Plant a Billion Trees: Q&A With Fernando Veiga

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Published on December 22nd, 2010  |  Discuss This Article  

Google Chrome recently ran a promotion called Chrome for a Cause. They asked people to download an extension, then every tab they opened counted towards a contribution to one of five charities.

The Nature Conservancy’s Plant a Billion Trees was one of the options, and now the results are in. Thanks to the staggering enthusiasm of the Chrome community a contribution will be made for more than $245,000. That’s 245,000 trees that will be planted in the Atlantic Forest in Brazil!

To find out more about the Plant a Billion trees campaign we turned to Fernando Veiga, The Nature Conservancy’s environmental services manager for Atlantic Forest and Central Savannas Conservation Program in Latin America.

Overall, how’s the Plant a Billion Trees campaign going?
Fernando Veiga: The Campaign is going very well. In terms of fundraising we’re getting the continuous support of many donors through the website, contributing from small to significant amounts of money.

At the end of the day, we can say that through the campaign we have made important strides in bringing the Atlantic Forest back from the brink and learned lessons that will help guide restoration in Brazil and other severely degraded ecosystems for years to come.

What was the first reaction when the number of 1 billion trees campaign was mentioned?
This campaign was born embedded with the sense that if we want to conserve one of the world’s most diverse ecosystems, as well as one of its most endangered, Brazil’s Atlantic Forest, a major restoration initiative is vital.

It is very important to highlight that the heart of the Plant a Billion Trees campaign is forest restoration. We want the forest back. We take a science-based approach to selecting the areas to be restored and to choosing the best forest restoration technique, ensuring that these forests will develop successfully.

In terms of the 1 billion trees, many people argue that it seems an impossible goal. We counter argue saying that what we are doing is developing the conditions in terms of partnerships, and support of upscale processes that will enable forest restoration at large scale.

What’s the campaign’s biggest success so far?
Thanks to the campaign, the restoration work is providing a living laboratory in restoration ecology and economics, allowing the Conservancy and their partners to set standards and develop long-term strategies that will enable us to restore and conserve the Atlantic Forest on a large scale.

What challenges have been overcome?
One of the main challenges that we overcame was the tracking of the trees on the ground. We hired a consultant that worked very close to our technical staff who developed a system that can track every single tree funded by each dollar. In other words, now we can know where (project, region, etc.) the tree that corresponds to each dollar donated by someone is. This is very good for our management process and also for any of our donors who might want to know where the trees he/she contributed are.

What challenges still need to be overcome?
There are many big challenges still to be overcome when we are talking about such an immense, large-scale process. A remarkable one is the great need to improve capacity along the forest restoration chain. So far, we trained more than 100 farmers and 40 state officials and local NGO technical staff and we can say that it is really worth it.

How are they being planted?
The three primary restoration strategies we use in the Plant a Billion Trees campaign are:

  • Planting tree seeds and saplings to initiate forest restoration in severely degraded areas
  • Enrichment plantings to increase the diversity of tree species in degraded area
  • Assisted natural regeneration – including fencing off sensitive areas to prevent damage by cattle, installing barriers to reduce the spread of fire, and installing perches for birds and bats that spread seeds – to accelerate natural forest regeneration in areas that do not require plantings

Who’s planting them?
The work is done through the partnerships with local NGOs, private companies, local communities, state agencies and landowners. The activities on the ground can be done by the farmers themselves or field workers hired by the projects, according the partnership arrangements which can vary from place to place.

How does a $1 donation benefit animals, plants and human beings as well?
The Atlantic Forest is the home of two hundred species of mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians – one of every twenty vertebrate species on Earth – live there. More than 20,000 species of plants make up the Atlantic Forest, more than 500 of which occur nowhere else on Earth. The only chance that this impressive biome has to be viable on the long term is to be restored. Built on this amazing biodiversity, the Atlantic Forest also removes carbon from the atmosphere, helping reduce climate change.

(Image: Nursery worker places flats of tree seedlings at a large, state-owned, tree nursery near the city of Guarapuava, Parana state, Brazil. Image Credit: ©Scott Warren)

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Comments: Plant a Billion Trees: Q&A With Fernando Veiga

  •  Comment from Shirley Fleschman

    I want MDot to stop cutting our tree’s and selling them!

  •  Comment from Benjamin Kerensa

    Can we have more funds allocated to Oregon? I contribute to The Nature Conservancy each year and I also contributed through Google Chrome and I ask that more trees be planted in Oregon specifically in urban areas like Portland, Oregon.

  •  Comment from treestoryguy

    Sounds like a great start to getting forests back =)

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