One to One with Kahlil Baker CommuniTree Project Director – 2014 Update

2014 Update on CommuniTree

The year was a great learning experience for the project. Seasonal climate challenges were more significant in the Limay region than usual, emphasizing the critical importance of both the project and the additional income the program generates for participating communities.

Passing the millionth tree mark!

50 new smallholders joined the program in 2014 to plant more than 300,000 new trees, bringing us to well over a million trees planted since 2010. This is a landmark that the project team and those businesses that are carbon balanced through CommuniTree have achieved together…

Facing unusual drought

In 2014, the Americas were severely hit by one of the worst droughts in recent history, devastating agricultural crops for farmers from California to Brazil. Understandably, this has also created a challenge for the CommuniTree Carbon Program.

A delayed and irregular rainy season in northern Nicaragua postponed planting until late May. Severe drought in May and June led to the loss of 10% of the new seedlings planted. However, thanks to the incredible dedication and hard work of our team, the vast majority of trees are now in the ground. As usual, all mortality is being replanted, ensuring that we reach 100% of the planted area.

Providing income stability

Agricultural crops are very vulnerable to unexpected drought and floods, and last year’s unusually late and unpredictable rainy season was devastating for farmers in Limay. Fortunately, the CommuniTree Carbon Program ensures an alternate source of income for smallholders that is countercyclical to agricultural seasons, helping to minimize the financial impact of crop loss.

Once tree plantations are established, such as those planted in previous years, the trees quickly become very resilient to irregular weather patterns.

Under the care of the farmers, they will continue to thrive, ensuring a stable income for smallholders for an entire decade in the form of ecosystem service payments…

As the different tree species reach maturity, smallholders can selectively harvest them at any time of year, providing employment and income when it is needed most.

Seed Collection for 2015

In preparation for the 2015 planting cycle, the project team collected seeds for the community nurseries. Around a metric tonne of seeds (as heavy as a small car) was purchased directly from families in neighbouring communities, with a total value of around $17,000. This is a significant contribution to the community, where the average daily income for a farmer in Nicaragua is only $4.

CommuniTree Expansion into Somoto & Job Creation

The project has recently expanded into multiple locations. This required new carbon baseline studies, recruitment of new farmers, establishing a team of community technicians and the creation of  new jobs. The existing team has done much of the training of the new Somoto team, building their capacity to successfully run the project in this new location.

What is required to expand the project?

Each time the project expands we need a new biomass survey of the added area. This means analyzing recent satellite images to map out the different land cover and land uses (agriculture, cattle ranching, forest, or unused land). A team of technicians measure the aboveground biomass of each of the different land uses to estimate how much carbon is already present in the landscape. This uses GIS to establish hundreds of random points in the landscape.  We then visit these points, set up 60x60m sample plots and measure all the trees in the plot. This is the baseline and helps gauge how much carbon we will be adding to the landscape through the project.

The project is making great progress and delivering on the triple benefits of carbon, livelihood and ecosystem protection and we are keen to introduce more businesses to carbon balancing with CommuniTree.