Trees for the Future is a tree-planting charity which is partnered with many big brands, such as Timberland, and the Forest app. It offers a 4-year training programme called the Forest Garden approach, which teaches farmers how to farm more sustainably through agroforestry – the combination of trees and cropland. The farmers plant trees alongside fruits and vegetables on their land which provides an income, food security, as well as being beneficial to the environment. Trees for the Future refer to these agroforestry systems as Forest Gardens.
This charity has approached sustainability very holistically, not just focusing on trees as a method of carbon sequestration as many projects do. By helping farmers manage their land and provide a stable income and food supply they are striving towards 9 of the 14 sustainable development goals: decent work and economic growth, partnership for the goals, climate action, reduced inequalities, no poverty, zero hunger, responsible consumption and production, good wealth and wellbeing, and life on land. Agroforestry brings about many benefits. It improves soil quality and stability preventing soil erosion; it helps with water management by reducing run-off; it provides a diverse array of products for farmers which helps alleviate poverty; and the trees and soil help to mitigate climate change. There are issues with agroforestry, since the process if very labour-, time-, and knowledge-intensive, however Trees for the Future lessen these issues.
Planting occurs on degraded farmland, which means that no more land has to be converted or cleared to make space, so the net impact can only be positive. So far 29714 acres of land have been restored. A variety of trees, shrubs, fruiting plants, vegetables and vines are planted. In total 200 000 000 trees have been planted and the charity is aiming to have planted 1 billion by 2030. It costs 25p for a tree to be planted, which is comparable to other tree planting projects such as Ripple Africa’s scheme, however how money is spent when donations are made is not clearly broken down between tree planting and training. Although a sequestration figure is quoted (144.64 metric tons of CO2 absorbed by the Forest Garden over 20 years), the focus is on supporting communities and regenerating agricultural ecosystems rather than purely climate action.
The training programme gives the local farmers the skills and tools required for them to be able to sustainably manage their land in the long-term, rather than just providing a short-term solution. Because long-term sustainability for the farmers is a priority, Trees for the Future does not pay farmers to participate so that money does not become the incentive for land conservation, however the training and materials are free. Farming families in need are selected and certified training technicians work alongside them. In the first 1-2 years the farmers plant fast growing trees and bushes around the outside of the farm to protect the soil. Years 2-3 consist of the farms being diversified through the addition of fruit and vegetables which are specific to meet the families’ nutritional and selling needs. Farmers are taught about long-term management and conservation in years 3-4 where each farm has its own long-term strategy developed. Currently, these programmes are being run in 9 countries across sub-Saharan Africa. The steps taken centre the communities and provide them with the skills and knowledge needed to continue protecting their surrounding environment once the charity moves out.
Trees for the Future really seems to have the farming families at the heart of their work, providing training specific for each location and situation. Long-term sustainability is also emphasized, indicating that their efforts are genuine. The charity is very transparent with their financials, strategy, numbers, success etc. They are also vetted and award-winning, receiving certificates such as a Top Star Rating on Charity Navigator, a Platinum Seal of Transparency by Guidestar, and being listed as a Top-rated non-profit by GreatNonProfits.
<Charity website> https://trees.org/
<Agroforestry information> https://greentumble.com/advantages-and-disadvantages-of-agroforestry/
<Agroforestry information> https://connectusfund.org/6-advantages-and-disadvantages-of-agroforestry