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“Without food forests human-nature conflicts remain”

Wagagai, a leading propagation company of plant cuttings, does not only partner with CRFF to further cut the company’s carbon emissions. “I’m not interested in pure reforestation,” says CEO Olav Boenders. “Reforestation can only be successful if it contributes to local communities’ livelihoods. Otherwise, the human-nature conflict will persist.”

“When I moved to Uganda in 1999, it had twenty million inhabitants,” says Boenders, one of the co-founders of Wagagai, which is located on the shore of Lake Victoria. “Now, the country has more than forty million people.”

“In less than 25 years, the population doubled in size. If this trend continues, there will be a hundred million people in 2050. Then you can reforest all you want, but people will cut these trees, and you cannot blame them,” the entrepreneur says. “Unless the trees provide them with an income.”

Reforestation needs to be inclusive

Wagagai started to measure its carbon emissions in 2018 with the aim of becoming carbon neutral. With a range of measures such as the installation of solar panels, it managed to cut half its emissions.

The company aims to reduce its emissions by another 25%. “There is a certain percentage of emissions that you cannot cut and need to offset,” Boenders concludes. He explored different ways to do this but by any of them.

“You can invest in projects in return for carbon credits, but you really need to demonstrate the project’s sustainability. I see a lot of projects of monoculture plantations that do nothing for the local people,” says Boenders, who has master’s degrees in tropical agriculture and development economics. “I’m not interested in reforestation if this doesn’t include the local community.”

Shared vision for forest protection and regenerative food forest farms

This is why CRFF’s mission appealed to Boenders. “My initial thought was to buy land ourselves and start our own project to compensate our remaining carbon emissions.”

“That would be the most straightforward, but then I met CRFF,” tells Boenders, who prefers to support and partner with a local organization rather than reinventing the wheel himself.

Wagagai and CRFF successfully developed a proposal for DEG Impact, a German donor. With their support CRFF develops a pilot to work with ten local farming families on a more productive, regenerative food forest model. “Food forests are not new to Ugandan farmers, they all have bananas, fruit trees, coffee and many other products.”

“I am especially excited that these ten families will receive  a monthly incentive to take care of the land for the coming two years. . The idea is that the production from the regenerative food forest should be sufficient for the families in the third year and will grow towards a sustainable income in the years after. ”

Read to learn more about the project.

Costa Rica is an example

“With CRFF, we have only just started. The donor funding has been instrumental to make a head start,” says Boenders, who just returned from a trip to Costa Rica where he and his wife bought land to help save an important corridor between two national parks near the Costa Rica – Panama border.  

Boenders: “With the CRFF project we must learn as much as we can and spend the money wisely. Not on expensive consultants, but by training local people.” His reforestation experiences in Costa Rica can serve as an example for the pilot in Uganda. “Uganda is where Costa Rica was thirty years ago.”