Planting Trees in the Semi-desert

Planting Trees in the Semi-desert

Tree planting in areas where nothing else grows

Globally, 48 football pitches of forest are lost every minute1, and by 2030 the need for water will be 40 percent larger than the supply of clean water2. What makes Better Globe Forestry Ltd. (BGF) unique is the way they manage and run a sustainable and commercial forestry company in semi-arid areas.

By establishing tree plantations in semi-arid rural areas, BGF reaches the people who can benefit the most from help to self-help. At the same time, BGF transforms degraded soils into lush tree plantations. The collaboration with partner farmers also helps smallholder farmers improve soil fertility, increase their income, and obtain food security through agroforestry. Assistance and follow-ups to secure the best possible yields with the help of BGF agroforestry field agents are also in place.

In Sub-Saharan Africa, there are vast areas of dry and degraded land that is mostly considered worthless. The terrain is not fit for agriculture or farming, and these dry areas can’t sustain livestock or anything else that could be of use to anyone.

The local population lacks both the resources and often the knowledge to take care of the land in a way that makes it usable again. In most cases, the areas have already been abandoned, resulting in large dry regions. If nothing is done to improve the conditions by, for example, planting trees, the topsoil will eventually be flushed away by wind and rain. All that is left is the red desert landscape that is so common in places like rural Kenya.

But that does not mean the land is worthless. BGF started refining their processes in 2004 to plant trees in drylands and make them green again. The picture at the top of the page shows the significant difference between the red dryland and where BGF’s tree plantation begins. By working systematically over time, it is possible to plant trees that gradually build resistance to erosion and start to change the microclimate.

Kiambere plantation during early spring. Note how different plants have started to grow in-between trees.
Kiambere plantation during early spring. Note how different plants have started to grow in-between trees

When the drought-resistant trees are in place and have taken root, they give shade and attract moisture and nutrients to the soil. The land becomes more fertile every year, and you can see a big difference already after a few years in semi-desert areas. This process causes wildlife to return, such as mammals, birds, amphibians, and insects. The local microclimate changes and food crops can be planted in an agroforestry system in-between the trees.

Our trees stop erosion

BGF has shown that it is possible to stop or reduce the massive erosion taking place around Lake Kiambere. This is done by planting trees and by creating dams and water reservoirs that block the formation of erosion gullies. The tree species planted on this pilot plantation are Mukau (Melia volkensii), Neem (Azadirachta indica), and Acacia (Acacia senegal).

Mukau, the most important species for BGF, is planted because of its superior mahogany type wood. Studies have shown that Mukau can be planted all year long, provided that they receive adequate care and irrigation. Growth is excellent, with plants up to 3 meters in height, after just one and a half years.

An example of what an area affected by erosion can look like
An example of what an area affected by erosion can look like

BGF has planted Neem trees for its oil, which is used in biological pesticides, and the tree also has medicinal properties. BGF has also planted Acacia Senegal, which produces the valuable commodity gum arabic, a stabilizer that has many industrial applications in the food, beverage, and printing industry. These species are all adapted to the local environment, i.e., hot and semi-dry lands, with irregular precipitation. In particular, Melia volkensii and Acacia senegal are incredibly resistant to drought.

From 2020 however, BGF will only focus on planting millions of the most well-known medicinal trees in the world as a cash crop tree. The tree in question, Moringa oleifera, usually called Moringa or Drumstick tree, is in Africa even referred to as “Moringa-the miracle tree that cures 300 diseases”. The Moringa trees are part of BGF’s work with contract farmers in Uganda.

With its unusually high potential for health benefits and profitability, Moringa will be BGF’s new fast-growing “cash crop tree.” This new strategy will generate revenue more than enough to cover the funds needed to pay customers back the promised return on their trees for the 5th to 19th year. BGF will also seek to own the whole value-chain; from planting the trees to the processing of the leaves and seeds, and the distribution and sale of ready-made products. A new company called “Max Heath AS” has been started in Norway to sell high-quality organic Moringa products, under our new Trademark “Equator Moringa™”.

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Ulrika Emericks
Gothenburg, Sweden

What really grabbed my attention is Better Globe’s unique combination of helping people while making money in a sustainable way. I have always helped those who have not been so lucky, but here I can do it on a large scale and get returns at the same time. I bought my first donation package in 2008 and have had monthly savings since then.

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If you have any questions or concerns, do not hesitate to contact us at support@betterglobe.com

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