where the trees have formed a canopy on the walkway.
The Assistant Headmaster (Academics) of the school, Mr. Sie Kwasi said, “The Sunyani Senior High School’s football field, classroom blocks, dormitories, among others are all ornamented with Mr. Brenya’s trees. The school for many years now has not recorded a rip-off of its roofs due to the presence of the trees.”
The trees: overview
Mr. Brenya has so far planted trees in 18 senior high schools in and around the Sunyani municipality. He has also planted trees in almost all the basic schools in there.
He hasn’t stopped there. Brenya has planted trees along all the principal streets in Sunyani including the Eusbett Hotel road, a portion of the Kumasi-Sunyani road and the Sunyani-Techiman road.
He has planted around the Sunyani Children’s Park and in front of the Sunyani Police Station.
Interesting enough, he says he goes on a visitation to all the spots he has his trees to count and prune them.
According to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), global emissions of carbon dioxide have increased by more than 46 per cent since 1990 hence the need for afforestation and reforestation.
“Mr. Yaw Brenya’s contribution towards the reduction of the emissions of carbon dioxide is spectacular. Not only does he plant the trees but cares for them. I am a former student of the Sunyani Senior High School and I know how dear the trees are to him,” a resident said.
After our tree tour, he took me to his house.
Mr. Brenya creaked open his door, went inside the room and returned with a laminated certificate of citation.
In 2006, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) awarded him with a citation for his great role in society. The citation, among other things, describes him as a ‘born environmentalist.’
This seems to be the only award he has received for his contribution towards the betterment of the society. But he is not deterred nor motivated by awards.
“Tree planting has now become part and parcel of my life. I believe that whenever I plant a tree, I save life and it gives a reason why man should live,” Brenya said.
He expressed his profound gratitude to all his students in all the schools he has planted trees for assisting him plant and water the trees.
In fulfilment of the Millennium Development Goal 7, which seeks to ensure environmental sustainability, Brenya has successfully contributed his quota.
Whenever you breathe [in fresh air], remember that a tree somewhere produced for your breathing that oxygen.
If you cannot plant trees yourself, do not [help] cut down trees illicitly.
Written y Solomon Mensah
Writer’s email: firstname.lastname@example.org