Geneva, Switzerland, January 2011—The Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN), which has planted over 100 million trees in Asia and Africa over the last 25 years, has made a commitment to plant over 10 million more trees.
The commitment by the Geneva-based development organization coincides with the world-wide launch of the International Year of Forests.
“By planting trees, we have supported biodiversity, restored degraded forests, revived rural communities and provided carbon sequestration to combat climate change,” said David Boyer, Director of the Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan Fund for the Environment. “But the best way to increase the number of trees on the planet is to provide incentives for their propagation and preservation.”
“In areas where there is intense competition for firewood, for example, sustainable tree planting can be seen as a way of providing jobs and building assets, not just as a good thing to do. We see sustainable tree planting having a significant impact on both poverty alleviation and the environment.”
In Pakistan, AKDN works both on the supply and demand sides. Rural communities know that sustainably managed agro-forestry provides dividends in the form of food, fuel and fodder, so AKDN has worked with one million people in northern Pakistan to plant over 100 million trees and bring 90,000 hectares of marginalized land under cultivation.
At the same time, it has introduced more efficient stoves that cut both biomass consumption and wood-gathering time by 50 percent (the programme has won both an Alcan Prize for Sustainability (2005) and a World Habitat Award (2006)). Over 250 mini-hydroelectric plants drawing water from mountain streams power remote communities in another prize-winning programme that cuts fuel-wood consumption (the programme has won a number of awards, including an Ashden Award, or “Green Oscar”, in 2004).
Near Nairobi, Kenya, a project company of the Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development, Frigoken, processes the output of 75,000 small-holding green bean farmers, but in 2010 it also trained unemployed young people to produce tree seedlings. Over half a million seedlings were planted in village nurseries. The programme won the 2010 Total Eco Challenge. Another similar AKDN programme on the Kenyan coast produced and planted 500,000 seedlings in 2009. An additional 1.2 million seedlings were propagated and planted in 2010.