Climate change is one of the biggest issues facing the world today. In order to combat climate change we need strong, multi-faceted climate action. We see reforestation as just one part of a much larger solution. Planting trees is one of the most readily available ways to pull carbon out of the atmosphere. When we work with individuals and businesses to take responsibility for their carbon footprint we are working to do our part to reduce our impact on the planet.
Grow Ahead’s agroforestry projects are about more than just the environmental benefits but about supporting small-scale farming communities. Farmers and rural communities are the first to feel the effects of climate change despite having disproportionately low carbon footprints. Working with these communities for climate resiliency initiatives is essential so that they can protect the land and continue to provide for their families. By planting trees in agroforestry systems, farmers are restoring the water and nutrients to the soil, providing food and crops for their families and communities, and pulling carbon out of the atmosphere. People & the planet: that’s what we’re all about.
We also know that there is no way we can support projects to reforest at the same rate that the forest is being cut down so a portion of all of our projects goes to supporting frontline indigenous communities that are fighting extractive industries and protecting the Amazon Rainforest. At the end of the day these actions need to be matched with big change on the policy level, divestment from fossil fuels, overhaul of the big-agriculture industry, ensuring human rights and land rights for indigenous communities along with a disruption of systems of inequality to come to true climate justice. Grow Ahead’s mission is to fund small-scale farmer organizations’ agroforestry programs, while simultaneously supporting social movements that advance democratic solutions to the dual crises of climate change and global poverty.
Agroforestry is a system of land management where trees are deliberately planted with agricultural crops and/or animals. This basically means planting trees, cash crops (like coffee and cocoa) and food together in a food-forest system. This allows farmers to restore water and nutrients to their soil, increasing production of food and pulling carbon out of the atmosphere.
Deforestation for agricultural expansion causes 15-18% of global greenhouse gas emissions. Promoting agroforestry allows farmers to grow the crops and foods they need to provide for their families and communities while protecting the environment.
With the growing popularity of reforestation as a climate solution there have been many ‘mega-projects’ where an organization or company will plant hundreds of thousands of trees on ‘empty’ land (how they got access to that land may be contentious). They get a big splashy headline but there is little to no community integration or follow through. Months and years later we see that for many of these projects the vast majority of the saplings planted never grow to be full trees.
When working with cooperatives of small-scale farmers, trees are planted on individual farms across the cooperative. These farmers take care of the tree and crops on their farms and become stewards of the food-forest. In return, we see agroforestry projects with extremely high survival rates of saplings and more impact in the communities.
One Dollar covers the [average/averaged] cost of the seedling, planting and monitoring of one fully grown tree which [may] include:
- Cost of the installation of nurseries
- Technical Assistance to run the reforestation project
- Transportation of seedlings from nurseries to reforestation areas
- Monitoring and evaluation of new plantings including the creation of community associations for conservation.
- Community educational programs on the benefits and importance of reforestation for the environment and farmers
Grow Ahead focuses on funding small farmer organizations in the Global South. We believe this helps build organizational capacity which enables organizations to multiply their impact. We also exclusively fund regenerative organic agriculture and resiliency efforts. We do not fund initiatives that use chemicals or synthetic fertilizers or who do not adhere to fair trade principles, for example.
Grow Ahead works in a unique way since all of our campaigns raise money for projects that are completely designed, implemented and managed by the community organizations on the ground. This is a radical shift in community development, placing trust in local knowledge and expertise.
We partner up with farmer cooperatives that have the existing technical knowledge and infrastructure (like nurseries, transportation, etc.) to carry out these reforestation projects. The projects are community-led from start to finish.
We identify projects through producer partners networks and allied organizations. Our team has 20+ years of experience in the fair trade and organic world, there are a plethora of cooperatives that we have strong prior relationships with. We do get proposals and take them into consideration as well.
All of our projects are created, planned and implemented by the small-scale farmer organizations on the ground. We are able to work in this way by partnering with cooperatives that have strong track records and relationships with allied organizations and commercial partners. This foundation of trust with our community partners is essential when focusing on community-led initiatives.
96.75% of donations made for reforestation projects go directly to small farmer organizations in the Global South. There is a 3.25% credit card transaction fee that donors have the option to cover. Grow Ahead currently has grants that cover a variety of administrative costs, including web hosting, bank fees, staffing, etc.
Organizations in the Global South may submit applications to qualify for the loan, farmer to farmer training or scholarship programs via the Apply for Funding page.
Grow Ahead’s mission was inspired by Fair World Project (FWP) and the Latin American and Caribbean Network of Fair Trade Small Producers (CLAC)’s contest soliciting small-scale farmer groups to share their experiences and best practices in confronting climate change in their communities. The report revealed that there is a significant funding gap for regenerative and agroecological solutions being implemented by small farmers in Latin America, and more broadly in the Global South. Grow Ahead seeks to overcome this gap by enabling consumers and organizations (like churches, nonprofits and retailers) to lend, or make a direct donation, to support agroecological solutions and farmer-led trainings.
We are fully supportive of initiatives that seek to support small farmers in the Global North. There are existing options for farmers in the North to reach capital, more information can be found here.
Organizations of all sizes can participate. We invite you to raise money from your colleagues and friends. Learn more about how to get involved here.