Q&A with Trees for the Future: Planting Trees & Changing Lives
We are all well aware of the effects that we as human beings are having on the planet. Deforestation, starvation and extinction are becoming an all too familiar occurrence, and we must act to protect the Earth for future generations.
Here at YourParkingSpace we recently partnered with Trees for the Future to plant one tree for every monthly parking space booked on our site. This is in an effort to offset the carbon emissions expelled by cars on our roads.
We asked Caroline Kateeba, Partnerships Officer at Trees for the Future to answer a few questions about the company and the impact that their Forest Garden Programs are having on farmers and local communities.
Q. How do you calculate the emissions offset by the trees you plant?
A. In the Forest Garden Program, the average hectare (2.4 acres) sequesters 62.8 metric tons, we need to plant 4,000 trees to make sure this amount is reached. Our sequestration estimates were corroborated by Lauren Cooper from the Forestry Department of Michigan State University. She has extensive experience in large-scale land management and sustainable development through ecosystem service valuing, specifically in forest carbon, REDD+ initiatives, and carbon markets.
About 63 tons of carbon, with each tree offsetting close to 35 pounds of carbon.
Q. How do you get your funding?
A. Since the founding of Trees, we have worked hard to develop relationships with a diverse group of donors to respond to the many requests we get from farmers to join our growing program.
The majority of our support comes from businesses who sponsor our projects and tree planting at sites throughout Africa. We actively apply to receive support from foundations and government organisations. We receive support from over 100,000 socially- and environmentally -concerned individuals.
Q. Where, when and how are your trees planted?
A. We use a Forest Garden Approach to plant our trees. Our trees are planted in Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Senegal, Cameroon, & Guinea. All these countries have different seasons which affect planting seasons. Nonetheless, we plant throughout the year.
Q. Can you explain some of the wider benefits associated with your tree planting efforts?
A. There are many ways that trees are beneficial to both people and the environment. Trees are a habitat for biodiversity; they create much of the planet's oxygen, and help combat climate change - the list is limitless. We focus on the role trees play in agroforestry and in helping farming families improve their land quality and productivity.
Agroforestry integrates trees into agriculture and landscapes, a model that is particularly appropriate for resource-poor farmers in developing countries. In addition to providing fruits, berries, and nuts, trees provide environmental services that are essential for families in the developing world. They can improve the fertility of degraded soils (through nitrogen fixation), prevent wind and soil erosion (thereby also contributing to improved fertility), increase water penetration into underground aquifers, and contribute to improvements in the growing environment. Trees help to lessen the wind that might affect crops, cool off ground temperatures, and trap moisture and nutrients in the soil so that food crops grow better in the improved microclimate.
Trees also provide fodder for animals, create living fences, and can be a source of sustainable fuelwood production. (Yes - some of these trees are cut for fuelwood, but these are trees that coppice well - meaning that they will grow back year after year when they are properly cared for.) All in all our goal at the end of the project that each farmer has established a Forest Garden that provides consistent and sustainable cash income and food security whilst also restoring degraded lands.
Q. What specific projects do you have on-going at the moment?
A. We have our Forest Garden projects in East and West Africa.
Q. How are Trees for the Future helping local communities?
A. Farmer groups in the villages we work in consist of 100-400 people. These communities benefit socially and economically through working together on their Forest Gardens.
Q. How do you work with the farmers?
A. Trees' technicians and collaborating NGO's work directly with farmer groups. We empower lead farmers, identified within farmer groups, to both distribute materials and act as resources to their fellow farmers. They become mentors for their cluster of farmers. Working with lead farmers and local collaborators, we deliver training directly to the farmers, and we also visit each farmer's farm at least once every year.
During site visits, Trees technicians visit the nursery, the family and their Forest Garden, providing onsite consultation and collecting data on the impact of our program. We work with farmers for a four-year cycle, empowering each family to grow and plant a Forest Garden which will help that family well into the foreseeable future.
Q. What types of trees do you plant?
A. It depends on the local environment. We always work with local forestry specialists along with the local communities themselves to identify appropriate trees species for each particular area.
Q. After planting, how are the trees treated and maintained?
A. First phase: Mobilize staff and meet with community leaders to obtain their support and formalise the project.
Second phase: We provide farmers with the skills and resources needed to protect their forest garden sites. Farmers achieve this by planting green walls or living fences to stabilise their soils and enhance fertility.
Third phase: As the green walls grow and soils become increasingly fertile, farmers begin to diversify the crops and trees they grow in their Forest Gardens. They also learn increasingly advanced skills and techniques that will help them manage their Forest Gardens more effectively and sustainably.
In the Fourth phase, farmers will learn to adopt advanced Forest Garden planting and care, pest management, and conservation techniques that will optimise and ensure the long-term health, productivity, and profitability of their land.
The Fifth and final phase of the Trees Forest Garden approach consists of transitioning ownership of the project to the farmer groups to continue supporting each other as a team in the on-going development and management of their Forest Gardens.
Q. What are Trees for the Futures plans for the future?
A. Trees will continue to expand our proven Forest Garden methodology addressing the triple bottom line of helping smallholder farmers.