I am proud to be the patron of an innovative community reforestation and environmental education program in the mountains of Timor-Leste, one of the world’s small developing nations, that is enabling subsistence farmers to generate income while taking action on climate change.
The program, WithOneSeed, has four commitments: to address environmental degradation through community reforestation, to build village economies through payment to small landholder farmers who grow and maintain forest trees, to educate communities about the importance of trees for climate adaptation and mitigation measures, and to build regional partnerships to collaborate on climate change.
Rural communities in Timor-Leste have relied on subsistence farming for generations, with many subsistence families living on less than a dollar per day. Since the country achieved independence in 2002, our community leaders have been acutely aware of the negative impact of environmental degradation and the importance of environmental regeneration for human survival.
The village communities involved in the program are now reaping the environmental, social and economic benefits of WithOneSeed’s community reforestation program, while also proudly contributing to making the planet a better place by growing trees that sequester carbon.
WithOneSeed is a community social enterprise that establishes village-based plant nurseries to grow seedlings and then pays small landholders to reforest their land by planting and maintaining the trees. While it is a small program today, we aim for its expansion nationwide.
At a local level, the environmental benefits of WithOneSeed’s program are vast. In addition to helping reduce atmospheric carbon levels, reforestation lessens soil erosion, improves soil and water quality, and increases crop yields and nutrition, thereby boosting the health and well-being of communities and promoting sustainable development.
Today Timorese farmers in the lower elevations are sharing their growing knowledge about climate change, carbon sequestration and environmental health and sustainability within highland communities, spreading the benefits across the country.
The social and economic benefits of WithOneSeed’s program are also substantial. WithOneSeed is doubling the annual incomes of subsistence-farming families with incentive payments, a small amount per tree for each year the tree is alive. The additional income is increasing financial independence and freedom to make choices about how families live, including, for many, making it possible for their children to complete primary school.
The program is helping to build the local economy, boost education and training, and increase social and economic participation.
At a national level, Timor-Leste is an oil and gas dependent economy, largely fueled by the our offshore oil and gas reserves. WithOneSeed’s program is opening up alternative economic models, vital to the growing global push towards renewable energy, fossil fuel divestment and urgent action on climate change.
The benefits of WithOneSeed’s program do not end there. At an international level the program, with its emphasis on restoring the environment and boosting subsistence incomes, is also contributing to the UN’s global poverty and development goals and its 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
We Timorese are the lowest carbon polluters per capita in the world, but despite this, we are prepared to take action to address the world carbon problem. We believe this is our responsibility as global citizens.
Source: The World Post
Authors: Jose Ramos-Horta, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, Patron of WithOneSeed
Andrew Mahar, CEO, Xpand Foundation