This is Part 1 of a two-part exclusive on World at Large.
Out in the ultra-rural jungles of eastern Madagascar, something is happening that all climate-conscious philanthropists and investors should take note of.
A few intrepid locals have created a 6-year, work-for-knowledge program that’s turning jobless country folk into passionate, skilled, forest management agents and entrepreneurs, ready to show the world that they themselves have the power to restore the glory of Madagascar’s stunning biodiversity.
Organized by a Malagasy woman and her Wall Street ex-pat husband, Green Again Madagascar is unlike any other tree-planting nonprofit around.
“It’s really exemplary of bottom-up restoration,” Leighton Reid, assistant professor in the School of Plant and Environmental Sciences at Virginia Tech, who conducted research for the group, told WaL.
Tree planting has become all the rage as a way for corporations and international aid and development agencies to help alleviate poverty and prevent climate change by offsetting carbon emissions. Huge issues—largely unreported, go along with this activity, however.
Studies have shown that carbon sequestration in the roots of trees planted by hand is often overestimated. Incentives and aid handouts to communities for tree planting have been shown to primarily create monocrop agriculture forests of rubber or other commodities, rather than native forests, that are easily destroyed.
One study in Chile found that landowners simply clear-cut the forests on their land and replanted them just to get the government handout.
If William Easterly’s groundbreaking 2006 book White Man’s Burden is any indication of the lack of success of internationally-imposed development in poor countries, Green Again Madagascar is the cure for such failures—the ultimate bottom-up operation of development and accountability.
Green Again is planting dozens of native tree species to create diverse and complex reforested ecosystems, all while putting faith and function into some of the poorest people on the continent.