You are here

Counting Trees, Managing Mushrooms

PROFOR hosted yesterday two very interesting discussions that are ultimately about keeping track of trees and plants thanks to much-improved information technology:

  • One with TIST, the International Small Group and Tree Planting Program, which has planted more than 10 million trees since 1999 on small farms and surrounding land in Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, India, Honduras and Nicaragua.

The TIST website ( accounts for live trees on these small farms, grove by grove, using quantifiers on the ground equipped with handheld GPS and camera devices. The idea is to prove that “the carbon tons are there and to sell them,” said TIST’s Ben Henneke. TIST also makes excellent use of Google Earth to show the dramatic increase in tree planting schemes around Mount Kenya for example.

TIST Kenya - October 2005

TIST Kenya - April 2011

The growing crowd of yellow dots (representing project sites) shows that motivating farmers with small amounts of money can make a big difference over time – and change on tiny plots can eventually add up to a transformed landscape.

  • PROFOR also hosted a lunch-time discussion led by TRAFFIC on The Changing Nature of ‘Trading Nature’

Anastasiya Timoshyna, leader of TRAFFIC’s Global Medicinal Plants Programme, explained the philosophy and process behind the creation of a “FairWild” standard that looks at sustainability from multiple angles (environmental, social and economic) and seeks to be more holistic than other competing standards. It rests on a number of steps including resource assessments, even for seemingly limitless non-timber forest products such as mushrooms or wild garlic.

Why would a business go through the trouble of making sure its ingredients meet FairWild standards? Timoshyna called it “a kind of insurance against reformulation.” Pharmaceutical and cosmetic firms may agree to pay a slight premium to ensure that some key non-timber forest product in their supply chain does not end up on an endangered list or go extinct in the wild.

Related Links: