About our first trees…
TreeSisters will ultimately be a doorway through which you can fund a portfolio of remarkable tree projects covering many areas of eco-system restoration brought about by increased green cover. Right now, as the network starts to grow its capacity to fund trees, we have started with one project: Project GreenHands (PGH) in Tamil Nadu, Southern India – the father of TreeSisters.
GreenHands birthed out of the tsunami when saplings were gifted to thousands of families who had lost loved ones and needed a place to pour their grief. The tending of trees brought about an astonishing healing across six coastal villages. The transformation of both the land and the villagers sparked a green revolution leading already to near 20 million trees funded on a shoe string through millions of volunteers.
The astonishing state wide social strategy, providing the most exquisite example of shared ecological responsibility was our early inspiration. Clare, TreeSisters founder volunteered for PGH for 3 years before the car crash that delivered TreeSisters to her.
Why Tamil Nadu?
Climate change first deluged Tamil Nadu with floods that removed the top soil, and now the monsoons have failed 2 years running. How does one grow food after two years without rain in soaring temperatures? Simple answer: with great difficulty.
The agricultural land is dying as the rivers vanish. 12 major rivers have gone. Farmers are leaving for the cities or killing themselves (34,000 farmer suicides in India in 2013) Wives and children are being left utterly destitute, the land is losing its life and biodiversity, people are losing access to food and the skills sets required to cultivate land at all are being lost as farmers have nothing to hand down to their children.
There are different tree projects within Project GreenHands (PGH) that we could fund and that I will talk about in subsequent blogs. I want to explain why we have chosen TREES FOR LIFE, their most expensive trees at £1/tree (rather than 50p or 10p trees) so that you understand our actions.
Through Trees for Life, PGH are following what water remains in the land and supporting farmers to adopt creative agro-forestry practices to help keep it there. Agro-Forestry is not plantation planting, it is the integration of trees into existing agriculture and animal husbandry (think shade, improved soil, fodder, moisture, biodiversity, fruit, oil, wood etc) so that trees become depended upon and so valuable that their replanting becomes inevitable. This is about reforesting the land that is still alive, so that it stays alive, and so that farmers and village culture also survive.
This is also us wanting to ensure that your money funds trees that stay alive in a country of failing water where young trees are simply dying, and this now needs to be carefully orchestrated, supported and incentivised, and as such has added expense.
The cost of a tree covers 2 years worth of support for the famers and monitoring of the trees, including the replacement of any that die. This gives each tree an extremely high survival rate (over 80%) which they need if they are to help replenish this land. Many tropical reforestation initiatives sit at 30%-55% survival rates these days due to the increasing instability of weather, so your trees are being given the best chance possible at extremely good value for money.
PGH is having to become super adaptable: creating their massive tree nurseries in temporary fashion that can be moved when the water moves. They are also carefully clarifying where best to plant and with whom and co-partnering with organisations with that can contribute drip irrigation systems. In some areas there simply isn’t enough water for crops, but trees can grow, and through their ecological impact, crops can then follow.
We are growing tropical dry evergreen species that can handle drought and produce accelerated growth when water does come.We’ll fund 60% timber trees, 20-30% fruit and 10% fodder. If the thought of timber trees alarm you, then consider that if every farmer grew whatever wood he would need on his own land, then he would not need to raid the remaining forests. Also these hard wood trees grow for many years and are very valuable, providing the living life insurance needed in case of emergency so that suicide is no longer required.
When a tree is cut, 3 more are planted in its place and PGH are also teaching farmers to use their timber trees as the supports for growing black pepper vines, so that every year the pepper plants provide an income that reduces the need to cut the trees.
Know that our tree team are quietly developing the project selection criteria, partnerships and strategy needed to implement our long term meta-reforestation strategy, to lay out how a global network of women could help reforest the tropics….
Yes we can.