Towards the Tree solution

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Towards the Tree solution

Wouldn’t it be great if there was a system where community-based organizations, like from Madagascar, could plug into existing information and money streams for tree planting and climate care? And if there was also a transparent standard, a simple and easy to monitor solution that paid for growing trees, and other grass roots carbon measures. “Tree credits” might be one solution and together we could develop even better ones (location specific ones) if specialists come together in the right context. The specialists could decide which kinds and mixes of trees would be most beneficial for biodiversity as well as for income generating for specific habitats.

Lord Nicholas Stern: The two defining challenges of our century are climate change and poverty. And if we fail on one, we will fail on the other. 2009


We propose FIVE STEPS; including the setting up of three internet platforms, to take pro-poor forestry worldwide in a way to fight world poverty as well as climate change, effectively.


We have been designing and field testing a concept of linking community credit and savings schemes with tree planting by individuals, like women and children; a system with a small carbon footprint, transparent and with minimal waste for implementing and monitoring. See and below.

Now we want to take it a step further and designed the plan for 3 internet-based platforms. The first platform will work towards solutions for global warming and poverty. The second platform will link grassroots groups worldwide with funds available to plant trees. The third platform will be a source of practical information about agroforestry, growing trees for an income and case studies from various countries and climate zones.


These internet platforms and the various sophisticated software and hardware needed to design to make information available, to administrate and to securely transfer funds are the TOOLS and technology needed to realize this plan. My impression is that we will need nearly all the technology showcased in this paper for this multi-layered plan.


A FIVE STEP action plan, how to come to a global solution. I like to split up the issue in several parts by separating the systematic side from the financial side and from the agroforestry side.


The proposed three websites should be interactive, well moderated and marketed and fully result oriented, and more than a discussion forum. A big partner, org or com, where full editorial Independence is guaranteed, should be found.


I put an equal investment amount everywhere, just to indicate of what kind of money might be involved. Communication specialists have to make a strategic project proposal for each task force.


Task force 1 To develop methods to help the rural “poor” with growing trees and other poverty-climate measures, which could be globally applied or could be locally adapted.


We need a platform, an internet based network, a kind of think tank, to bring together experts and the grass roots to work on solutions. A place where experts from all fields and dimensions related to the subject and policy makers can consult with and inform the grassroots about climate problems and work together on concepts, projects and methodologies to tackle climate change, nature loss and poverty, in one go. Such as the treecredits concept. What is needed, is solution-oriented science and the design of the systems and software which are needed to reach these aims.


€50.000 as seed money is needed in 2011 to start a foundation, design the ‘supersite’, pay for specialist moderators and marketing specialists


Task force 2 To examine if the proposed solutions and modifications work.


Field test and evaluate these potential solutions. Examining existing similar projects and introduce improvements.


€50.000 is needed in 2012 to prepare, implement and evaluate five trials and to plant and monitor 50.000 trees.


Task force 3 To give grassroots tree growers access to funding


We need another platform to bring together the tree planting groups and potential donors/investors directly.


After local NGOs and others are certified and the systems are in place to receive and account for micro funds to label and locate the trees planted, this web based platform could bring together small scale tree growers with potential donors/investors, worldwide. With modern and novel IT and AV solutions this must be feasible even for areas that are hard to access near protected, mountainous, remote, marginal or insecure areas.


About €50.000 as seed money is needed in 2012 to start a foundation design the necessary software and other applications, start the platform and publicize its potential.


Task force 4 To give grassroots tree growers access to relevant tree establishment, agroforestry and forestry information


The collecting, developing and sharing of available knowledge and experience about which trees and methods are best for specific habitats, particularly which mix of species of trees will give a healthy forest that maximizes both (endemic) nature values as well as income for the locals and watershed benefits? Which establishment and management methods are most affordable and reliable on infertile sites that are hard to access?


€50.000 is needed in 2012 to start a foundation, to design, set up and operate this platform and to pay to make all useful scientific data accessible.


Task force 5 To shape to conditions (legal, political, financial) to take the concepts global


The pilots and first projects can be easily financed by private donors. Once the word is out and the viability demonstrated, demand for the scheme and loans can be expected to grow rapidly an we will need an international framework for finance and governance community tree planting. There is a potential demand to plant billions of trees each year and the funds call for an international framework.


€ billions, mainly in the form of soft loans, are needed each year from 2015 to 2035.

Funds could come from the world bank and other international development banks, but also from private donations, wealthy donors, existing NGOs, carbon credits, governments and international organizations; possibly a mix of all this.

Trees can be a valuable collateral when they are fully matured. A tiny investment (of say €1.- incl overheads) might have grown into a timber value of say € 200 for a 20 year old teak tree. Income from fruits, nuts, rubber and other tree products can be substantial. With such potentially huge revenue streams in the longer term, the regulatory trust fund could turn into a revolving fund, which possibly might make a profit by 2035.


(Task force 6) To plan for scaling up to establish enough trees etc. to absorb all excess CO2 produced by mankind and to stabilize the climate by 2050.


To my best estimate over a trillion trees have to be planted and to prevent forest and land degradation, to store enough carbon, a doubling of the actual tree cover, to reach this point. If following the most positive UN CO2 emission scenario, enough other conservation measures will be taken and will be effective.

200 million growers, each planting 6000 trees in 30 years, will reach the target.


(Task force 7) Even more Utopian: to design and grow a sustainable society in which trees play a central role.


Envision a park-like semi-urban living environment, where trees will be the main producers of food, fuel, construction materials, medicines and more. Because wood (including bamboo) is such a versatile raw material, we might soon drive cars with bodies made of wood composites, ride bikes out of bamboo, generate electricity from tree branches and distill fuel out of trees. The list of possibilites is endless.


To underpin some of the claims previously mentioned and to explain which kind of solutions we are thinking of, here is a short brief on global warming and the tree credits concept.


Global warming is caused for a large part by the CO2 released while burning fossil fuels; other gasses and sooth also play an important role; these pollutants should be filtered out at the source (and methane collected and used); CO2, although poisonous to humans is not a pollutant, but a part of the most basic global life cycle and nurtures plants.


Growing trees is the most cost effective way to sequester CO2 (Stern 2009). Trees produce wood, fruits, rubber, O2 and much more out of CO2.


Biomass and especially trees play a crucial role in the carbon cycles. CO2 concentrations might have increased with about 40%. Almost 20% of the CO2 netto emission is from cutting down forests. Changes in the organic matter and roots in cultivated soils are important too. Also the oceans, which could made to bloom with organic matter be stored at the bottom, could play a crucial role.

Most increase in biomass will reduce CO2 levels and most plants can be used for food or bio-fuels, these are the short term carbon cycles. Only trees and species like bamboo take CO2 out of the atmosphere for the long term. They produce wood, lignite or similar materials, strong and durable, suitable for furniture or wooden houses, which can last for centuries if treated well.


Doubling the 2010 global tree cover by 2050 might bring the now lob-sided carbon cycle in balance again by stabilizing or even reducing the CO2 concentration in the atmosphere; that is, if other ongoing and planned actions: stopping deforestation, reducing air pollution and taking energy saving measures, will result in at least the topping of the growth in CO2 emissions (estimate free to Petrus Hoff 2009).


Ban Ki Moon, UN chief: Like in Microfinance, women can be agents of climate change too. December 2, 2009,


This quote together with Stern’s earlier quote of climate change and poverty should be tackled as one, illustrates the facts that not only the consequences of global warming are worst for the poor in developing countries, but also that the solution for these problems could be found here. This article is about how to unlock this potential.


Droughts and floods worsened by a changing climate hurt the poor in developing countries first, especially the women and children. Often they are also the ones who start tree nurseries, plant/protect trees, use firewood saving stoves and could adopt carbon storing composting and improved agricultural methods.


Agroforestry and other improved agricultural methods which store carbon in the ground, provide food and fuel above ground could according to the FAO, solve a large part of the excess CO2 problem.


Intercropping with Leguminous (nitrogen fixing) trees has done well in suitable areas more than doubling agricultural output in a Kenyan experiement (Faidherbia albida and maize intercropped , ICRAF). Most promising and cost-effective methods are new improved low-input direct-seeded and management methods for nitrogen-fixing contour-hedges, fire-belts, nurse-trees, weed suppression and soil improvement or upper storey trees (Mandal 2010). Tree legumes like Calliandra calothyrsus can provide all-season protein rich feed, so less animals can produce the milk needed. Contour hedges with both low and big trees can add many benefits to adaptation to climate change and new more appropriate methods (Mandal 2010).


The rural poor often live on fragile, marginal lands; and on these lands we would like to help them to grow trees where we might be willing to pay for their upkeep. This way, the one billion or so rural poor could have a real impact on the climate, while an additional source of income is opening up to them. They do not have to migrate to the cities and be able to continue their low impact lifestyles. Growing trees might secure a small but regular income, which might mean the difference between real poverty and a more dignified lifestyle with the children going to school.


The system we worked out, we called it tree credits ( and it has the following objectives:

Reduce Poverty

Reduce Climate change

Improve Biodiversity

Maximum of Transparency of the system

Minimize Carbon footprint of implementation and monitoring

Hereby in short, some highlights of the tree credits concept:

TREE CREDITS is a pro-poor method how to reward villagers for growing trees or for taking other CO2 reducing measures.

The scheme targets the individual, however for practical reasons we like to work with village groups; for the social control and shared responsibility within community saving groups, for administrative reasons and for reasons of transparency.

Once organized, extension officers could help the community in drafting a village forestry and agroforestry plan.

Loans and payments should be channeled through existing and trusted community based groups like micro finance saving and loan group, women and farmers groups.

Pay only if appropriate, in case of poverty and if there is no conflict with voluntary campaigns.

As an incentive, low or no-interest loans, like one dollar a tree, could be given, if there is a need; a loan related to the number of suitable trees planted, given when the trees or nurseries are well established.

For direct seeded closely spaced hedges and contour hedges, often needed for soil and water conservation, the amount will be lower.

For maintenance of the trees 10 cent each month could be paid per tree, long term, as long they grow well, a kind of paid ecosystem service e.g. carbon credits. A tree-insurance against natural disasters should be included.

Such small but regular amounts could be enough to lift, even the least bankable incl. women, children, tribals and refugees, out of poverty.

This investment might result in a share in valuable timber sales in the future for the financiers of the scheme.

Each tree included in the scheme should be labeled and linked to on individual responsible for the tree. And so, empower the individual.

To exclude big landowners and forestry companies, we propose a maximum of 500 trees per member each year.

To further biodiversity we oppose to subsidies monoculture plantations. However a plantation with 50% single species trees might play a large role in making the forest profitable.

Existing trees and vegetation should be respected; we mainly target degraded lands.

Agroforestry and other combinations of activities like fruit forest, park-like housing estates and eco-tourism is highly encouraged.


Trees don’t move and are easily labeled, geo-tacked and counted. Diameter size class near the ground can serve as a rapid, simple, rough indicator of total tree biomass for a given species and system.

The media, especially radio and mobile phones, government institutions, agroforestry and other specialists and NGOs all have a role to play in the spread of knowledge and solutions; and also in reducing the costs of implementation and tree growing, in improving food security and the survival rates of trees at difficult infertile sites. Digital images and innovative IT solutions should play an important role.

District and national level NGOs could coordinate the finances and all could play a role in monitoring the scheme. Or new systems based on mobile IT and digital images could be introduced.

The village savings and tree committee is responsible for the administration, for payments, for labeling and checking of the trees and for settling disputes.

All levels involved should be able to turn a profit. All overheads should be linked directly to the number of surviving trees, to further increase transparency.

Ultimately, much monitoring could be done by phones, cameras, GPS, satellites, IT and statistics. Even small helicopters might play a role.



The tree credit scheme is now being tested on a small scale in Sri Lanka.

This December, together with OARM and local villagers, we are going to plant 10.000 trees, a mix of endemic rain forest trees and income generating trees like rubber, kingcoconut, jackfruit, mango, teak, mahogany as well as nitrogen fixing multipurpose trees. The aim is to recreate biodivers rain forest, which is at the same time income generating for the villagers. This is on degraded land, where nitrogen fixing trees are important to rejuvenate and suppress problem weeds, owned by the forest department, adjoining the Singaraja Rainforest world heritage site.


Micro finance (MFIs) with its expertise in rural banking and worldwide penetration is one logical partner to implement and monitor the system. They have shown that there is an alternative for the usual top down approaches, at least for poverty alleviation; a more profit oriented method, which might work for climate change as well. As well as contribute to local financial sustainability.


A two centigrade warmer earth looks imminent and a 4C global warming by 2060 likely, with disastrous effects for many people. Besides the also highly necessary stop of deforestation and introduction of green technologies, massive (re-)forestation and other forms of tree establishment looks like the effective way to have a real impact on the climate. Coupling it to poverty alleviation might give the scheme acceptance and wide support. Decentralized introduction can be good for biodiversity.


FS 10-12-10

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