Is planting trees actually worthwhile?

Oct 14, 2020 | written by:

Planting trees is on everyone's lips again. Everybody wants it, many do it loudly. Ethiopia and Pakistan fight for the world record. 62 countries take part in the global Bonn Challenge. Elon Musk has done it, Timberland as well as RWE, or the Youtuber Initiative #teamtrees. Of course, there are scandals, such as the German Youtubers Sami Slimani and Kim Lianne. The big question remains: What is the point? And does the whole thing really have a lasting effect on our climate?


Of course, criticism of tree planting against climate change is also inevitable: planting trees would be a zero-sum game, as they would release greenhouse gases again if they were felled. For trees to have a real effect, they need to have a long life cycle. There would not even be enough land, and this would lead to land conflicts. A well-intentioned forest project could, according to the Leakage Effect, cause CO2 emissions elsewhere and only postpone or even aggravate the problem. And these are just some of the points that critics are making.


But what now? Is planting trees good for our planet or not? Like so much in our world, there is no black and white, no right and wrong. Because not all trees are the same. Tree-planting or reforestation projects can be very different.


Many international organisations and studies consider tree planting to be the cheapest, lightest and most effective CO2 sink and therefore one of the most important tools in the fight against climate change. Researchers at ETH Zurich believe that there would be enough area for the CO2 sink to be offset by new tree plantings to achieve the 1.5 degree target. But trees or forests can be so much more than just CO2 stores. In its report on the status of global forests, the UN FAO writes that they provide water, ensure livelihoods, mitigate climate change and are essential for sustainable food production.


Only recently, the internationally renowned consulting firm Boston Consulting Group published a study that puts the value of global forests at $150 trillion and warns of a loss of value. The study identifies six critical measures for governments, NGOs, the private sector and consumers to limit the loss of value. These include planting trees, reforestation of deforested areas and sustainable forest management, but also a much stronger promotion of sustainable and productive agriculture.


And that is exactly the point. Trees can be so much more. That is why Treedom, for over ten years now, has been promoting the planting of trees in agroforestry systems. After all, if planted correctly, trees make many other, equally important contributions to our climate and planet in addition to CO2 storage. These include, for example, strengthening local biodiversity, combating desertification, preventing soil erosion, securing slopes or improving soil and water quality. By involving small farmers and local communities in the global South, sustainable agriculture is promoted and the positive effect of the trees is multiplied. In addition to the ecological effects of the tree, a major social and economic impact can be achieved for small farmers and their communities. But what are these agroforestry systems? An agroforestry system combines various tree and plant species (shrubs, trees, etc.) and in some cases also livestock farming to create an intact and self-sufficient ecosystem. When planting monocultures, the focus is usually on short-term profit. In many cases, heavily damaged soils cause long-term or irreversible damage. Agroforestry systems, on the other hand, make a lasting contribution - at local and global level. That is why Treedom chooses exactly this approach.


Since agriculture is one of the most important sources of income, especially in the global South, and there is often a lack of knowledge and resources to establish agroforestry systems, many countries suffer the consequences of years of mismanagement. These include Ghana, Cameroon and Senegal, which now have projects such as the Green Wall to counteract this development. However, in order to implement the benefits of agroforestry systems in these countries, it is first necessary to understand how they will affect agriculture in the short and medium term. And above all, what advantages they offer over conventional agriculture.


The Treedom Approach

At Treedom, we have made this our mission: fighting ecological damage at its roots. We have been facing this challenge for more than 10 years now. The idea is to create a digital bridge, where an understanding of this problem is first created online. This will enable cooperation at international level. The principle is to create an emotional connection between smallholder farmers, trees and users and thus counteract global environmental challenges. Planting trees in the 21st century. This "edutainment" approach not only ensures greater understanding of global climate challenges, but also works to bring about long-term, sustainable change on several levels. In this context, smallholder farmers and their families are involved in the selection of tree species in local projects; they learn about the tree nursery for raising seedlings and are also instructed on the proper care of the various tree species. This support system achieves long-term success - and has been creating successful local projects for over 10 years. Treedom has planted 1.29 million trees in 17 countries to date, changing the lives of over 82,000 smallholder farmers and their families. The cooperation is also a success on an ecological level: the trees planted have stored a total of over 405 million kgs of CO2.


Ultimately, it must be understood that tree planting makes an important contribution to the fight against climate change, but not only by storing CO2. The circular impact that the systematic creation of agroforestry systems has creates economic, environmental and social benefits. It is the best way to help people and nature in the long term. Tree planting makes a difference! It has the power to bring about social change in disadvantaged regions. And a big step towards saving the climate.


You can easily plant your own tree with Treedom - and thus an agroforestry system, a smallholder farmer and our environment can benefit:


This article first appeared in German, on Enorm.

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