why plant trees?
Ever just stopped, taken in a deep breath of fresh air and stared in awe at a big, beautiful tree? If the answers 'no', pop it on the to do list. Trees clean our air and water, create habitats for biodiversity, contribute to our health and wellbeing, and create jobs for social impact. Especially after seeing a major increase in bushfires, not only here in Australia, but around the world, we are honoured to have a reforestation programme as an integral part of our business model.
Through Edens agroforestry program, employees like George grow an assortment of trees and crops that, in turn, produce direct economic benefits, such as food and medicine, in addition to environmental benefits.
In Kenya, this program would not be possible without our Agroforestry Manager, George Were. Before joining the Kenya team, George was teaching his community how to farm and support their forests. As Edens Agroforestry Manager, George identifies indigenous species to plant, and works with local farmers to provide agricultural training. He now plans to enrol farmers in a vegetable program, in which we will grow vegetable seedlings at the nursery and distribute them to farmers to harvest on their land. George is one amazing example that shows how planting 5 trees for every product sold, we can empower people to help improve local communities’ livelihoods while restoring degraded land.
One advantage of working in many countries in Asia, Africa, and Latin America is that our teams can share best practices and creative solutions to unusual problems, helping raise our productivity across the organization. One example of that involved crabs.
Since we began planting and protecting trees in 2005, wildfires and extreme weather have occurred frequently in the countries in which we work, and we have learned how to respond. The problem of crabs was more unusual.
Fiddler and Grapsoid crabs native to Mozambique mainly eat leaves and decaying material, making deforested mangrove sites an all-you-can-eat feast for them. Our Mozambique team began planting propagules to restore mangroves sites, but soon noticed the crabs had been chewing on the propagules, killing the seeds before they could grow. We had to find a solution to keep the propagules safe while not causing harm to the crabs.
As the Mozambique team was searching for a solution, our team in Brazil had found a creative way to shelter their own propagules from crabs. By sticking an empty plastic bottle in the ground over the newly planted propagule, they could ensure the propagule would take root without the crabs getting to it. By using empty bottles, our teams not only found a creative solution to an unusual problem, they are also recycling the bottles and properly disposing of them once they’re no longer needed.
Our team in Mozambique was intrigued by the Brazil team’s method. When they tried it out for themselves, the crabs could no longer eat the propagules, allowing the seeds to grow into healthy mangroves. Despite unconventional bumps in the road such as crabs eating propagules, our teams continue to share creative solutions with each other, further building relationships across our project nations and significantly increasing the likelihood of tree survivability.
Deforestation in the Philippines primarily began in the 1960s and has since destroyed nearly 90% of the forest, displacing rural community members. Through ourEmploy to Plant methodology, we will plant over 3,000 hectares (nearly 7,500 acres) of forest land while employing local people.
Why reforest in the Philippines?
Logging, slash-and-burn agriculture, land development, and forest fires are major factors contributing to the high deforestation rate in the Philippines. Starting in the 1960s, Philippine mahogany was cut down almost entirely to extinction. The disappearance of these trees led to soil erosion, contaminated waterways, and indigenous communities displaced from their land. As more forest is lost, biodiversity drops, plant, and animal species go extinct, and indigenous communities lose the productivity of their land.
In the first year of work, despite strict lockdown guidelines, the Philippines team partnered with indigenous groups to develop two nurseries, each with a capacity of 20,000 seedlings per month, and surveyed over 3,000 hectares (nearly 7,500 acres) of land.
Working alongside Eden Reforestation, we only plant native species of trees that are specific to the location we're in and we never introduce any invasive species within any project sites. In addition, Eden also plant agroforestry species for sustainable community use which prevents communities from going into newly restored forests, therefore providing greater community benefit and involvement into each and every one of the projects we are working on.
Eden collects most seeds from nearby remnant forests. If required to supplement the seeds we collect, we purchase seeds from local, trusted seed banks. We do not purchase seedlings; we grow our seedlings in our nurseries to ensure quality and germination rates.
Currently at Eden Reforestation, we work alongside local communities in Madagascar, Mozambique, Kenya, Ethiopia, Nepal, Indonesia, The Philippines, Haiti, Central America and Brazil. Here, Eden produce, plant, and protect tens of millions of trees every month and by doing so we are creating jobs in these local communities to support them in restoring their local environment and economy long-term.
We use various planting methods such as seed balls, seedling nurseries, bare-root transfers, and mangrove propagule planting. Each nation uses one or more of these methods depending on the species of trees that are native to that given region.
Thanks to our in-country staff’s hard work, we have developed deep and respectful relationships in all levels of community and government departments. We make concerted efforts to form and secure written agreements with a clause leading to a perpetual forest. Further, to ensure protection in perpetuity, our funding strategy includes salaries for guards while we restore forests. We also have a Forest Guard Endowment to fund site guards after the regional forest is fully restored.
Our leaders have developed reliable systems for counting and sorting the number of seedlings produced in the nurseries and/or the number of mangrove propagules collected. After the seedlings and propagules are collected and sorted, they are planted within designated sites.
A percentage of seedling and propagule mortality is inevitable. However, we have discovered that mortality becomes irrelevant as natural regeneration begins to occur and multiply in impact. For example, at our mangrove sites, natural regeneration typically exceeds 150% of the original number planted. The same is true of the dry deciduous sites in Madagascar, and we already see the same multiplication effect in Nepal.
Land rights and authority vary from nation to nation and from planting site to planting site. However, the overwhelming majority of our forest restoration projects occur on government-owned land under the local community's direct authority. In contrast, we work on smaller scale agroforestry projects, as seen in many of our projects in Haiti. Agroforestry efforts typically occur at sites owned by small-scale farmers. The one consistent determining factor in each nation is that we have established legal Government Associations and/or Non-Government Organizations, which provide us with the authority to operate effectively and in coordination with all the essential regional and local governance agencies on crucial determinants.
The vast majority of the trees at our sites are owned by the local communities who actively participated in restoring their regional forest during their employment period with us. The common but much smaller exception is when agroforestry trees are planted at small plot farmer sites where the land is owned by the local farmer. In such cases, the small plot farmer owns the trees along with the proceeds from the trees.