Tropical deforestation is a major contributor to climate change. This is because trees are made up of 50% carbon. When trees are cut down, that carbon is released into the atmosphere as carbon dioxide (CO2), the primary contributor to climate change. Through this process, deforestation releases more CO2 than the global contribution of all the world’s cars, planes and trains combined1.
The root cause of deforestation is people clearing land to grow food or earn an income, usually in the poorest parts of the world. Local poverty drives local deforestation and local deforestation drives global climate change.
As a result, the solution to the problem is not as simple as planting new trees. Planting new trees without addressing people’s need to earn an income will not work. Unfortunately, because this is commonly overlooked, hundreds of millions of dollars are wasted on tree planting projects that rarely survive after the first year2.
Taking Root works in partnership with farmers in some of the poorest parts of the world to reforest their own land in a way that provides them with an income.
This is done by providing them with:
Every participating farmer selects from several carefully crafted pre-approved planting designs based on the unique circumstances of their family and farm. Each design consists of a variety of native tree species that mitigate climate change, improve livelihoods and restores ecosystems. Each farm is mapped out to make sure that trees never displace agricultural production.
Taking Root guarantees that every farm reforested stays reforested. The exact location of each farm reforested is pinpointed using GPS technology and made visible on Google Maps where you can see which farmer planted how many trees. The work is independently third party certified by the Plan Vivo Standard. Taking Root then monitors the reforested farms annually to make sure that the trees are growing according to schedule. Using this information, payments to farmers are calculated and any tree mortality is replanted. The results of all the monitoring and payments to farmers made publicly available in Taking Root’s annual reports. Furthermore, social and environmental impact indicators are updated and made public every three months.
Farmers living in the poorest parts of the world are the most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. This is because they earn most of their income from farming, which is very dependent on the weather. Because climate change disrupts weather patterns and increases the frequency of extreme climatic events such as droughts, floods and storms, entire crops can be lost. When this happens in communities already struggling with rural poverty, many families are left unable to feed themselves – let alone rebuild.
Taking Root’s work helps farmers adapt their livelihoods to climate change. Trees are much more resilient to extreme weather and are designed to provide an income for farmers. So when a drought, storm or flood destroys an agricultural crop, the trees are still there to provide a reliable source of income.
Taking Root’s impact of growing trees with farmers is felt literally around the globe. While each smallholder farmer may own just a tiny piece of the earth’s surface, collectively they control most of the world’s farms – 86 per cent of them3. Almost half the world’s 3 billion smallholders already grow trees on their farms. This is already the largest population of active forest managers in the world4. They already reforest more land around the planet than the entire corporate sector – and do so more sustainably by using a variety of mixed native tree species5.
Taking Root has developed a business model that creates powerful front-line partnerships with smallholders – and their land. A bit of funding and expertise enables these smallholders to address the very cause of global climate change by reducing greenhouse gasses in the air. (All of this in addition to reducing local poverty, stabilizing local communities and improving local ecosystems.)
The management practices and the forestry science used by Taking Root can be scaled up and applied around the globe. The partnership model developed, tested and verified by Taking Root proves that the world’s small rural landholders – with a little bit of outside help – can not only act as catalysts for change in their own lives and their own communities, but also make a major contribution on the global stage by reducing the greenhouse gases responsible for driving climate change worldwide.
1. IPCC (2007). IPCC fourth assessment report. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Geneva, Switzerland.
2. Scherr, S., A. White, and D. Kaimowitz. 2003. A New Agenda for Forest Conservation and Poverty Reduction: Making Forest Markets Work for Low-Income Producers. Washington, D.C.: Forest Trends.
3. IFPRI. 2005. Small Farms, Livelihood Diversification, and Rural-Urban Transitions: Strategic Issues in Sub-Saharan Africa. In The future of small farms. Wye, U.K.: International Food Policy Research Institute.
4. World Bank. 2008. Forests Sourcebook: Practical Guidance for Sustaining Forests in Development Cooperation. Vol. 53. Washignton, DC: The World Bank.
5. Del Lungo, A., J. Ball, and J. Carle. 2006. Global Planted Forests Thematic Study: Results and Analysis. Working Paper 38. In Planted Forests and Trees Working Paper 38, pp.1–178. Planted Forests and Trees. Rome: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.