Cem Akin is on a mission to improve air quality and feed impoverished communities. His plan: Plant trees.
Akin is the cofounder and “treeEO” of the Fruit Tree Planting Foundation, an international nonprofit organization that plants trees in countries ranging from Uganda, El Salvador, India and Mozambique to the United States. It is among a growing number of international, national and local groups that believe that trees can transform landscapes and lives.
“Planting one tree can help provide clean air, good soil, erosion control, shade, oxygen, absorb carbon dioxide and connect communities; fruit trees also provide sustainable nutrition for humans and animals,” says Akin. “We work all around the world on one simple but important mission: to plant fruit trees where the harvest is going to most benefit both the environment and the families.”
Organizations that support tree-planting projects are essential for reforestation efforts. More than 502,000 square miles of forest — an area larger than South Africa — were lost between 1990 and 2016, according to the World Bank. Deforestation increases greenhouse gas emissions, contributing to climate change. Protecting forests can help achieve climate goals (and so much more).
Organizations That Plant Trees
Go out on a limb to support these charitable organizations:
The Fruit Tree Planting Foundation
The organization, which was started in 2002, planted and distributed 62,930 trees in five countries in 2018. It plans to increase its impact by partnering with global communities to plant more than 100,000 trees. The team works with food banks, community gardens, parks, schools and families living in poverty to plant fruit trees that will provide ongoing sources of sustainable nutrition.
In El Salvador, Akin met a landowner who had an orchard of mango trees planted at his home on a previous Fruit Tree Planting Foundation trip. “He told me the mangoes fed his family and provided 100 percent of his income,” Akin recalls. “Those stories are the ones that give us the motivation and inspiration to do this work.” The foundation accepts donations in support of its work.
National Forest Foundation
As a result of wildfires, disease outbreaks and other devastating environmental events, more than 1 million acres of national forests are in need of reforestation. The Montana-based National Forest Foundation is working toward a goal of planting 50 million trees in national forests from coast to coast. The foundation accepts donations and $1 plants one native tree in a national forest in need of restoration following disease outbreaks, forest fires or other devastating events. There are no direct volunteer opportunities, the nonprofit does team up with units within the National Forest System to promote conservation efforts. Check their site for local volunteer needs.
The Nature Conservancy
With the motto, “A billion [trees] begins with one,” The Nature Conservancy launched the Plant a Billion Trees campaign to contribute to global reforestation efforts. A $1 donation purchases one three to help curb climate change. In the Mantiqueira Mountains in Brazil, the organization that aims to help restore more than 2.9 million acres by 2030, which will help sequester 260 million tons of carbon dioxide over the next 30 years. Current projects are underway in Brazil, Mexico, China and the United States; donations support their work.
The Arbor Day Foundation
In 1872, the Nebraska State Board of Agriculture agreed to declare April 10 the first Arbor Day. An estimated one million trees were planted across the state to celebrate. Since then, the tree-planting holiday has become a national observance. The nonprofit Arbor Day Foundation was established in 1972 to promote conservation and tree planting. Its projects include Tree City USA, which supports local communities’ initiatives to bolster tree canopies; and Community Tree Recovery, a program that replants trees in communities devastated by natural disasters. You can support their work through a membership, donations or volunteer work to help increase the tree canopy nationwide.
Eden Reforestation Projects
Planting trees in impoverished countries like Nepal, Haiti, Indonesia and Madagascar does more than restore animal habitats, create healthy forests, stop soil erosion and flooding and improve air quality. The Eden Reforestation Projects shows that it can also decrease poverty rates, stabilize local economies and keep at-risk villagers from ending up enslaved. The international nonprofit has hired 3,500 full-and part-time seasonal village workers since 2005. Together, they planted more than 200 million saplings and trees. The organization accepts donations.
Local Groups Also Sprout Tree Giving Branches
Local groups are also involved in tree planting efforts (often tied to Arbor Day). The Arbor Day Foundation created the Alliance for Community Trees Network, which includes access to free education and training opportunities and NeighborWoods Month, a public awareness campaign for community tree-planting activities. Local plant-a-tree opportunities tend to pop up around Arbor Day in April.
“Trees are critical to our everyday lives, and planting and caring for trees requires dollars,” says Kim Peacock. She is content manager for the Arbor Day Foundation. “A collective effort between public entities and nonprofit organizations ensures that tree planting at a larger scale is possible.
“Every tree planted means a better future for all of us. Together we can restore our forests, build stronger communities and inspire others to join in our efforts.”