words:: Ben Osborne
Every summer, thousands of tree planters descend upon the logged areas of the Canadian wilderness to spend their summer putting millions of trees into the ground to revitalize the earth, and ensure future profits for the Canadian economy. The same trees that support the economy through timber sales also serve as a vital part of the ecosystem capturing and storing C02, and giving us clean air to breath. While it might not be perfect, the interplay between economy and environment in the Canadian forestry industry has been well established, and the system works like a well-oiled machine—but that’s not the case for the rest of the world.
In Madagascar, their forests are vital to the health of their economy and environment—but in a markedly different manner. While we cherish our balsam fir dining room table, the coal from cutting down precious Mangrove trees, seen as a status symbol throughout the country, is leaving a gap in the circle of life in the small town of Mahabana, and many other places in the small nation.
The problem? Mangrove trees provide crucial underwater habitat for thousands of fish species, and their absence has had a profound effect on the people and local economy. Because many of the trees have been illegally harvested and burned to make coal, the fish no longer have anywhere to live, and fishing has become far more difficult for the average resident. This leaves local fisherman to rely on boats which they don’t necessarily have access to. That’s where Tentree comes in.
After learning about this problem, Tentree wanted to help. So, they headed over to the Mahabana, and as part their promise of planting a tree for every piece of merchandise sold (at the time of writing this article they had already planted over 24 million trees in 8 different countries), they set up a system to plant. By employing locals to plant not only were they giving the people a livelihood, but also fostering growth in the local economy.
When their co-founder, David Luba went back to visit the small community after their initial visit, a movie theatre and coffee shop had opened up, and fisherman who previously monopolized the fishing industry were now applying to work as tree planters—a drastic change from the so-called “fish lords” monopolizing the fishing economy. On top of creating jobs, capturing CO2, and more, the Mangrove trees create habitats for fruit bats, crab, fish, and many more creatures using the mangrove estuaries as a home.
Today, with the help of their drone mapping technology and a hearty community of locals in Mahabana, they’ve planted over 17 million trees, watched the village grow 4-5 times, and even seen a solar-powered movie theatre pop up in town—but the impact goes much further than that. Just as the logging industry has a huge effect on local economies throughout North America, the community in Mahabana represents the potential of what one company making a solid effort to make a change can do—for that, we salute you.—ML