The Magic Oxygen Literary Prize – fondly known as MOLP – was created in 2014 with optimism that it would uncover literary excellence in short stories and poetry from writers all over the world. We also planned for it to be the start of a legacy reforestation project for an African community who were striving to rise above their circumstances.
We set the entry fee at a modest £5 and have kept it the same this year for MOLP2. With the benefit of hindsight, we know that some writers enter the contest spurred on by the possibility of seeing their work in print and the generous £3,000 prize fund.
However, feedback also showed us that some writers got involved because we were offering something quite unique; a commitment to plant a tree for every entry in our Word Forest in Bore, Kenya.
The positive environmental impact of MOLP doesn’t stop there.
Under the guiding and trusted hands of Ru Hartwell, our reforestation expert, a brand new classroom is also being built at Kundeni Primary School which sits right next door to our Word Forest.
Ru explains, ‘Most primary schools in Kenya are massively under-resourced and Kundeni Primary is no exception. The roof on their old classroom leaks badly in the wet season and is sweltering in the summer. The cash raised by the Magic Oxygen Literary Prize has planted some 1,500 trees and is also buying building materials to construct a new classroom. This pioneering competition is great news for the whole community in Bore and every competition entrant will make a tangible difference to the lives of 300 bright, eager kids. With a bit of luck we might even get them a shiny new tin roof!’
In recent years, Bore suffered terribly from disorganised deforestation on a vast scale and the timber was used to build holiday accommodation on the coast. Sadly, their woodland was decimated and nothing was replanted in its place. The 1,500 trees from MOLP1 have left a good green footprint around twice the size of Wembley Stadium.
Because the Word Forest and school are located in a very dry part of Africa, Ru has planted the most drought resistant trees which will yield timber rather than a fruit crop. There is still a ready market paying a good price for poles at the coast and that’s fine but the forests that supply this growing industry need to be well managed and restocked.
Ru explains, ‘One great benefit of growing trees for construction is that you can secure the long term lock up of the carbon they absorb and as long as the timber remains solid, it will hold on to that CO2 and help keep our planet cool. A typical casuarina tree will grow into a useful pole in only 3 years and will easily be 20ft tall in that time and should weigh around 40 Kgs. At that point, it’s a conservative estimate that each tree could remove around 30 Kgs of CO2 from the atmosphere; on 1,500 trees, that’s 45,000 Kgs.’
He adds, ‘The oak timbers of Ely Cathedral were installed in the 10th century and many were cut from trees that were already 300 years old. They are still largely intact, so have been storing carbon in a form that doesn’t contribute to climate change for up to 1,300 years, yet sceptics claim you only get a ‘temporary solve’ with trees, which is entirely untrue; they are unquestionably a long-term investment for the earth.’
You have until midnight GMT on Thursday 31st December to enter a short story or poem into the second Magic Oxygen Literary Prize.
Don’t leave it until the last minute, get your entry in soon and be part of a life changing eco-project – you never know, you might even win a healthy slice of the £3,000 prize fund!
Proud as punch,