The Aga Khan Development Network's concern for climate change is an integral part of its approach to sustainable development. Over the last 25 years, it has planted over 100 million trees in Asia and Africa, and, coinciding with the world-wide launch of the International Year of Forests, has made a commitment to plant over 10 million more trees.
“By planting trees, we have supported biodiversity, restored degraded forests, revived rural communities and provided carbon sequestration to combat climate change,” says 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.”
Boyer points out that tree planting provides jobs and a future source of fuel in communities that depend on firewood. “We see sustainable tree planting having a significant impact on both poverty alleviation and the environment,” he says.
Rural communities in the mountainous regions of northern Pakistan know the value of sustainably managed agro-forestry. At the same time, AKDN has also introduced more efficient stoves that halve both the amount of wood burned and wood-gathering time. The installation of more than 250 mini-hydroelectric plants has further reduced fuel-wood consumption by allowing remote communities to harvest power from mountain streams.
In East Africa, AKDN programmes have trained unemployed young people to produce tree seedlings that can later be planted in nurseries and elsewhere. In a programme called “Planting a Tree for Africa”, the Serena Hotels Group has planted over one million trees in Mt Kenya National Park and the Amboseli National Park. The programme expects to plant 10 million trees in Kenya alone.
The emergence of carbon market presents new opportunity for tree planting communities, says Boyer: “Ensuring that sustainable small-holder and community forestry is included in the carbon trading system will help the rural poor generate income gains, meet environmental and carbon mitigation needs while reducing community vulnerability.”