Reforestation, Restoration A Growth Industry

Trees, Forests Undervalued

According to some estimates, approximately 41 million trees are cut down every day—much faster than we are replanting them. The consequences of deforestation and land degradation include climate change, biodiversity loss, and declines in ecosystem services that support hundreds of millions of people.

In response, governments around the world have committed to restore 160 million hectares of forests—an area larger than South Africa. But it will take more than government action to execute on these commitments; the private sector has an important role to play, too.

In fact, these commitments are spurring increased demand for companies that can deliver large projects cost-effectively—restoring degraded land has the potential to become a big business opportunity, on top of providing much needed climate mitigation and other ecosystem benefits. Established companies and entrepreneurs alike are finding new ways to make money from sustainably managed forests and farms.

deforestation and climate change

Some are responding to governmental incentives; others are responding directly to the market, restoring land to generate new products and services, or to differentiate their offerings from the competition. Some entrepreneurs are betting that a huge new business opportunity for natural carbon capture and sequestration will emerge as more governments charge a fee for emissions driving climate change.

New research by The Nature Conservancy, World Resources Institute and other partners shows that restoration and other land management improvements could provide more than a third of the emissions reductions necessary to keep global warming under 2°C.

A new report launched today by The Nature Conservancy (TNC) and World Resources Institute (WRI) finds that restoring degraded land is not only good for the planet, it’s also a good investment opportunity as well. Through the analysis of 140 restoration-focused businesses in eight countries and four continents, The Business of Planting Trees shows that the economic benefits of restoring land are estimated at $84 billion per year and deliver a range of financial returns.

Mt. Kilimanjaro deforestation

This new emerging “restoration economy” represents a wide range of business models and not only brings economic and financial benefits, but also co-benefits including clean water, sustainable agriculture and functioning ecosystems. Reforestation also provides the single largest potential for storing carbon of any land-based natural climate solution. However, there is still a$300 billion shortfall in funding for restoration needed to achieve these outcomes at scale.

The report highlights four promising investment themes – technology, consumer products, project management and commercial forestry and explores how for-profit companies and impact investors can begin to close the financial gap while also turning a profit.

“If we are to be serious about climate change, we have to get serious about investing in nature,” said Justin Adams, Managing Director Global lands for The Nature Conservancy. “The way we manage lands in the future could cost effectively deliver over a third of greenhouse gas emissions reductions required to prevent dangerous levels of global warming.”  

The report authors selected 14 commercial businesses that have restoration at the core of their customer value proposition to highlight the breadth and depth of the restoration economy. Companies ranged from those with over $50 million in sales, to fewer than 10 employees, startups and mature land management organizations in operation for over 40 years. Each business had to meet five specific criteria:

• Profitable: Does the enterprise make money today (or is on track to do so in the future)?

• Scalable: Does the company have the potential to become much bigger than it is today?

• Replicable: Can this concept be replicated in other regions by other businesses?

• Environmental impact: Does the enterprise result in degraded lands being restored?

• Social impact: Does the company have a positive impact on people?

The report found that that investors would like to invest in land restoration, but were unsure of the financial landscape. Commercial investment of restoration has been limited to date, due to lacking proof of concept in new business models, the small deal sizes and future long-term planning of five or more years. The research indicates that business model development has advanced substantially, and rapid growth indicates investment sums may also rise. By presenting real world examples of companies that generate revenues from restoration, investors and entrepreneurs can gain insight into what business models exists, operational setups and how to avoid the early pitfalls. The report authors strongly recommend investors perform their own due diligence.

reforestation and carbon capture

Political commitments like the Paris Climate Accord, the Bonn Challenge and the New York Declaration on Forests present a major opportunity for investment in restoration as countries seek to engage the private sector to help meet their commitments. The report authors hope that this report serves as a starting point for investors to understand the growth opportunity that exists within the restoration economy.

Yet hurdles remain, and one of the biggest is funding. Many investors still know little about restoration opportunities. This report is intended to bridge that information gap; it includes case studies of 14 innovative enterprises across eight countries. They cover a fascinating range of activities, from drones that shoot seeds into hardened soils to genetic research on tree species threatened with extinction.

The restoration economy is at the take-off stage. New business models are emerging, technology is advancing and governments are showing political will. This is great news for investors looking for the next growth opportunity. And this is good news for the planet, since restoring land can provide clean water, improve livelihoods and enhance biodiversity—all while pulling back to the earth excess atmospheric carbon that would otherwise be heating the planet.

Opportunities have never been greater—and the task has never been more urgent. As an ancient Chinese proverb says, “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The next best time is now.”

Read The Report About Reforestation and Restoration

Plans Sought For Africa’s Great Green Wall

Plan To Tackle Poverty, Deforestation

The Great Green Wall initiative is a pan-African proposal to “green” the continent from west to east in order to battle desertification. It aims at tackling poverty and the degradation of soils in the Sahel-Saharan region, focusing on a strip of land of 15 km (9 mi) wide and 7,100 km (4,400 mi) long from Dakar to Djibouti.

great green wall initiative

Populations in Sahelian Africa are among the poorest and most vulnerable to climatic variability and land degradation. They depend heavily on healthy ecosystems for rainfall to support agriculture, fisheries, and livestock management to sustain their livelihoods. These constitute the primary sectors of employment in the region and generate at least 40 percent of the gross domestic product (GDP) in most of the countries. Additionally, the ecosystem provides much needed livelihood products, such as fuelwood and bushmeat.  Unfortunately, increasing population pressures on food, fodder, and fuelwood in a vulnerable environment have deteriorating impacts on natural resources, notably vegetation cover. Climate variability along with frequent droughts and poorly managed land and water resources have caused rivers and lakes to dry up and contribute to increased soil erosion.

Tanzania wildlife conservation

The vision of a great green wall to combat ecological degradation was conceived in 2005 by the former President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, and the idea was strongly supported by President Abdoulaye Wade of Senegal. The vision evolved into an integrated ecosystem management approach in January 2007, when the African Union adopted declaration 137 VIII, approving the “Decision on the Implementation of the Green Wall for the Sahara Initiative.”

In June 2010, Burkina Faso, Chad, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal and Sudan signed a convention in Ndjamena, Chad, to create the Great Green Wall (GGW) Agency and nominate a secretary to further develop the initiative. 

The participating countries hope that by linking national-level efforts across borders, they will tackle policy, investment, and institutional barriers that exacerbate the effects of climate change and variability, leading to desertification and deterioration of the environment and natural resources and the risk of conflicts between communities. International Colloquiums are held to discuss possible barriers as well as share available knowledge on the vegetal species, systems of development, and GGW monitoring updates.

reforest Tanzania

The GEF emulates the spirit of collaboration by allowing participating GGW countries to prioritize which projects they want to implement, in conjunction with GEF agencies and their partners. They may “develop one or several projects in the context of this program and assign some or all of their financial allocations to the Great Green Wall.

Progress is apparent especially in the Zinder region of Niger, where tree density has significantly improved since the mid-1980s. GEF CEO Monique Barbut attributes the success to working with farmers to find technical solutions, particularly long-term land and financial solutions, in order to save the trees. This form of natural regeneration benefits local communities and the global environment alike by increasing crop yield, improving soil fertility, reducing land erosion, improving fodder availability, diversifying income, cutting wood collection time for women, strengthening resilience to climate change, increasing biodiversity, and much more.

The Global Environmental Facility (GEF) has granted $100.8 million to the GGW participating countries to expand sustainable land and water management (SLWM) and adaptation in targeted landscapes and in climate vulnerable areas in West African and Sahelian countries. Each country will design a project based on national-level priorities for GEF and LDCF resources. The projects will support the following activities

  • Expand investment in SLWM technologies to help communities adapt production systems to climate variability, generate income and livelihoods, secure global public goods (such as retention of greenhouse gases, nitrogen fixation, groundwater recharge and biodiversity), and reduce impacts from erosion, drought, and flooding.
  • Improve land-use planning, such as at watershed scale (i.e. Nigeria) or local levels (i.e. grazing reserves).
  • Improve and apply the information base: climate and water monitoring network improvements, ICT (information communication technology) innovations, institutional cooperation within and across countries, and evidence based policy development.

Forest Conservation and Reforestation News via

climate change and deforestation

Sacred Seedlings is a global initiative to support forest conservation, reforestation, urban forestry, sustainable agriculture, carbon capture and wildlife conservation. Sustainable land management and land use are critical to the survival of entire ecosystems. Sacred Seedlings is a U.S.-based program that supports the vision of local stakeholders. We have projects ready across Africa. We seek additional projects elsewhere around the world. We also seek volunteers, sponsors and donors of cash and in-kind support. Write to Gary Chandler for more information

Community Empowerment Can Reduce Elephant Poaching

Community Conservation Strategies Can Save Wildlife

Establishment of community wildlife conservancies is the best solution for reducing elephant poaching in Northern Kenya, says a new study.

Community involvement would create understanding among pastoral communities that wildlife conservations can bring in the much needed revenue for funding development projects, says the study published in the scientific journal PLOS ONE and conducted by researchers from the Kenya Wildlife Service, University of Twente, Northern Rangelands Trust, Save the Elephants and Colorado State University.

wildlife conservation and deforestation

Pastoral communities living in Northern Kenya must benefit from ecotourism proceeds as well as avail the area under conservation for grazing cattle all year round.

“Financial investments in anti-poaching and elephant protection should prioritize the newly established community run conservancies to accelerate their growth towards self-sustainability,” says the exhaustive report.

It found out that elephants living outside government protected areas within the Laikipia-Samburu region were more than those living within Shaba, Buffalo Springs and Samburu Game Reserves whose total areas is 533 square kilometers. Land outside the protected areas is pivotal for elephant conservation in the Laikipia-Samburu ecosystem because it accounts for 98.5 per cent of the elephant range. The unprotected land under private ranching and community conservation had the highest densities of elephants, indicating their importance for elephant conservation in the ecosystem.

forest conservation Africa

“Significantly higher densities of elephants are found in the community conservancies rather than in the community pastoral areas indicate the success of this model of conservation: management of wildlife alongside communal grazing,” it observes.

The study says that despite lower densities of live elephants and higher ratios of illegally killed carcasses, the unprotected community pastoral land is important for connecting the formally protected areas and the wildlife friendly private ranches and conservancies in the greater ecosystem.

The unprotected areas that are largely unoccupied were found to play an important role as corridors for elephants’ migration from one area to another thereby raising the need for communities which ‘preserved’ the vast hinterlands as ‘pasturebanks’ to look into ways of forming conservancies to manage the areas.

The study adds that the unoccupied areas must be closely monitored since they usually turn into battlegrounds between pastoral communities during the dry season. It observed that heightened conflict forced elephants to migrate en masse but where conservancies had been established, communities held deliberations and conflicts had been eased creating room for establishment of eco-tourism bands that bring in the much needed revenue for local communities.

lion conservation Africa

“Encouraging and promoting land owners to adopt land use types that recognize the importance of protecting wildlife would substantially reduce poaching levels. The unoccupied community pastoral areas had the highest overall levels of poaching during the entire study period,” according to the report.

It says that unhindered access to the forest reserves created lush grounds for poaching to take place but the same was effectively curbed where forested sections fell under community sanctuary management.

“In areas where community sanctuaries thrive, elephants numbers continue to increase as compared to unprotected pastoral areas. Community sanctuaries create employment for rangers, drivers and camp staff with the community conservancy management committee creating a forum for conflict resolution,” it says.

African Wildlife Conservation Strategies via

climate change and deforestation

Sacred Seedlings is a global initiative to support forest conservation, reforestation, urban forestry, sustainable agriculture, carbon capture and wildlife conservation. Sustainable land management and land use are critical to the survival of entire ecosystems. Sacred Seedlings is a U.S.-based program that supports the vision of local stakeholders. We have projects ready across Africa. We seek additional projects elsewhere around the world. We also seek volunteers, sponsors and donors of cash and in-kind support. Write to Gary Chandler for more information

Deforestation Taking A Heavy Toll In Africa

Conservation Projects Can Defend African Ecosystems From Collapse

Forests in East Africa are vanishing due to pressure from rising populations and agricultural land use. Millions of urban residents still use fuel wood and charcoal, which means that African nations are still burning their forests for daily survival. This threatens ecosystems that support millions of people, while contributing to climate change. It’s also adding to the pressure on endangered species.

The University of Leeds found that 9.3 percent of forests in East Africa were destroyed from 2001-09. The problem is accelerating today. The greatest losses took place in Uganda and Rwanda, but forest lines continue receding, water quality is deteriorating and biodiversity is vanishing at an alarming rate across the region. Among East African nations, Uganda still has reasonable forest cover, while Kenya’s forests are almost gone.

wildlife conservation and deforestation

Unfortunately, people who rely on forests to survive are being hit the hardest by the unfolding climate change. The livelihoods of small farmers are worsening as land and water resources are degraded. As their income declines, their contributions to deforestation and wildlife poaching rise.

To address these problems, we’re collaborating with regional NGOs, governments, community-based leaders and others to implement several comprehensive efforts to promote economic development and sustainability simultaneously in East Africa. These comprehensive plans have been developed by local stakeholders to promote sustainability and resiliency in the region, while fighting climate change globally and regionally.

Thanks to the leadership of NGOs and stakeholders in East Africa, we now have 14 comprehensive plans that can fight global climate change, while defending cultures, communities and entire ecosystems. We need your help.

Our forest conservation projects include Burundi, Kenya, RwandaTanzania and Uganda. They represent one of the largest carbon-capture opportunities available today. We’re adding more projects around the world.

In addition to carbon capture, these conservation plans promote:

  • Sustainable agriculture, including aquaculture and beekeeping;
  • Solar-powered communities;
  • Community education about wildlife conservation and forest conservation;
  • Wildlife conservation and;
  • Sustainable economic development;
  • Jobs for men and women.

wildlife conservation Africa

East Africa Conservation Plan

The Mellowswan Foundation Africa-Tanzania will plant more than 10 million trees throughout the region to benefit watersheds, wildlife and communities. Mellowswan Foundation plans to expand its first project across all of Tanzania. This multi-faceted economic development program has been approved by The United Republic of Tanzania. The project also will include aquaculture, beekeeping, agroforestry, ecotourism, conferences, training, awards and community education. It also will promote strategies to reduce human-wildlife conflicts, including safekeeping livestock from predators and safeguarding crops from elephants.

The Megabridge Foundation will help reverse the negative deforestation trend in Kenya by planting at least one million indigenous and agroforestry trees each year. The Foundation and its partners will train locals about agroforestry techniques and deforestation, while motivating them to help with reforestation.

deforestation and climate change

Youth Link Kenya will plant 3.5 million indigenous trees over a two-year span. The project will also support community-based anti-poaching operations and informer networks within the region to generate more community support for wildlife conservation.

Earth Keepers Centre of Kenya will carry out tree planting and promote conservation to rural villagers. It will encompass children and youth participation drives involving schools and colleges. The project will establish 100 small, local nurseries and plant 500,000-2,000,000 trees per year.


The Eco-Schools project in Tanzania will engage 20 schools, including students, teachers and parents in Muleba District. Eco-Schools will plant at least 720,000 trees (fruit trees and multi-purpose trees for firewood, poles and shade) over 12 months. With full funding, we will plant two million trees over two years. More than 10,000 people will benefit from the project through improved food security, nutrition and income.

Ahero and the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development plan to introduce solar power to 20 villages across Kenya. The power will supply street lighting, schools, community centers, health centers and water supplies.

The Regional Research Center For Integrated Development (RCID) will integrate agroforestry and soil fertility technologies for Improved Food Security for Smallholder Farmers in Flood and drought Prone Areas of Rwanda. Other partners include ICRAF, Rwanda Natural Resources management Authority (RNRA) and Rwanda Agriculture Board (RAB).

The integrated project will help reduce flooding and drought, while improving food security. It also will reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation.

The Mwangaza Support Group plans to help conserve Arabuko Forest and wildlife in coastal Kenya. Human activities, including agricultural expansion, road construction, urbanization and other developmental activities are major threats to biodiversity and wildlife in the region.

Agriculture is an important sector in the economy of Uganda. But farmers are already facing the new challenges posed by climate change. Uganda’s Environmental Concern project is a grassroots, humanitarian, NGO founded to promote sustainable development through public education and empowerment. Our program is based on a strong social network, where community groups can learn about sustainable agriculture and economic diversity to minimize their impact on land and water resources. We will build the capacity of rural farmers to organize and market collectively. They also will learn about financial management and agroforestry.

deforestation and global warming

For more information about Sacred Seedlings and our solutions to mitigate climate change, while defending entire ecosystems, please contact us. We seek volunteers, donors, sponsors, grants and in-kind contributions. Together, we can turn the tide against climate change, poverty and wildlife extinction.

reforestation and climate change solution

Sacred Seedlings is a global initiative to support forest conservation, reforestation, urban forestry, sustainable agriculture, carbon capture and wildlife conservation. Sustainable land management and land use are critical to the survival of entire ecosystems. Sacred Seedlings is a U.S.-based program that supports the vision of local stakeholders. We have projects ready across Africa. We seek additional projects elsewhere around the world. We also seek volunteers, sponsors and donors of cash and in-kind support. Write to Gary Chandler for more information

Forest Conservation Must Meet Local Needs To Succeed

Local Stakeholders Critical To Success

By Megan Rowling, Thomson Reuters Foundation

Madagascar has seven million hectares of rainforest under protection, but stopping people who live near those areas from illegally cutting down rosewood trees remains a challenge.

“Most people say we are spending a lot of money to protect the environment instead of spending money to help them find something to eat,” said Ralava Beboarimisa, the southeast African island nation’s environment minister.

Madagascar forest conservation

“One of the challenges in Madagascar is to protect the forests, and to change the habits of the people and to help them to fight against poverty.”

Madagascar has recently signed forest carbon deals with some large non-governmental groups, including Conservation International, and half of the revenues from the credits generated will go to helping local communities find new ways of making a living, Beboarimisa said.

Under such deals, a price is put on every ton of carbon stored in protected trees, and those avoided emissions are sold to companies or other buyers in lieu of them reducing their own emissions.

deforestation and climate change

Experts told a conference on carbon markets in Barcelona that putting the right economic incentives in place to stop people cutting down forests – and releasing the carbon stored in them – was key to keeping them standing.

Neeraj Prasad, manager of the World Bank Institute’s climate change team, said 20 percent of the world’s population – or 1.5 billion people – were largely dependent on forests to make a living.

As well, “we are going to have to face massive issues of food security in the next two to three decades” that threaten to drive more deforestation, he said. A large part of emissions from deforestation come from the clearing of forest land for agriculture.

Despite major challenges to forest protection, such as these, finding ways to address the 25 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions that come from changes in land use will be critical to limiting global warming to an internationally agreed target of 2 degrees Celsius, he said.

Justin Adams, managing director for global lands at The Nature Conservancy, an environmental charity, said efforts to curb emissions from land use should deliver about a third of the solution to climate change worldwide, but forests tend to be forgotten.

Kyung-Ah Park, head of environmental markets at investment bank Goldman Sachs, said a major problem is that there is still more value in felling forests for productive purposes such as pulp and paper than preserving them.

wildlife conservation and deforestation

The financial markets are awash with capital, but the amounts flowing to forest protection are limited compared to what is needed, she added.

It will be hard to attract more private capital without getting forest projects into formal government-backed markets for reducing emissions, and enabling larger scale and demand, as well as boosting the value of forest carbon credits, she said.

These credits are now traded on voluntary markets and bilaterally, as U.N. climate talks have yet to settle on a market mechanism to enable them to be traded internationally to contribute to government emissions cuts.

Joost Oorthuizen, executive director of The Sustainable Trade Initiative (IDH), said there was a need to bring producers of commodities, such as soy, cotton and beef, and their buyers together with governments and financial institutions to come up with an investment case.

Different sources of finance, including carbon finance, should be blended to fill the gaps, he added. But to ensure success, business incentives must be put in place for farmers not to cut down forests, he said.

“How do we create an economy in the landscape that actually raises their livelihoods substantially, so that they don’t have to deforest, so there are other opportunities?” he asked.

For example, in Brazil, there is potential to make cattle farming more intensive so as to free up land to grow the additional soy crops required to meet demand instead of clearing more forest.

“You can mobilize as much capital as you want, but if it doesn’t reach the people who really need it, and only (goes to) the big producers and to the large companies, you won’t get there,” Oorthuizen said.

Forest Conservation News via

climate change and deforestation

Sacred Seedlings is a global initiative to support forest conservation, reforestation, urban forestry, sustainable agriculture, carbon capture and wildlife conservation. Sustainable land management and land use are critical to the survival of entire ecosystems. Sacred Seedlings is a U.S.-based program that supports the vision of local stakeholders. We have projects ready across Africa. We seek additional projects elsewhere around the world. We also seek volunteers, sponsors and donors of cash and in-kind support. Write to Gary Chandler for more information

Forest Conservation Gaining Support As Climate Solution

Indigenous Communities Can Conserve Forests

Forests are emerging from the environmental ghetto of concerns where they were left to die. For years, forest conservation languished in the shadow of fossil fuels in the climate change debate. But there’s now a rising awareness that their loss as habitats is driving the current mass extinction of animal species, and they were center stage at the recent UN climate summit in New York with their own new declaration.

Coinciding with the summit, the UK pledged money to help end illegal timber entering Europe and promote ‘public private partnerships’ to ‘manage forests sustainably.’

wildlife conservation and deforestation

However well intended, the New York forest declaration foresees the logging of natural forests continuing for another 16 years, which in terms of business and political horizons is effectively forever. It is also too late to halt critical climate feedbacks. Take away the cloak of good intentions and it could easily become a business as usual initiative.

Where the UK government is concerned it is already obliged under the EU timber regulations to ban illegal timber, and it needs to be careful with the language of sustainable forest management. As forest experts such as Professor Brendan Mackey argue, where intact tropical forests are concerned, ‘sustainable management’ is an oxymoron if large scale commercial enterprise is involved and fundamentally new approaches to protection are needed.

Yet, away from summits something very interesting is happening at forest floor level. Putting communities in charge of their forests is having a transformative effect, as a new collection of stories on the struggles of forest peoples from Africa to Latin America reveals.

deforestation and climate change

Community management of forests has already been shown to be better generally for forest protection and the climate. But now, action at the local level is pointing toward hows community initiatives can better marry development and respect for ecosystems.

For example, Ecuador is rich in tropical forests which cover a third of the country. Every square kilometer of forest supports around 150 people. But Ecuadorians have limited rights and only half of the indigenous groups and smallholder farmers that customarily own their forests have legal title to them.

One of the biggest problems at the local level was lack of access to information. So, local groups organized and trained communities to use a law obliging the government to make available information considered in the public interest. They now find themselves in a better position to protect their rights and the forests.

In Ghana, the Centre for Indigenous Knowledge and Organisational Development (CIKOD) worked with local chiefs to change a pattern of forest destruction and the loss of economic benefits, to agree a charter based on a combination of traditional and modern natural resource management practices.

“The kingdom is bigger than the most powerful chief,” said Osahene Aterkyi II, resident of a Regional House of Chiefs, who trialled the charter in his community and sees it as a vital step to improve local accountability. The experience provided important lessons on bringing communities and traditional leaders into the debate on forest protection.

Improving rights, access to information and accountability are vital. But local groups are also taking action to stop abuse of the laws meant to control forest management.

Emmanuel Belashayi, who works for Réseau Ressources Naturelles (RRN, the Natural Resources Network) in Bateke Plateau, on the east bank of the Congo River in the Democratic Republic of Congo explains: “In this area, if a Congolese person has an artisanal logging permit, there is usually a Chinese company hiding behind him.”

Such permits are meant to allow communities to make a living from small scale extraction of timber. But Emmanuel found that companies were buying up the permits and using them to log anywhere. He worked to bring the abuse to the attention of the government which led to a ministerial clampdown.

Other, similar stories to these can be found from Liberia to Peru and beyond.

palm oil plantation deforestation

We need governments to make big decisions to steer humanity to operate within planetary boundaries. Action at that level can reallocate resources from destructive to constructive activities, and globally from those with more than enough to those who have too little.

But something else governments have to do is give power to communities who can make things happen at the ground level, and recognize their role in finding solutions to seemingly intractable problems. That might be making renewable energy a success in Britain or, in this case, finding a way for humanity as a whole to live with, rather than cut down, forests that are intrinsically valuable, vital for local livelihoods and, in an age of climatic upheaval, something upon which we all depend for our collective survival.


climate change and deforestation

Sacred Seedlings is a global initiative to support forest conservation, reforestation, urban forestry, sustainable agriculture and wildlife conservation. Sustainable land management and land use are critical to the survival of entire ecosystems. Sacred Seedlings is a U.S.-based program that supports the vision of local stakeholders. We have projects ready across Africa. We seek additional projects elsewhere around the world. We also seek volunteers, sponsors and donors of cash and in-kind support. Write to Gary Chandler for more information

Half Of Global Deforestation Illegal

Food Production Driving Deforestation

In the past decade, demand from the international market for agricultural products such as palm oil, soy, beef and timber caused the deforestation of tropical forests at an average rate of five football fields every minute. This has resulted in a total loss of 200,000 square kilometers of land, an area twice the size of South Korea.

palm oil plantation deforestation

This is according to a new study released by Washington-based non-government organization (NGO) Forest Trends on Thursday, which revealed that 49 percent of all tropical deforestation between 2000 and 2012 was caused by illegal clearing for commercial agriculture, and that trade in products grown on illegally converted land was worth a total of US$61 billion. A staggering 40 percent of internationally traded palm oil is grown on illegally deforested land, said the report.

Titled Consumer Goods and Deforestation: An Analysis of the Extent and Nature of Illegality in Forest Conversion for Agriculture, the report also found that this illegal deforestation generated 1.47 gigatons of carbon dioxide per year between 2000 and 2012. This is equivalent to a quarter of the European Union’s annual emissions from burning fossil fuels.

deforestation and climate change

Michael Jenkins, president and chief executive of Forest Trends, said that although the link between agricultural production and deforestation was well established, “this is the first report to show the major role that illegal activities play in the production of hundreds of food and household products consumed worldwide.”

The export of agricultural commodities grown on illegally cleared forest land was responsible for 25 percent of all tropical forest destruction between 2000 and 2012, according to the report. A majority of the demand for products grown on this land – such as beef, leather, soy, palm oil and wood products originated from China, India, Russia, the United States, and the European Union.

The report revealed that a fifth of all soy, a third of tropical timber, and 14 percent of all beef traded internationally came from land that had been illegally deforested.

Sam Lawson, lead author of the report, noted that given the rapid speed at which illegal deforestation was taking place, “there is hardly a product on supermarket shelves that is not potentially tainted”.

Brazil and Indonesia were pinpointed as the biggest producers of agricultural exports. Together, the two countries also had the highest rates of land clearance in the world, with 90 percent of Brazil’s deforestation and 80 percent of Indonesia’s forest clearance deemed illegal.

deforestation Tanzania and Kenya

Other countries such as Tanzania and Bolivia also grappled with this problem, with their forests making way for crops such as jatropha (a biofuel plant) and soy respectively.

The problem was even spreading to new tropical regions where deforestation rates had traditionally been low, said the report. It pointed to the Republic of Congo as an example, where illegal palm oil projects were set to double the country’s deforestation rate.

The study found that companies which destroyed forests illegally often did so using fraudulent permits obtained from corrupt officials.

In other instances, companies flouted environmental protection laws when planting or clearing land, which resulted in environmental degradation and violated the rights of local people and indigenous communities dependent on the forest for food and income.

These illegal practices could only be fully addressed by governments, said the report, though it lauded corporate efforts such as “zero deforestation” commitments by some consumer goods companies. To this end, the report recommended a set of actions for the governments of countries that produced and consumed these agricultural goods.

Recommended measures for governments of producer countries included:

  1. Enforcing a moratorium on all forest conversion until a clear legal framework and enforcement systems were in place;
  2. Improving law enforcement by improving information sharing between government agencies;
  3. Imposing harsher penalties on culprits;
  4. Using technology such as satellite images to monitor deforestation more effectively.

“Urgent action is needed to help countries where these agricultural products are being grown, both for governments to enforce their own laws and regulations, and for businesses aiming to produce commodities legally and sustainably,” said Jenkins.

The report also made several recommendations for consumer countries which were donors to the global program Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+), a mechanism through which developing countries receive international funding to preserve their forests.

For example, the report suggested that REDD+ donor countries could insist that donated funds are used to make improvements to forest governance and legal frameworks, ensure that nationally-governed financial institutions do not do business to companies associated with illegal forest clearance, and provide technical support to civil society groups tackling these issues.

Governments of all consumer countries, regardless of their REDD+ status, could also act to curb the demand that fuels illegal deforestation. Some measures include requiring that all government purchases of agricultural products are from legal and sustainable sources, making it an offence to sell or import agricultural commodities grown on illegally cleared land, and ensuring that the penalties are high enough to discourage others from flouting these regulations.

“The current unfettered access to international markets for commodities from illegally cleared land is undermining the efforts of tropical countries to enforce their own laws,” said Lawson. “Consumer countries have a responsibility to help halt this trade.”

“Reforming the complex, conflicting and unclear laws and regulations that govern the forest and agricultural sectors is a critical step, alongside improving the enforcement and compliance of national and international laws. These must all be prioritized if global commitments to stop tropical deforestation are going to be achieved,” Jenkins added.

While such measures have been successfully implemented to combat trade in illegally sourced timber, it remains to be seen how they can be applied to other agricultural commodities, the report said.  

“Increased agricultural production will be necessary for food security and to meet the demand of the emerging global middle class,” said Jenkins. “However, the world must also wake up to the scale of how much of this agricultural production is taking place on land that has been illegally cleared.”


climate change and deforestation

Sacred Seedlings is a global initiative to support forest conservation, reforestation, urban forestry, sustainable agriculture and wildlife conservation. Sustainable land management and land use are critical to the survival of entire ecosystems.

Sacred Seedlings is a U.S.-based program that supports the vision of local stakeholders. We have projects ready across Africa. We seek additional projects elsewhere around the world. We also seek volunteers, sponsors and donors of cash and in-kind support. Write to Gary Chandler for more information

Africa’s Future In Sustainable Agriculture, Agroforestry

Most Africans Rely On Farming

By Kanayo F. NwanzePresident, International Fund for Agricultural Development

Judging from the daily outpouring of commentary, opinions and reports, you would think that there were two African continents. One of them is the new land of opportunity, with seven of the world’s 10 fastest growing economies, offering limitless possibilities to investors. There is, however, this other image: a starving and hopeless continent, hungry and poor, corrupt and prey to foreign exploiters.

sustainable agriculture Uganda

As Africans, we are tired of caricatures. But we are also tired of waiting. Waiting to be led toward the one Africa we all want — the Africa that can and should be. We know the real Africa, filled with possibilities, dignity and opportunities, able to face its challenges and solve them from within. Never has the time been more right for us to finally realize our full potential. It is within our grasp.

As a scientist, I am always interested in facts. Africa is a land rich in resources, which has enjoyed some of the highest economic growth rates on the planet. It is home to 200 million people between the ages of 15 and 24. And it has seen foreign direct investment triple over the past decade.

As the head of an institution whose business is investing in rural people, I know that you also need vision and imagination. At the International Fund for Agricultural Development we have banked on the poorest, most marginalized people in the world, and over and over again these investments have paid off. For people, for communities, for societies. And more than half of the people we invest in are Africans.

More than 10 years have passed since the Maputo Declaration, in which you, as African leaders, committed to allocating at least 10 percent of national budgets to agriculture and rural development — key sectors in the drive to cut poverty, build inclusive growth and strengthen food security and nutrition.

Mountain gorilla photography award

Today, just seven countries have fulfilled the Maputo commitment consistently, while some others have made steps in the right direction. Ten years is a long time to wait. In less time, I have seen projects turn desert into farmland.

In just a few days in Malabo at the 23rd African Union (AU) Summit, I will join those of you, African leaders, who will gather to discuss this year’s focus of agriculture and food security. This is my call: Don’t just promise development, deliver it, make it happen now. Make real, concrete progress toward investment that reaches all Africans. Investments that prioritize rural people.

Our biggest resource is our people. To squander this is worse than wasteful. If we don’t act now, by 2030 Africa will account for 80 per cent of the world’s poor. Is this the legacy that we want to leave for future generations?

The AU declared 2014 as the year of Agriculture and Food Security. And this is the year we look beyond the deadline of the Millennium Development Goals to a post-2015 world with new goals and targets to reach. I hope that this means that we will be dedicating ourselves fully to making agriculture a priority. GDP growth due to agriculture has been estimated to be five times more effective in reducing poverty than growth in any other sector, and in sub-Saharan Africa, up to 11 times. Ironically, it is countries that lack lucrative extractive industries and that have had to invest in agriculture who have found out what is now an open secret: agriculture not only improves food security but creates wealth. Small family farmers in some parts of our continent contribute as much as 80 percent of food production. Investing in poor rural people is both good economics and good ethics.

A full 60 percent of our people depend wholly or partly on agriculture for their livelihoods, and the vast majority of them live below the poverty line. It’s not pity and handouts that they need. It’s access to markets and finance, land tenure security, knowledge and technology, and policies that favor small farms and make it easier for them to do business. A thriving small farm sector helps rural areas retain the young people who would otherwise be driven to migrate to overcrowded cities where they face an uncertain future. Investing in agriculture reinforces not only food security, but security in general.

In an Africa where 20 states are classified as fragile and 28 countries need food assistance, the need for a real rural transformation backed by investment and not just words is critical — I have often said that declarations don’t feed people.


Investments must be focused on smallholder family farms. Small farms make up 80 percent of all farms in sub-Saharan Africa. And contrary to conventional wisdom, small farms are often more productive than large farms. For example, China’s 200 million small farms cover only 10 percent of the world’s agricultural land but produce 20 percent of the world’s food. The average African farm, however, is performing at only about 40 percent of its potential. Simple technologies — such as improved seeds, irrigation and fertilizer — could triple productivity, triggering transformational growth in the agricultural sector. It is estimated that irrigation alone could increase output by up to 50 percent in Africa. Rural areas also need the right investments in infrastructure — roads, energy, storage facilities, social and financial services — and enabling policies backed by appropriate governance structures that ensure inclusiveness.

If we look at the countries that have met the Maputo commitment, we see that investing in agriculture works. Given that agriculture has become lucrative for private investors, and about 60 percent of the planet’s available uncultivated agricultural land is in Africa, there is no mystery why we hear about so-called ‘land grabs’. Opportunity draws foreign investors. There is nothing wrong with foreign investment. But it has to be managed, to the benefit of all.

reforestation and climate change

What is a mystery is why, with such a vast potential and a young population just waiting for a reason to seize it, our African leaders do not announce that they will redouble their efforts to drive an inclusive rural transformation, with concrete commitments, that will make Maputo a reality. I hope that after the Malabo meeting, that will be a mystery no longer.

African economies have grown impressively. But it is time to stop focussing on GDP figures and instead focus on people. The majority of our people are engaged in agriculture, and the neglect of that sector must stop if we really want to realize the healthy, peaceful and food secure Africa that we know can be. It is not a dream; it is a responsibility.


climate change and deforestation

Sacred Seedlings is a global initiative to support forest conservation, reforestation, urban forestry, carbon capture, sustainable agriculture and wildlife conservation. Sustainable land management and land use are critical to the survival of entire ecosystems.

Sacred Seedlings is a U.S.-based program that supports the vision of local stakeholders. We have projects ready across Africa. We seek additional projects elsewhere around the world. We also seek volunteers, sponsors and donors of cash and in-kind support. Write to Gary Chandler for more information

Saving Rainforests With Greener Chocolate

Rainforest Destruction Not Sustainable

“Much of the cocoa that’s consumed around the world does not originate in highly biodiverse primary rainforests,” says Eric Servat, the Rainforest Alliance’s manager of sustainable value chains for Southern Europe. “Most often, it comes from degraded secondary forests in West Africa—something I saw with my own eyes when I visited Ghana for the first time.”

Many researchers charge that increased cocoa cultivation in Ghana over the past 20 years has resulted in massive deforestation. For nearly 40 years, the overall trend has been to eschew a shade-grown approach and instead cultivate the crop using “full-sun” techniques—as do nearly 35 percent of Ghanaian producers and 50 percent of their peers in Côte d’Ivoire. There are several reasons for this, according to Goetz Schroth, who directs the Rainforest Alliance’s cocoa program:

deforestation and climate change

  • Cocoa farmers increasingly use hybrid strains that were developed to produce greater yields under a full-sun system.
  • With little-to-no access to legal timber markets, farmers lack the incentive to plant timber trees among their cocoa plants.
  • Cocoa farming has been done by migrants who lack traditional knowledge of complex agroforestry systems and believe—not without reason—that if you surround cocoa trees with too many shade trees, you might deny the cocoa plant sufficient aeration, favor the development of diseases such as black rot and encourage rats and monkeys to feed on the cocoa pods.

The Rainforest Alliance and our partners offer training to farmers and workers, teaching them the principles and practices of sustainable agriculture with the aim of protecting biodiversity, improving local living conditions and boosting farm productivity. We advocate agroforestry methods that require the planting of trees on agricultural lands.

In Côte d’Ivoire, for example, Rainforest Alliance Certified™ cocoa farms must have a minimum number of native tree species—notably fruit trees—per every 30-acre (12-hectare) parcel, as well as a minimum of nine shade-tree species. The main objective is for farms to reach a shade density of 30 percent, which can be done with 12 to 18 adult trees per hectare, depending on the species. When farmers alternate between re-planting cocoa trees and planting shade trees, they enrich their soil and allow it to regenerate.

deforestation and climate change

There are, however, disparities in conditions among Rainforest Alliance Certified farms in different regions. For example, it’s rare to find traditional agroforestry systems that feature all three levels of canopy, except in certain areas of Cameroon and in Central America, part of the broad region where the Amazonian cocoa plant is said to have originated. On these original, more densely forested cocoa plantations, yields are lower, and the goal is to help certified producers cultivate a premium crop that can generate greater revenue to compensate for decreased quantity. Shade-grown methods allow for better maturation of fruits and the development of flavors that can be marketed to connoisseurs. We have pilot projects north of Cuzco, Peru, where this approach is being implemented, and we’ve also been working to capitalize on the “Coffee and Biodiversity” initiatives that we launched in El Salvador ten years ago.

The need for change is urgent. “I visited some cocoa plantations in Sierra Leone that were located in a nearly intact jungle,” said Eric Servat. “They were magnificent to look at, but they couldn’t support the basic subsistence needs of farmers. That’s typical among older farmers who lack the means to maintain their farms or modernize them and improve the quality of their crop. Without those kinds of changes, they can’t survive in today’s market.”

reforestation and carbon capture

The Rainforest Alliance promotes agroforestry as an alternative to slash-and-burn agriculture in West Africa, Madagascar and Central America, offering farmers an economically attractive option that can earn them premiums for the quality of their crop. Agroforestry also provides essential ecosystem services, including preserving soil fertility and water resources, preventing erosion and storing carbon. And for local communities, agroforestry also offers residents social and cultural benefits, including medicinal plants and the preservation of water sources and sacred spaces for future generations. Everyone benefits from this “return to the forest.”

Today, 10 percent of the world’s cocoa comes from Rainforest Alliance Certified farms. Support sustainability when you shop by choosing products, like chocolate, that feature the Rainforest Alliance’s green frog seal.


climate change and deforestation

Sacred Seedlings is a global initiative to support forest conservation, reforestation, urban forestry, carbon capture, sustainable agriculture and wildlife conservation. Sustainable land management and land use are critical to the survival of entire ecosystems.

Sacred Seedlings is a U.S.-based program that supports the vision of local stakeholders. We have projects ready across Africa. We seek additional projects elsewhere around the world. We also seek volunteers, sponsors and donors of cash and in-kind support. Write to Gary Chandler for more information

Agroforestry Can Help Alleviate Global Poverty

Agroforestry A Sustainable Enterprise

By Caity Peterson, Researcher and Science Writer, Center for International Tropical Agriculture

A misty green landscape tucked away in the countryside near Chimaltenango, Guatemala, is home to Mayan ruins — and an ancient truth. Iximché, as the ruins are called, means “Tree of Corn” in the indigenous Kaqchikel language, which makes me think the ancients knew something about the relationship between trees and food.

Things have changed since Iximché’s glory days, however, and the spread of agriculture has meant the demise of forests. Swidden rotational crop farming is common in Guatemala, and Central American forests suffer even greater deforestation rates than the Amazon.

agroforestry Guatemala

Since 1992, Anne Hallum of the Alliance for International Reforestation (AIR) has been working to reverse this trend through the education and empowerment of Guatemalan communities in the implementation of agroforestry. In the communities where Anne has worked, trees and corn can once again be pronounced in the same breath, and be seen in the same landscape.

Set against the backdrop of a decades-long civil war, AIR Guatemala started with nothing more than the determination of this single woman. Since then it has grown to facilitate agroforestry projects in more than 140 communities in Central Guatemala, building almost 800 fuel-efficient brick stoves and planting almost 4 million trees.

When I joined Anne in Guatemala for an internship as a college sophomore, I saw for myself the great need for AIR’s work. Decades of soil degradation from clear-cutting, swidden farming, and agricultural chemical use had made soil erosion — and the accompanying landslides — an evident problem. As I rode in the back of a rattling pickup truck, flanked by steep, rocky slopes and accompanied by a box of 100 or so pine seedlings to be planted that day, I could see great scars in the mountains where farmers’ fields had simply sloughed away.

Landslides are a perennial danger for resource-poor farmers living in this area, causing great damage and loss of life every year. In the communities where AIR has worked, however, reforested hillsides are strengthened by the roots of thousands of trees. AIR’s agroforestry technicians take up residence in communities for a minimum of five years, after which leadership is handed over to local stakeholders.

AIR has grown from the work of one woman into the work of many. Indeed, the leadership of the Alliance has been borne largely on the shoulders of women farmers, who take charge of the tree nurseries, organize community meetings, and generate income for their families making soaps and shampoos from the fruits they harvest. In the process of renewing their fields, the women themselves have been empowered.

reforestation and carbon capture

Once, after a long day of tree planting in Xetonox community, I sat resting on the hillside, hands and knees stained with dark earth, when one of the women I had been working with spoke: “We used to just stay in the house all day, but now the women have come together to take care of the trees. We have something to look forward to each day. The trees are nourishing our fields, which means they are nourishing our families. We will not cut them down again. You have come into our hearts here in Xetonox.”

Recently Anne has received global recognition for her work relieving poverty and deforestation in Guatemala. I personally recognize in her a professor, a friend, and an inspiration. She has restored the concept of Iximché, that vital link between trees and food, to the consciousness of the modern Guatemalan farmer — and she has empowered the women around her to do the same. To those women, and to me, she is a forest heroine.


climate change and deforestation

Sacred Seedlings is a global initiative to support forest conservation, reforestation, urban forestry, carbon capture, sustainable agriculture and wildlife conservation. Sustainable land management and land use are critical to the survival of entire ecosystems.

Sacred Seedlings is a U.S.-based program that supports the vision of local stakeholders. We have projects ready across Africa. We seek additional projects elsewhere around the world. We also seek volunteers, sponsors and donors of cash and in-kind support. Write to Gary Chandler for more information