Deforestation is a threat to all living things. It contributes to climate change, destroys biodiversity, and leaves the planet without the proper resources to thrive. But is there anything you can do to aid in mitigating deforestation? Can your company work to reverse the damage?
One organization, Kijani Forestry, is leading the charge by planting indigenous trees in Uganda and harvesting sustainably. Co-founder and Co-CEO Beau Milliken explains the process and the crucial steps you (and your company) can take to develop sustainable solutions.
Deforestation is a major issue in Uganda. According to Beau, Uganda was once 50% forest, decreasing to a mere 9% in its current state. Much of this is due to the need for charcoal; locals use charcoal for cooking, making it essential to their lives.
You may wonder, “Can’t they just use a stovetop instead of charcoal?” The short answer is no. You have to consider the country's cultural and economic differences. Many people in rural Uganda don’t have access to electricity, which would be an expensive and complex solution to execute. Additionally, if every Ugandan did have electricity, many would not be able to afford a stovetop. For many, a stovetop would cost 50% of their yearly income, not including the cost of operating the appliance.
The team at Kijani Forestry has found that although charcoal is not the perfect solution, it is the cheapest and most feasible option right now. However, it doesn’t mean that deforestation needs to reign.
Beau is a self-described realist. “You can’t plant trees and expect them not to be used,” he says. But you can focus your efforts on growing more trees and mitigating the long-term effects of deforestation. So how exactly do Beau and the Kijani team do this?
The answer is coppicing. This harvest method allows the tree to regrow from the existing root structure after being cut down to its stump. Because Kijani’s team tends to the existing roots, the tree is able to gain three times the amount of biomass, and Ugandans can continue to get charcoal for cooking.
But Kijani Forestry is focused on more than just growing trees for charcoal. They have a holistic plan to address food security and other household needs by growing fruit trees, timber trees, and pairing crops with indigenous trees that biologically have a symbiotic relationship. Additionally, the Kijani team is creating a profit model where they pay local farmers to grow and harvest the trees, which, in turn, boosts Uganda’s economy and creates jobs within the community.
In an industry that lacks transparency, Kijani Forestry is changing the game. Beau’s mission is to have full transparency on what kinds of trees they’re growing, where each tree is planted, and how their anti-deforestation initiatives are impacting the globe. Taking a realistic approach, the Kijani team is doing more than just planting 10,000 trees and calling it a day. They’re mitigating deforestation by offering sustainable, long-term solutions.
Kijani Forestry’s methods to manage deforestation are quite impressive. But is there anything you and your company can do to aid in these efforts?
Plenty of companies that are serious about net-zero targets are investing in initiatives early on, knowing that they may not get a carbon credit for another five to 10 years. However, as Beau reminds us, “You can claim net-zero, but if you claim that you are changing tens of thousands of lives and restoring forests and doing all these other co-benefits, that actually brings a ton of value to your company.”
Currently, Kijani Forestry has yet to get into any partnerships with corporations, although they're looking ahead to those opportunities. It's crucial that corporations start investing in environmental initiatives to move the needle forward, proving that your company is equipped to partner with others, like Kijani Forestry, and work toward a better future.