March 30, 2022   |   By Eric Warner, Strategic Partnerships Lead

From local to national impact: Communitree 2021 year in review

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March 30, 2022   |   By Eric Warner, Strategic Partnerships Lead

From local to national impact: Communitree 2021 year in review

2021 was another fantastic year for the CommuniTree program. With the carbon market officially surpassing $1 billion in sales (and counting), there is more opportunity than ever before to restore forests with smallholder farmers. Last year, CommuniTree broke many of its own records as it expanded to work with new farmers across the country, as well as bolstering its support for farmers already in the program. In 2021, CommuniTree planted 3,792,002 trees which will remove 768,303 tonnes of carbon from the atmosphere with $3 million paid out to farmers across different program entry years for hitting their tree growth targets. The full report can be downloaded here, and we’ve showcased some of the highlights throughout this blog.

CommuniTree’s 2021 impacts at a glance.

National expansion and international recognition

What started as a regional pilot in San Juan de Limay, the CommuniTree Carbon Program has flourished into a national operation. CommuniTree now spans coast to coast in Nicaragua with farmers from 119 new communities joining the program in 2021. This success was showcased by the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration, highlighting CommuniTree as one of the founding implementers of the decade’s restoration projects. This global recognition illustrates the success of the program and shines a light on the smallholder farmers who have a crucial role to play in nature-based climate solutions. We hope the program continues to inspire others all around the world.

Building capacity on the ground

In response to the program’s rapid growth, APRODEIN, Taking Root’s reforestation partner, has continued to increase its capacity. To keep up with the surging demand of the carbon market, APRODEIN hired 38 new staff, including new technicians, recruiters, and office assistants, bringing their team total to 75.  In addition, over 1,000 new farmers enrolled in 2021, and this growth is only expected to accelerate as the industry increasingly recognizes the potential of nature-based solutions to fulfill climate commitments.

In Photo: Randolph Castellon, Director of Information, measuring the diameter at breast height (DBH) of a tree.

Maturing forests produce more value for farmers

Part of what makes CommuniTree successful is its commitment to ensuring forests provide value over the long term to farmers in other ways beyond carbon payments. The program does this by helping farmers produce and sell forest products from the trees that they grow. With forests now over a decade old, this approach is beginning to reap rewards! In 2021, farmers generated over $330,000 additional revenue by producing 51,200 pounds of coffee and selling thinnings to enable the production of 100,000 pounds of biochar. Ensuring that farmers can obtain value from forests in the short, medium, and long-term is essential if any smallholder reforestation program is to succeed. As the program continues to grow, we look forward to seeing more and more farmers generate value from their forests.

It is critical to promote education around the short and long-term benefits of reforestation. It not only produces additional forestry products, but it also heals the land over time to increase crop yields, soil quality, and climate resilience. In photo: Farmer Gerbacio Fuentes Rocha and nephew Estelli.

Building resilience in the face of economic and climate challenges

While APRODEIN exceeded their targets in 2021, it required significant adaptation and focus to do so.  One challenge faced this year was the economic situation in Nicaragua, forcing some farmers to emigrate to support their families. This affected program recruitment as many farmers struggled to maintain their livelihoods.  APRODEIN responded by further emphasizing education around the financial value that forests and the CommuniTree program could provide  and allocated additional resources to support farmers as they grow their forests. Challenges like this highlight why it is so important for reforestation programs to be built around providing value to farmers, as for some, the CommuniTree program can be the difference between staying or having to leave their homes.

Providing benefits beyond carbon removal payments has allowed families to stay together in their home country, for now and for generations to come. In photo: Farmer Claribel Rosario Rayo Matamoros and her son Isidro Issac

On top of the economic situation in Nicaragua, irregular climate events created complications during this year’s growing cycle; most notably, the delayed and shortened rainy season. To meet their planting targets, APRODEIN carried out all preparation activities in advance so that as soon as the rains came, they could start planting seedlings right away. APRODEIN also drastically increased the number of field visits to farmers to ensure they were both trained and supported so they can adapt to the shortened timeframe.  All in all, the team planned around these challenges and provided support where needed to achieve targets, but it was a stark reminder of why growing trees is so important in the first place, to mitigate the impact of these climate changes.

“To everyone who continues to contribute to the CommuniTree project’s success and inspires the continued innovation and expansion of the project we offer our thanks.”

– Kahlil Baker, Executive Director, Taking Root

Accelerating the Project’s Expansion in 2022

Looking forward, 2022 looks to be an exciting year ahead. CommuniTree’s Project Design Document (PDD) is currently being updated to reflect the national expansion of the project as well its increasingly data-driven driven approach, through the use of Taking Root’s technology platform.  Plan Vivo, CommuniTree’s carbon certification partner, has released the 5th version of their Standard.  With this recent release, the major updates are to the unit types of issued Plan Vivo certificates. There are now 3 unit types: future PVCs (fPVCs), reported PVCs (rPVCs), and verified PVCs (vPVCs). Future PVC’s reflect certificates where sequestration activities are expected to occur in the future. Once these sequestration activities have happened, they can be converted into reported PVCs. After being reported, they will need to be verified, at which point the credits will convert into vPVCs.  With Taking Root’s technology in the final stages of becoming an approved approach for monitoring and reporting on the carbon sequestered by trees over time, the CommuniTree project is in an excellent position to adapt these standard changes over time.

In Photo: Worm’s-eye view of a fully grown tree

We are so grateful to all our partners that have helped make this year such a success, our impact would not have been possible without the support of everyone involved. Building off of this year’s success, the future looks bright for the CommuniTree program. As the world galvanizes around renewed climate commitments, CommuniTree is showing how smallholder reforestation has huge potential as a natural climate solution. While the future of climate change may seem bleak, CommuniTree is showing how world leading brands can meet their climate commitments while distributing benefits across thousands of farmers.

Eric builds relationships with grant funders to develop projects around our work restoring forests with smallholder farmers. Previously, he has helped build brands for major Canadian music festivals and worked with Montreal-based sustainability not-for-profits. Eric sees the potential of a sustainable economy and its impacts, as he holds a Bachelor of Commerce with a dual focus in marketing & sustainability from Concordia University.