Kenya: Dust to Dust! Planting trees to Stop the Desert Encroaching on the Cradle of Humanity!

Majestic Acacia Tree

We just returned a few days ago from our amazing immersion experience in the Great Rift Valley village of Enkutoto Nalala in Kaijiado County in Kenya Africa with the great warriors, the Maasai people.  All of us learned about each other and how to work together!  We begin a new story and all of us feel so dedicated to to regenerating the soils and trees of Kenya,  the cradle of humanity. We have no time to waste, The desert is fast encroaching and we must ACCT now before all of the giraffes and elephants and yes, humans go extinct.  After what I witnessed in Kenya, the clear drying of soils and disappearance of species and struggle of humans to live with very little water, I have even more faith  in the path we are being called to walk, building foundations with Dalmas Tiampati and the Maasai community. Together, with our sponsors, we can make a positive difference one tree at a time.

Planting trees feels great!
This elephant communicated with us!! More trees please!!

Deep listening and communication to build a solid foundation is KEY to ACHIEVE OUR GOALS for wide scale growth of our fair pay reforestation model. Understanding the local culture with the respect we feel for the Maasai people drives us to be more patient and witness and adjust to the process as it unfolds. Starting a new project in a new country has required all of us to focus and adapt while practicing deep intuitive listening, Everyone demonstrated patience and responsiveness and together, using the basis of the Community Carbon Trees model, we successfully responded to the cultural differences from Latin America and we developed a workable and easily managed action structure we can all follow through on long term.

Mind mapping our Reforestation model!

The Africa replication is special because Dalmas Tiampati is working through the Massai Center for Regenerative Pastoralism simultaneously to encourage better holistic pastoral grazing for the recovery of dead soils and improved grass regeneration which is so important for the survival of local Maasai livestaock and lifestyles. So we incorporated new elements to achieve better results for holistic grazing along with the tree planting work. Our longterm plan includes building large expanses of moveable fences paid for labor and materials to allow pastures to rest while the trees are getting established. Protecting the trees from the livestock for a few seasons is necessary in combination with resting soils from grazing, we can accomplish multi level benefits and stop the desert from expanding. Later when the trees are established, the farmer can move the fences in order to isolate other pastures from livestock so they can rest and re-grow healthy grasses. This is an innovation that will make a difference for the Maasai people and can be replicated widespread throughout the developing world.

Trees for Education!!!

At Community Carbon Trees, we always focus on human rights which means fair pay for tree planters. We look at the whole society as much as possible and try to respond to what the community actually needs! In the case of the Maasai clans,  we also grew a new branch of our ACCT model to provide for educational scholarships for YOUTH.  Both men and women and older teenagers working in our community programs will be given a stipend for education for every quarter to offset expenses for 2 children of every worker. Teenagers are directly supported with their own school funds for working in the project during breaks from school.  This way kids can go to school, which is quite expensive in Kenya while rewarding the local farmers and workers for trying something new with reforestation and holistic pastoral grazing practices. Economic incentives really do work long term and change consciousness as do circular economies based on long term tree care and growth. We aim to be as successful as ever as we continue to replicate across the globe to different cultures around the Equator struggling with water, climate change and empowerment. Educational opportunities for youth are always key to a better future.

After really getting to know each other and planning it all out including budgets for wide scale replication per family farm, administration and accountability, and fair pay and participation with peer oriented, horizontal supervision, freedom and management,  we actually implemented our work in Kenya with ACTION…. That’s right!!  We planted 100 trees already and enjoyed a great day of capacitating workers together in the field.  We are sending more money today December 20 to the villagers who are planting more trees, another 100-200 native species to complete a watershed planting project in the village. This is what  what we do… pay people to plant trees and eventually when we have sufficient funding we will build a nursery and pay people to seed collect, make compost and produce rare native trees in their own village. We spent all of our time observing and learning about the local trees and vegetation growth, figuring out what the area needs in terms of agro-forestry systems and regeneration, how to help conserve water in the zone and grow fertile soil and  food sovereignty.  

Everyone was paid and learned a lot through the process oriented tree planting hands on capacity building led by Tree Jenny. As the Maasai community plants more trees  in the coming weeks, they will be applying what they learned and continue with local community leadership with Dalmas Tiampati. These initial pilot plantings are important as we prepare and look forward to following their progress and learning where we need to adapt further both in effective delegation and community empowerment and management as well as highest survival rate possible for the trees. Forward! 

We give our most heartfelt thanks to our amazing Green Dream Tree Team composed of an international cast of intriguing and intelligent , heart filled and dedicated characters. Dalmas Tiampati, the founder of the Maasai Center for Regenerative Pastoralism is a visionary who has made great progress in spreading the word about the need for holistic grazing practices with surrounding Maasai clans as well as governmental officials in Kenya. Dalmas effectively advocates and implements holistic grazing rotation of  goats, sheep and cows so critical to the Maasai culture and survival. He travels to nearby communities and more widely meets with government officials and forestry representatives to champion reforestation as part of a regenerative pastoral system. After all, better fodder for livestock also reduces the carbon footprint as part of the full waster cycle.  Attracting and supporting the fast dwindling species of the Kenya wildlife like giraffes and elephants by planting some fo their favorite food trees is also important to Dalmas as he seeks to create an example of a healthy ecosystem supporting all creatures great and small.

Dalmas Tiampati Founder and Director of Maasai Center for Regenerative Pastoralism

Elena  Vargas is a calm and patient, resilient community educator from Costa Rica who brought all of her skills to play during the three week working adventure in Kenya. As an independent consultant with our organization, Elena is a Biologist who specializes in community relations in conservation and environmental education. As a biologist, Elena offered information that was useful at every turn. From reminding us what environmental amnesia is, to being the one who discovered that Ipomeae plant could be used in our women’s fertile soil bokosha compost, Elena was an asset in every way. She even turned all the kids on the bird watching and nature hikes!

Elena is a great systems thinker and was instrumental in getting our plan across!

Elena Vargas taught the whole community about birdwatching !!

And what a discovery Elena made! To be sure, Ipomeae is  an invasive species toxic to the animals and harmful in large quantity for regeneration of grasses and  soils. But Elena discovered that this invasive plant has potential to be used as a green manure. Stacking functions is a tenet of permaculture and we love that we can slowly remove this toxic plant while putting it to good use in our fertile soil compost  project with the Maasai women of the village.

Digging out the Ipomea with the women will serve multiple purposes!!

How perfect, the women will be paid to dig out the Ipomeae by the roots, while chopping up its leaves for use in our nitrogen rich balanced bokosha soil. The plan is perfect since we do not want to remove this plant  in large swaths due to increased drying of uncovered soils in the Equatorial sun which only leads to more desertification. So, we must remove it in patches and gently aloow areas to recover little by little.  Additional research is necessary, like whether the plant leaves are suitable for compost for human gardens. We will continue our investigation into these and other questions as part of  our social tree planting replication and establishment of baseline studies and documentation of results.

Collecting dry leaves with the Maasai women for making Bokosha compost!

Making balanced soil for the future tree nursery and for organic home gardens with nutritious food!

We could not have achieved this first African replication with the Maasai Center for Regenerative Pastoralism without the generous support of Franck St. Loubert. Not only has he donated generous financial support to our cause, he has also played an important and active role in working with us and the Maasai communities while in Kenya. The group intelligence was strong with Franck’s presence and participation throughout the Mission.

Franck St. Loubert saved the day w th the POLYTER product to reduce water dependence for growing trees!

Indeed, Franck helped us deal with one of the most difficult aspects of achieving tree growth success which is the lack of rain and drought conditions Lots of people have asked me what we plan to do about the desert conditions, the drought, the lack of ground water and rain. As the universe showed up to support US at more than one turn, Franck had a solution. Or maybe we should say Franck’s friend Phillipe had a solution! Franck orchestrated and hauled down a product called POLYTER donated by his friend Phillipe. This amazing world famous non toxic gelatin type forming pellets help the trees to resist drought and grow stronger roots for better chances of survival, with 60% less WATER! Amazing for desert reforestation projects like this one in Kenya.  We activated this miraculous Polyter product with most of the trees we planted, of course, leaving a few trees untreated to test its effectiveness.

Tree Jenny Cannot resit swinging the pick to plant with the Maasai People!

During our time actually planting trees with the herders, we saw the local people connect deeply with the POLYTER product, probably because they have already been personally ravaged by the effects of a 3 year drought which only ended about 1 year ago. We did not have to convince anyone about the importance of using this product. Everyone wanted it!! We look to achieve outstanding growth rates through good follow up care and the help of this miraculous POLYTER product donated by Phillipe and Franck.

Luckily Elena had already worked with this Polyter product before in Australia which was a blessing! When it came time to mix it up and demonstrate how to use it, Elena was  already one step ahead and ready to implement the use of the POLYTER effectively. Like I said, we had good synchronicities the whole time we were there.  . It even rained just enough the two weeks before we planted and the ground was fairly soft and moist. The soils were dark and fairly cool and we anticipate good results for our first ACCT-Maasai trees in 2018.

The best part of our Mission, of course,  were the human relationships we formed and will continue the coming years. The village welcomed us with such open arms, thanks to Dalmas Tiampati and his family and neighbors, we will never forget these times. There are no other steps quite like the first steps on a new journey. We stepped into the great unknown and were received with so much love. All the questions and doubts and even fears have been investigated and so many obstacles surmounted. We are ready to go forward and work together, face the challenges and make the trees we plant together count for future generations.

We will be documenting every step we take. Notably, we have already begun a baseline study, complete with drone footage thanks to Franck and his expert piloting skills, which by the way, really “wowed” the Maasai people who were lucky enough to be around when the drone was flying above the village.  It’s good to have footage to show the area, its current condition at Year 1. We also focused on the deforested water drainage zone riddled with erosion and excess water evaporation. We can show where we have already begun planting trees this year and the gradual positive effects over time. Creating proof positive of the benefits of silvo pastoral systems is critical to large scale replication and scaling up and out this fair pay model for afforestation in the most needy zones around the Equator. 

The reality of the situation in Kenya hit us hard! What stood out most for me personally was the complete absence of trees in so many areas, or trees so hacked by needy people for branches to build fences or make charcoal or firewood. Many trees are so hacked away that it is obvious they are dying and  only have a few years left to live. We saw humans and animals and soils in dire need and subject to ongoing encroachment of the desert. Have you heard? The great iconic animals are in trouble. The giraffes are going extinct. We just posted this news on our facebook page so go check it out!  Its pretty depressing. I could almost feel the pleading from the elephants who looked me in the eye with this sad face of surrender. I felt this while as I there and vowed to never give up! We only saw 3 giraffes the entire time. Of course, Giraffes eat Acacia trees. And if there are no trees, there are no giraffes.

Poor giraffes! No more trees means no more giraffes!! They are endangered NOW!!

It was incredibly intense to witness climate change in all of its destruction, the negative effects of drought and poverty and the clear dwindling of species, especially some of the most iconic animals still roaming free our planet. What’s that about “dust to dust” ? Are we all really just dust in the wind? Maybe so. There is no doubt that the earth is going to do what she is going to do. But us Humans? Do we stand a chance? Do we really even care?

Together, our leadership team is  more committed than ever to be a force for change and regeneration with social empowerment included in our model meaning FAIR PAY for tree planters and long term follow up management and process based education to stop further deforestation. Planting trees is not enough. We have to create sustainable livelihoods through entrepreneurship and creation of circular home based owned resource and job creation economies to achieve real awareness and lasting change.

The green dream Team! Franck, Elena, Dalmas and Jenny

As always, our work model is based on principles of Sociocracy including horizontal power with peer management  and participation of neighbors together to achieve widespread land regeneration through planting biodiverse trees for human food sovereignty and wildlife and water conservation. We are looking to the future to replicate more throughout Kenya and then beyond. 

We are so grateful to everyone who supports this replication in Kenya. Thank you for being part of our Green Dream Tree Team with the Maasai people! Every tree makes a difference. We can stop desertification one tree at a time. We are digging deep and we need your help! Please donate generously to planting projects scheduled for the next long rains in April  2019. 

Maasai Community Carbon Trees — We are replicating to Kenya, AFRICA!!!

Yeah VISAS for Africa are in hand…. and Super Tree Friends are coming together!! THANK YOU Dalmas Tiampati Director of Maasai Center for Regenerative Pastoralism…and everyone who is already supporting our work to replicate our community empowerment fair pay tree planting model in Kenya Africa with the Maasai clans. 
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Dalmas Tiampati Project Leader Executive Director of Maasai Center for Regenerative Pastoralism
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and all the Maasai people welcoming us to their villages in November 2018.

13606635_1573958189564563_4427856458040227115_nExecutive Director of Maasai Center for Regenerative Pastoralism

Challenge

The Maasai people have experienced extreme drought due to climate change and deforestation. There are no opportunities for employment and the pastoralist lifestyle is no longer supporting the tribes as before. Concern for the environment and for mitigating climate change has inspired the Maasai people to reforest their lands in ways that establish silvo-pastoral cultural systems that respect their unique culture while creating fair opportunities for employment through growing diverse trees.

Solution

Paying people a fair wage for producing and planting and caring for trees long term including women is good for the community as well as the environment. Establishing new relationships with the land and neighbors requires collaboration and time. The process of producing compost with local women serves the purpose of providing organic fertile soil for the tree nursery as well as for local vegetables. Fair pay tree planting model strengthens community economic and environmental resilience.

Long-Term Impact

Addressing climate change by planting highly diverse mixes of native trees near the Equator is a winning solution for everyone living on Planet Earth. Equator trees sequester tons of carbon dioxide over the 25 year period they are guaranteed through managed long term care and accountability.

To donate through Global Giving and receive a full US tax deduction, here is the link!

https://globalgiving.org/projects/pay-maasai-clans-produce-plant-diverse-trees-kenya
Thank you to our amazing colleague Elena Vargas who will accompany me on this visionary replication of our successful community reforestation model to Africa, especially with the Maasai clans in Kenya. Together and united we can all do so much more!
Elena Vargas and Jennifer Smith (Tree Jenny)
 
Thank you Franck St. Loubert for being such a trustworthy and wonderful team member and funding support! We look forward to seeing YOU in Kenya! Also huge shout out to Gabriel Cine Hildalgo who will be joining us for the last two weeks to document and tell the story of our seed safari mission. 
 
Thank you Jessica Manley, Eduardo Hidalgo Cruz, Teresa Badilla, Alvaro Cerdas, Cristian Mena, Diana Saborio, Yedier Gamboa and all the workers who will HOLD DOWN THE FORT while we are away….
 
Thank you to my parents and Super Tree Friends cheering us on…
 
I will be personally funding $$$$ for this Foundation SEED Mission and trust that the funding will come in One Tree at A Time just as we have been doing for the last 10 years. It is a big step for us and does not come easily and we appreciate all well wishes of protection and support. And of course Tree Sponsorships! Our new button for Kenya will be ready on our updated website soon!! 
 
Our goals include: LISTEN LISTEN LISTEN and respond adequately with respect for cultural ways. Build resilience in an area often visited but usually forgotten in terms of long term community empowerment and afforestation. Engage with youth and elders who love trees. We will teach compost production as we always do right from the start… the secret is in the soil…. we will build a community tree nursery for production of biodiverse native species important to the area. We will go on a seed safari and establish seed collection networks and figure out where to plant the trees and who to plant them with fair pay… we will teach and build accounting and administration foundations for transparent and exact reporting about how we spend the money you so kindly and generously donate. May I remind you… this work not  exactly “charity” … everyone will be working very diligently and many many of us work countless hours without being “paid” … we will connect with NGO’s and the Kenya Forestry Service and become a positive FORCE for silvo pastoral afforestation in the region in such desperate need. in all these things…
 
There are all kinds of Tree Friends coming out of the woodwork interested in helping us connect with NGO’s in Kenya and surrounding areas.  Solar companies and water producing inventions and collaborations for innovative pastoral grazing practices are all part of our mission! We do have plans to apply for grants once we establish the foundations and work with the clans for a while to “get it going”….
 
TRUST is my mantra … Listen and Respond… Stay in alignment…
 
What about you? Who can hear us?
WE LOVE TREES!!!

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Our strongest and deepest roots are based in love! Another Kids' Nature Day creation we use to announce all of our fun educational activities!
Our strongest and deepest roots are based in love! Another Kids’ Nature Day creation we use to announce all of our fun educational activities!

Replication of our Tree Planting Model in Rivas, Costa Rica

 

donate-a-treeWe have been working hard with our new community project replication in San Jose de Rivas Costa Rica to plant 2500 more diverse rainforest trees on 7 different family farms. The local farmers learn more about mechanics of long term reforestation through the actual hands on work of touring their farms, designing the project, selecting species and doing the actual work of planting the trees to restore and regenerate their own deforested and degraded lands. Working in the tree nursery and making fertile bokosha soil for filling the tree bags in the nursery also requires a lot of woman power and the community has been more than happy to be part of the weekly crews.

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Just look at the pictures. People are all smiles! Our social impact studies have revealed so much to us already. It was shocking to me to learn that despite lots of visits and programs offered by FONOFIFO ( Costa rica Forestry Service) and the Minister of Agriculture and Ganaderia (cattle), farmers have never before received real technical assistance on their own farms. Many feel very forgotten and taken advantage of by government programs requiring their time but failing to pay them for it. So, obviously, it is new experience being paid for their work and this has taken some time to sink into the community. Collaboration takes group interest instead of self interest and our system of planting a wide diversity of fruit and lumber trees on local family farms is effectively teaching them about the benefits and the challenges of working in a unified group.

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The four leaders working in this community, myself included, have also gotten a work out on the listening and cooperation aspects of working in a community that has been impoverished by deforestation, monoculture coffee farming with heavy reliance on chemicals to deal with degraded and dead soils.

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Everyone we have interviewed want to improve their soils and stop using herbicides and pesticides so we are thrilled to offer them the opportunity of restoring their soils by growing biodiverse trees with ACCT empowerment from your sponsorships and collaborating grant money to ultimately encourage organic agriculture. Fair pay for hours spent chopping the regenerating grasses and vegetation encourages the community to stop taking the easy way out using poison to kill the grasses to avoid the heavy work of chopping them by hand with machetes.

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Regrowing rainforest helps all of us no matter where we live. We are all breathing oxygen produced by trees near the Equator.  And we are all drinking water and eating food nourished by rain water. The rainforest near the Equator is what drives and maintains balance in all of the life cycles. And humans keep cutting down more. How do we get people to stop? And contribute to the regrowth of rainforest which sustains our very lives?

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We ask you to sponsor trees… and meanwhile, we also look for money from businesses and foundations. We work hard to keep this work funded by applying and managing grant money. Our administrative costs are extremely low and many of us leaders definitely do not get paid for all of the work we do. It takes a big dedicated team of people truly collaborating at every level to do this work. And all the tree planters and seed collectors need you too just as you need them.

all in it together

 

After more than 20 years developing this reforestation work in Costa Rica, and as we approach replicating our ACCT model now to other countries on the Equator, and so many experiences participating in and measuring the process, I’ve come to believe that changing the consciousness of all the people involved through the process is the key to our collective success. Shifts in the way we live globally and act globally to manage our Earth’s natural can generate a new awareness about giving back to our earth. The highest levels of being human are accessed when we are in our gift state and that’s why giving back feels so good. And as we keep working, we love to be able to assure you that every tree  we plant now resulting from your generosity will be protected and accounted for over the long term by resilient and committed human communities.

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We love trees! Have you sponsored a tree lately? http://www.communitycarbontrees.org/plant-a-tree/

Hemos estado trabajando arduamente con nuestra nueva réplica de proyectos comunitarios en San José de Rivas, Costa Rica, para plantar 2500 árboles más diversos de selva en 7 granjas familiares diferentes. Los granjeros locales aprenda más sobre la mecánica de la reforestación a largo plazo a través del trabajo práctico de recorrer sus fincas, diseñar el proyecto, seleccionar especies y hacer el trabajo real de plantar los árboles para restaurar y regenerar sus propias tierras deforestadas y degradadas. Trabajar en el vivero de árboles y hacer suelo fértil de bokosha para llenar las bolsas de los árboles en el vivero también requiere mucho poder de la mujer y la comunidad ha estado más que feliz de ser parte de los equipos semanales.

 

Solo mira las fotos. La gente es todo sonrisas ! Nuestros estudios de impacto social ya nos han revelado tanto. Fue impactante para mí saber que a pesar de una gran cantidad de visitas y programas ofrecidos por FONOFIFO (Costa R ica Servicio Forestal) y el Ministro de Agricultura yGanadería (ganado), los agricultores han nunca antes recibido asistencia técnica real en sus propias fincas. Muchos se sienten olvidados y aprovechados por los programas gubernamentales que requieren su tiempo pero no les pagan por ello. Por lo tanto, obvio usualmente, es una nueva experiencia ser pagada por su trabajo y esto ha llevado algo de tiempo para hundirse en la comunidad. La colaboración toma interés del grupo en lugar de interés propio y nuestro sistema de plantar una gran diversidad de árboles frutales y madereros en fincas familiares locales les enseña de manera efectiva sobre los beneficios y los desafíos de trabajar en un grupo unificado.

 

Los cuatro líderes que trabajan en esta comunidad, incluido yo mismo, también hemos trabajado en los aspectos de escuchar y cooperación del trabajo en una comunidad que ha sido empobrecida por la deforestación, el cultivo de monocultivos de café con una gran dependencia de los químicos para lidiar con la degradación y suelos muertos

Todos los que hemos entrevistado quieren mejorar sus suelos y dejar de usar herbicidas y pesticidas, por lo que estamos encantados de ofrecerles la oportunidad de restaurar sus suelos cultivando árboles biodiversos con el empoderamiento de ACCT de sus patrocinios y donaciones de fondos para finalmente fomentar la agricultura orgánica. El pago justo por las horas dedicadas a cortar los pastos y la vegetación en regeneración alienta a la comunidad a dejar de tomar el camino más fácil usando veneno para matar las hierbas y evitar el trabajo pesado de cortarlas a mano con machetes.

 

Regrowing rainforest nos ayuda a todos sin importar dónde estemos . Todos respiramos oxígeno producido por árboles cerca del Ecuador.   Y todos estamos bebiendo agua y comiendo alimentos nutridos por agua de lluvia . La selva tropical cerca del Ecuador es lo que impulsa y mantiene el equilibrio en todos los ciclos de vida. Y los humanos siguen reduciendo más. ¿Cómo hacemos que la gente se detenga? ¿Y contribuir a la generacion del bosque lluvioso que sostiene nuestras vidas?

 

Le pedimos que patrocine árboles … y mientras tanto, también buscamos dinero de empresas y fundaciones. Trabajamos arduamente para mantener este trabajo financiado aplicando y administrando dinero de la subvención. Nuestros costos administrativos son extremadamente bajos y muchos de nosotros, los líderes, definitivamente no nos pagan por todo el trabajo que hacemos.  Requiere un equipo grande de personas que realmente colaboran en todos los niveles para hacer este trabajo. Y todos los plantadores de árboles y recolectores de semillas también lo necesitan tal como los necesita.

 

D espués de más de 20 años en el desarrollo de este trabajo de reforestación en Costa Rica, y cuando nos acercamos a replicar nuestro modelo ACCT ahora a otros países en el Ecuador, y tantas experiencias que participan en el proceso de medición y, he llegado a creer que cambiar la conciencia de todas las personas involucradas a través del proceso es la clave de nuestro éxito colectivo. Los cambios en la forma en que vivimos a nivel mundial y actuar globalmente para administrar la naturaleza de nuestra Tierra pueden generar una nueva conciencia sobre cómo devolver a nuestra tierra. Se accede a los más altos niveles del ser humano cuando estamos en nuestro estado de regalo y es la razon porque devolviendo a la tierra y a la humanidad siente tan bien. Y a medida que seguimos trabajando, nos encanta ser capaces de asegurarle que cada árbol   plantamos ahora como resultado de su generosidad será protegida y representó a largo plazo de las comunidades humanas resistentes y comprometidos.

 

Community Carbon Trees Reforestation Model

Here’s looking to a bright 2018 full of hope. There is an old proverb that says that he who plants a tree is planting hope. We could not agree more. Thank you to all of our Sponsors. Here is to 2018 and planting so many more trees together! Every tree makes a difference! We will tend them to maturity and grow future forests now for future generations! THANK YOU !!!

WE LOVE TREES!

ACCT TREES PLANTED AND SPONSORED Total-trees-planted-per-farm

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Cosmic Convergence Outreach Workshop

Tree Ambassadors Erica Largen and Faith Johnson traveled to Lake Atitlan, Guatemala to share a rainforest tree leadership workshop at Cosmic Convergence; an annual music, arts and culture festival on December 27, 2016 through January 1, 2017.

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So there we were, Faith and I, traveling across mountains and towns of Guatemala. It’s amazing how a foreign language can make you feel like a humble idiot. Three days after tuk tuk trips, boat rides, airbnbs and loads of walking, we arrived at the festival.

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With wrist bands on hand we went to our campsite where our tent, super comfortable sleeping pad and pillows were set up and waiting for our arrival. What hospitality!

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We brought ourselves on behalf of nonprofit Community Carbon Trees. The fest featured incredible music and the opportunity to network with fellow activists and earth warriors.

While festival setup continued on the first night, we laid down to look at the stars. This gave our bodies, minds and spirit time to take in the sacredness of the land surrounded by ancient volcanoes and the high elevation Lake Atitlan. With our heads already in the grass, we were joined by an activist from Britain and a couple from Central America. We talked about ideas of living on planet Earth and our how to heal her.

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During the days, when we weren’t putting finishing touches on our presentation, we attended other workshops. The topics of fungus, community organizing, health, women, social and environmental justice were fun and packed with useful knowledge.

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Did you know: in Guatemala 98% of the land is owned by 2% of the people?

Today global economic interests and the national government continue to use police and military power to take land from native Guatemalan people to build hydroelectric electricity infrastructure, superhighways and pipeline infrastructure.

*Shameless plug* for community carbon trees and how we plant trees on farms owned by local farmers so we can develop long-term economic and environmental sustainability in the community.

On Saturday we presented our workshop in the Numundo workshop space. Highlights of the workshop –

  1. We discussed why rainforest trees are important and how reforestation contributes significantly to global carbon sequestration.
  2. Leaders as healers. Healers empower others and that’s what leadership is.Or as Lao Tzu once said, “When the best leader’s work is done the people say, ‘We did it ourselves.'”
  3. How community carbon trees empowers local families and how activists can get involved by becoming a tree ambassador.

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We got our hands dirty making seed bombs as workshop attendees left the collaborative space.

The experience at Cosmic convergence was unmatchable. We rang in 2017, danced, sang, prayed, met contacts and grew our network of tree friends. Faith became a more confident public speaker.

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We are grateful to work on behalf of an organization that allows us to do work that fills us with life.

Ut Prosim. That I May Serve.

Follow cosmic convergence facebook or visit their website. Buy tickets for next year! Time spent at this growing fest is time well spent!

Tree Tour Carbon Footprint

DAY 16: Airbnb Solar Harvest home is the last stop on our Tree Tour! Providing 130% of the home’s energy needs, the system feeds extra energy to the grid and, once plug-in electric vehicles become available, will too power the family car!!

Notice the solar thermal panels up top (for hot water! An Al Gore-approvable heating system), the photovoltaic panels (converting sunlight to electricity!), The textbook passive solar overhangs (2′ for 40° N. Latitude that enables collection of winter sun and shade of hot summer sun!), Super-insulating walls windows and ceilings, a south-facing sunroom, and porous pavement!

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The home also uses a geothermal heat exchange to heat the home in the winter. We talked R values of the building envelope. There is an impressive ventilation system!

Eric explained the all electric design allowed them to cap their natural gas line, which was of particular importance because of the environmental degradation caused locally by natural gas drilling and distribution. Carbon neutrality efforts extended from structure, to energy supply, and to finishes.

We must retrofit existing buildings! This is the suburban way to an efficient consumer-producing community net-zero electric grid!

(Disclaimer: Due to the variability of electricity source, home appliances and heating systems, I have not been calculating the carbon contribution of the lights, hot water or heating we use in the mornings or at night during the tree tour. We moved around too often, slept on too many couches, with too many end uses for those calculations to be feasible.) Happy our last two days of “building envelope energy” will be carbon neutral!

We have burned 7 gallons of gas since arriving in the Bolder/Fort Collins area 4 days ago adding 133 pounds to my carbon footprint! My total carbon footprint is 1.356 tons!

Do you believe in Aliens?!

There’s something supernatural about New Mexico. We took a little break from our high energy “Tree Tour” to meditate, qi gong and yoga among the aspens and eagles. We NEEDED a break from the constant sharing and talking with businesses and individuals about how to offset carbon footprints with biodiverse rainforest trees!

We didn’t know where we were going – we just knew we wanted to be alone. We drove and ended up 8,528 feet above sea level at Eagle Nest Lake State park. WE were the only humans there… but WE were not alone. For many minutes that all feet like one moment, we watched the water and the clouds and the Ponderosa pine forest. There were two pairs of eagles flying higher than the clouds and hawks who flew much closer.

As the afternoon unfolded in bright colors of the high noon sun I knew it was time to get water! Jenny agreed to stay at our lake-beach-day-camp while Dea and I traversed to the mini van for water and rations. There was a large hawk hunting on the ground as we approached the deserted parking lot.

Then it happened. We were given gifts from aliens.

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These were not just any gifts! What do all girls want? Purses and shoes! Yes, aliens gave us hand sewn leather vintage purses and quality platform shoes! The red bag came engraved with one word, “Salud”. Salud means health and good fortune. This all makes perfect quintessential sense. Yet! how strange to receive such TANGIBLE reminders of our purpose! The gifts were exactly what each of us needed.

When I saw the beautiful gifts, I immediately put on the shoes.

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We brought the gifts back to Jenny!

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The green platform shoes were for me. I’ve been looking for new shoes! These are the most comfortable and most green shoes I’ve ever owned. An obvious sign to get out there! Get going girl! I only ever buy flats, but with the state of the planet like it is, it’s no time to play it safe! The lovely vintage leather purses were for Dea and Jenny. Both needing the perfect bag to fill with good fortune to come.

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Remember to slow down and take time for yourself. Remember to ask for what you need. Remember to listen to the music and dance of the trees. Remember to go into the desert. Remember to receive the gifts that are constantly given. Aliens are real. There is something sublimely supernatural about New Mexico.

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Namaste.

MeetNew People Collaborating to Plant Trees on Deforested Land

Each planting season we collaborate with new Costa Rican host farm families to plant more trees on their degraded farms. To date, 21 families are collaborating with us to reforest pasturelands with more than 10,000 diverse rainforest trees.  It is always a joy to move our tree planting work to a new host farm family in the Valley San Juan de Dios in Costa Rica. Maria and her husband Noah and their family are thrilled to be planting over 150 trees on their deforested land with your help this year 2016.

We toured Maria and Noah’s small farm with a group of agro-forestry students to decide what species to plant and observe any problems or challenges with the farm in general. There is a small stream at the foot of the hill exposed to the sun. So, we decided to plant large majestic rainforest trees perfect for protecting these precious waters and slowing evaporation for generations to come.

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After a great tour and discussions of best land management practices, we all decided to plant at least 30 cocoa trees and many cashew trees mixed in so that the family could harvest these fruits and earn money in the future by collaborating with our cooperative group to make chocolate and other tree products.

A few days later, the trees were delivered and the whole family enjoyed admiring the over 45 species of hardwoods and fruit trees. The selection of tropical fruits include mammon chinos, guanabana, anona, breadfruit, oranges, lemons, caimitos, guavas, guayabas, cashews, almonds, karao, carambolas and more.

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A crew of three women plus Alvaro planted the trees over a week of work and so far, every single tree is thriving. Our paid workers will be following these trees closely for the next four 4 years to achieve robust productive mature trees for maximum benefits.

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The early months of every tree we plant are critical. We recently visited the newly planted trees with a touring group from another community interested in copying our community reforestation model. Seeing the freshly planted trees so healthy was rewarding for all.

The whole community benefits from paid tree planting work. The workers and neighbors producing and planting and caring for the trees enjoy being paid for their diligent work. Literally, we plant a grocery store on every farm where we reforest by including fruit trees, medicinal trees and lumber trees. The host farm family grows an abundance of opportunities for tree products.

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The trees bring a notable positive social impact to families like Maria and Noah, living in marginalized areas of Costa Rica. They regenerate what was previously deforested and unproductive land. Families like them along with our paid workers develop valuable opportunities in collaboration with growing the trees and creating a wealth of products from the long term sustainable management of the land and the trees.

One Family One Planet

This is story of one family who travels the world and offsets their carbon dioxide emissions to pass on an abundant plant to future generations.

Plant a Tree
A family on a mission to offset carbon! We can help!

They have already compensated 2,5x times their world tour emissions, but were looking at compensating 5 tons of CO2 a year for the next 10 years to get closer to COP21 objectives ahead of time…

They explain, “We therefore looked for a grass root NGO that would help us to do real Carbon Sequestration. Not just preventing future emissions (like we did with other programs), but really taking C02 from the atmosphere in the form of… trees!

Trees are indeed the only real Carbon Sequestration system that is working for now (even some industrial projects are starting to show some efficiency like CO2 injection into former geologic pockets of oil and gaz). That’s why it’s so important to protect forests wherever possible, but also plant trees and rebuild an ecosystem where it has been destroyed.”

It was a joy to host them in Costa Rica and partner with individuals seeking real solutions to climate change.

Read their whole post here.

It Takes A Village To Plant A Tree

Written by John Stern

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Recently, I had the pleasure of spending a few days with Jennifer Smith and her ACCT organization. My purpose was to witness the on-the-ground reality of ACCT. I had already read through the website and was impressed. Now I wanted to see for myself what is really happening. Can I, and others who want to offset their carbon footprint, feel secure that something real is happening in this area of Costa Rica? Is it making a positive impact? Are the newly-planted trees receiving enough attention so that they will thrive and grow? How does the local community feel about the program?

If you have studied the website, you have learned that it takes more than just going somewhere and putting a sapling in the soil to accomplish something of real and lasting value in the world of carbon offset. The question is whether the tree—or, really, the tropical reforestation project itself—will still be there, growing, and thriving twenty five or more years later. There are both short term and long term challenges that can threaten survival and, to meet those challenges, the groundwork must be done both figuratively and literally:

  • Geographically speaking, a workable carbon-offset project in the tropics—the place where reforestation has the most impact on the global environment—one must choose an area not subject to a high probability of hurricanes.
  • Politically speaking, one must consider whether the national and local government support and recognize the non-tangible benefits of re-forestation vs. the selling off land for short term gain.

On both of these counts, Costa Rica—especially the southern zone area near Dominical—scores very high.

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There are also issues of tree selection, adequate fencing to keep out animals from destroying the young trees, healthy soil, and planting in places where there is community support. You can read much more about these and other important factors in other places at the ACCT website.

For a tree to thrive, it must spread its roots wide and deep (depending on the tree species). Similarly, a successful planting project must also go wide and deep into the local community and create win-win-win situations for all the participants: the family, the community, and the trees themselves. This must happen on other levels too: ecologically, of course, but also economically, and even psychologically—where people are empowered to become more self-sufficient and environmentally aware.

On so many levels, ACCT succeeds in all these ways. First of all, there is Jennifer herself who wears many hats in a single day. She inspires, leads, teaches, consults, talks to a great variety of people: the farmers, the local community members, the volunteers, the donors and people she might meet randomly at the market and many other places. With all these people, she is always talking up ACCT—whether it is brainstorming, problem-solving, expansion, the bigger picture of carbon offset, etc. That, of course, is in addition to the work that needs to be done including tending the nursery (where I witnessed a tremendous variety of very healthy looking tropical trees), delivering the trees, consulting with farmers and the community and, of course, the actual planting of the trees—and I have no doubt that this is a very incomplete list as I was there for only a few days.

The work is, in actuality, about community building and doing so with integrity. It starts with love of the earth and the people. It proceeds with a clear and pure intention of being of service to each. It builds momentum one relationship or even one brief encounter at a time. Just as a single tree is part of a greater whole, so too is the planting and the care needed for that tree a result of a much bigger community effort. It really does take a community to raise a tree and ACCT does build communities.

ACCT’s main project is in the southern zone of Costa Rica between Dominical and San Isidro in a place called San Juan de Dios. It is where the trees are being planted and where the micro businesses (read about these at other places on the website) are being created. This large area consists of eighteen family farms. On one of these farms there is also the tree nursery where a great variety of healthy looking tropical saplings are being lovingly attended to.

Everywhere on these eighteen farms spread out over fifty thousand hectares (ninety of which have been re-forested) is where win-win-win (for the farmer, the community, and the earth) situations are being created. This effort asks all the participants to raise themselves a little higher to see how doing things a little differently can have a positive effect on everyone including the earth.

In the meantime, while this is all taking root, Jenny and her volunteers must maintain a presence and so, like hummingbirds going from flower to flower, they go from place to place offering a helping hand and sharing words of encouragement, education, and inspiration; and, even more, they help in the grunt work of—for example—carrying saplings across rivers and digging into the dirt. Nothing can be overlooked, no relationship is too small, everything is related and so everything needs attention.

Here, on these thousand of hectares in southern Costa Rica, a wonderful carbon offset project is happening and growing (this is in addition to 400 hectares of re-forestation on other private land). It is easy to see the community being created while the trees are being planted. I fully believe that this project—both by ripple effect and by carbon uptake—is having a positive effect on the world and this is cause enough for celebration. Still, the work almost demands duplication or imitation in other locations all around the equator. It is heartening to see the great work being done by ACCT and also to envision how wonderful the planetary transformation will be when the same is done in a thousand more places. I hope more “hummingbirds” will come to southern Costa Rica, witness this project, and then go out and do their own version around the globe.

Sponsor Trees for Future Generations

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