Posts Tagged ‘sustainable agriculture’

Timberland Helps Haiti Plant 2 Million Trees (and Counting)

Three years after committing to plant 5 million trees in five years, Timberland is proud to share progress of improved environmental, economic and social conditions in the rural region near Gonaives, Haiti.  In partnership with a local non-governmental organization, the Smallholder Farmers Alliance, we support an agroforestry program to train Haitian farmers to improve crop yields – and have planted 2.2 million trees along the way.

In 2010, Timberland teamed up with representatives from the Smallholder Farmers Alliance to create a self-sustaining agroforestry model that would deliver agricultural improvement, environmental restoration and economic growth for participating farmers through the development of eight community tree nurseries and agricultural training centers. This pilot cooperative, which is reliant on private sector, non-profit and community partnership, will plant a million more trees in 2013, 2014 and 2015, for a total of 5 million.

The Smallholder Farmers Alliance engaged a group of 2,000 small-scale farmers in the area near Gonaives and transformed the group into a for-profit agroforestry cooperative.  The farmers volunteer their time to manage the tree nurseries and plant trees in return for agricultural services, including high-yield seed, training in crop management, in-field technical support and the good quality tools needed to produce higher yields of sorghum, beans, corn and other food items. Farmers sell their crops individually, but the cooperative supports them by paying for these continued services with the sale of excess trees from the farmer-run tree nurseries.

After just three years of investment, the cooperative continues as a farmer-managed, self-financed operation. This innovation in “exit strategy aid,” which sets a time limit on external funding, tackles a key challenge faced by corporate organizations when getting involved in sustainability or disaster relief projects on the ground in developing nations.

To learn more about Timberland’s tree planting efforts visit the community section of our website.

The Quickest (and Cleanest!) Way to Plant a Tree

Two years ago, Timberland launched a community-based agroforestry program in Haiti that includes 8 tree nurseries run by volunteer farmers.  We connect those farmers with trees, seeds, tools and training, and they grow trees and crops to sell and eat.  It’s all part of Timberland’s commitment to plant 5 million trees before 2015.

You can help our agroforestry program grow without getting your hands dirty (although I understand that for some people, that’s half the fun) — and you might even learn a little something about yourself at the same time.  Just answer the personality questions in our Timberland “Hortiscope” (get it?) on Facebook to learn which tree species you most resemble.  When you take the quiz, we’ll plant a real tree for you in Haiti.

To learn more about Timberland’s commitment to regreening communities around the world, check out the tree planting section of our website.  And for more videos about our agroforestry program in Haiti, go to our YouTube channel.

Have You Planted a Tree Today?

Because today is Arbor Day, which is all about honoring and celebrating trees.  And we can’t imagine a more appropriate way to show our appreciation for trees than by planting MORE of them.

It’s not too late, and you don’t even have to get up from your computer to do your part: just click over to the Hortiscope quiz on Timberland’s Facebook page.  If you take the quiz, we’ll plant a tree for you in Haiti.  Simple as that!  And in the process of taking the Hortiscope and finding out what tree best matches your personality, you’ll also find out more about the real trees we’re planting through our sustainable agroforestry program in Haiti.

You might say the Hortiscope has a personality of its own — fun and frivolous, but with a serious, responsible side.  The trees we’ll plant for Hortiscope takers will benefit volunteer farmers in Haiti; these farmers receive the necessary tools and training through our agroforestry program to run our nurseries, grow and sell crops and trees, and help rebuild their communities and their environment.   See for yourself:

To learn more about Timberland’s longstanding commitment to reforestation, visit our tree planting page.  Happy Arbor Day!

Two Years Later, 1.4 Million Trees Greener

We’ve planted 1.4 million trees in Haiti since 2010, when we launched the Timberland tree nursery and training project there as part of our commitment to plant 5 million trees in five years.

Less than 2% of Haiti’s original forests remain due to a long history of unsustainable land use practices and a continuing dependence on tree wood and charcoal for cooking and heating needs. The deforestation causes a decline in soil fertility, which results in erosion that leads to extensive flooding, depleted groundwater supplies and food insecurity.

The Timberland tree nursery project in Haiti is an example of our commitment to Earthkeepers — the philosophy that guides us in everything we do. By building a community-based agroforestry model that includes eight tree nurseries run by volunteer farmers throughout the Gonaives region, Timberland is connecting those farmers with trees, seeds, tools and training. The combination of these elements has resulted in larger crop yields, which means more food to eat, crops to sell and increased income for the farmers and their families.

This video highlights the progress we’re seeing in our Haitian tree nursery project, and the positive impact we’re helping to “plant” for the people and environment in Haiti.

To learn more about Timberland’s commitment to reforestation in Haiti as well as other regions of the world, visit the tree planting section of our website.

Serving Communities in More Ways Than One

Last week I received an email from Hugh Locke, the president of Yéle Haiti, one of Timberland’s two partners in the Yéle Vert tree nursery projects we’re supporting in Haiti. The subject line of the email was, “Yéle Vert and Cholera Response.”  I was a little apprehensive about opening it. The last time Hugh sent me a note about Yéle Vert and cholera was this past November and it was to inform me that a Yéle Vert farmer, who was also one of the program’s most ardent supporters, had died of from complications caused by cholera.

The November news, while devastating to me and many others, prompted Hugh to work with Timote Georges, our Yéle Vert project leader from Trees for the Future, and with health professionals from Partners in Health to immediately put into action a cholera prevention training program for our Yéle Vert farmers.  Within a week of receiving the training all six of the Yéle Vert nurseries began to serve as community focal points for cholera prevention.

Thanks to our passionate partners, there was good to come from such a sorrowful event. And when I finally opened Hugh’s email last week, he proved that the quick and solid course of action by Timberland’s valued partners to prevent another cholera-related death in the farming communities served by Yéle Vert was in fact an act of human greatness…

Dear Margaret:

Just back from Haiti and catching up… more to follow, but wanted to share the story below as it involves our Yéle Vert team…

Yéle Haiti’s contribution to stemming the spread of cholera has saved many lives, but you don’t often get a chance to put a face to those who have been helped. That is, until now. The face in question is that of Florvil Sony, a 15-year-old boy who lives with his parents and two brothers in the small farming community of Morancy, about 45 minutes from the outskirts of Gonaives. He recently contracted cholera. As his symptoms quickly became critical, his parents were frightened that the rest of the family could be infected if they tried to care for him. Not knowing what to do or who to turn to for help, they abandoned Florvil to die.

Twenty of the Yéle Vert technicians and farmers in this same area were trained last November in cholera prevention and treatment by Partners in Health. As word spread of Florvil having contracted the disease and been abandoned to die, a Yéle Vert technician named Wilson Noel took action. He found Florvil, took him to one of the Yéle Vert nurseries and gave him the life saving combination of water, salt and sugar that he had learned about from Partners in Health.  Having stabilized Florvil, Noel then took him using the nursery’s motorcycle to a hospital in Gonaives. By last week Florvil had completely recovered and was back with his family and attending school as usual.

Sincerely,

Hugh

15-year-old Florvil Sony (middle), photographed last week with his two brothers, after recovering from cholera. His life was saved by the efforts of Yéle Vert technician Wilson Noel.

I guess it’s true what they say, “It takes a village to raise a child.” I am so proud of the amazing community-based leadership model that Yéle Vert represents.  Yes, we’re planting hundreds of thousands of trees annually. And we’re providing valuable agroforestry training and supplying seeds to farmers. But the success of the program lies not only in the tangible elements Timberland, Trees for the Future and Yéle Haiti have provided to the farmers and the six communities where the nurseries are located. Success lies also in the intangible ideal that, because of the success of the nurseries, the Yéle Vert farmers have naturally evolved to leaders because they are truly a trusted and valued part of their farming communities. Earthkeeping at its finest.

Haiti Needs Purpose, Not Pity

With the anniversary of the earthquake in Haiti upon us, I’ve seen a fair amount of predictable media coverage that recounts the devastating events of January 12, 2010, and an equal amount of coverage that focuses on the continuing plight of the Haitian people one year later.

I’m pretty ambivalent about the media coverage.  It’s not that I don’t think the situation in Haiti is worth remembering – I remember it all the time.  I was there 2 weeks after the earthquake struck last January and the sights and smells and sounds of the scared and the mourning, the sick and the dead, the endless, massive piles of rubble – those are things that stick in my mind.  I do remember.    My wish is that there could be a greater purpose to all the “anniversary” coverage of Haiti’s demise … that we could realize more than just remembrance and renewed sympathy, do more than shake our heads sadly and turn the page, or change the channel.

Sympathy has its place – compassion can be an incredibly powerful driving force.  But compassion in this case hasn’t proven effective.  For all the good that’s been done over the past year – longer, even, since we’re talking about a country that was plagued by economic and environmental hardships long before last year’s earthquake  — for all the support that’s come in to Haiti in the way of supplies and volunteers and money, it’s not enough.  Much of the aid, it’s been reported, isn’t even getting where it needs to be.  And even if every tent, every dollar, every box of food to date had been successfully directed and applied – relying on the good will and offerings of the rest of the world simply isn’t sustainable.

No, Haiti doesn’t need another telethon or more donations.  The best philanthropy efforts in the world haven’t and won’t solve for the more than 3,000 deaths to date due to cholera, or a more than 80% unemployment rate, or the fact that 1 million+ Haitians are living in makeshift shelters and unsafe, unsanitary tent cities.  As Nicholas Kristof aptly pointed out in his New York Times op-ed last week, Haiti’s people don’t need food and clothing, they need to be able to care for themselves and support their families.  They don’t need a handout, they need a ladder to climb.

There are pockets of progress to report on this front … Kristof cites Fonkoze, an organization which provides rural Haitians with economic support in the form of loans, education and training.  And Konbit, a program established by a team of MIT students, matches unemployed Haitians who might not otherwise have access to information about prospective job opportunities by way of an automated phone system.  Positive, meaningful programs like these do exist and are making a difference in Haiti … but a handful of organizations aren’t going to raise the country out of the mud and make it whole again.   It’s progress, but it’s still philanthropic progress.  I do truly and deeply appreciate philanthropy – but we can’t expect humanitarian giving to replace a sound and sustainable business model – which is what Haiti needs most of all.

Think about it: what if Haiti could present a compelling ROI to potential “investors” and demonstrate a meaningful return for their contribution there?  It would be a stretch — we’re talking about a country with a crippled infrastructure, corrupt government, widespread disease … and that’s just the headline.  Think about the challenges of doing business in Haiti when everything from their sanitation system to their roadways to their power supply is unreliable or in some places, nonexistent.  But changing the way we think about Haiti – regarding it not as the focus of philanthropy but as the source of potential opportunity – is the most compelling and promising way I can see to break the vicious cycle that’s got the country in dismal paralysis.  Haiti needs the resources and opportunities businesses could bring to bear in order to start solving for its widespread instability … but that instability is precisely what’s keeping many businesses from going there.

Note that I said “many businesses,” and not “all.”  There are many brands that have had manufacturing operations in Haiti for years, successfully … although like the nonprofit sector, it’s going to take more than the current roster to create any sort of discernible impact.  And starting this year, there will be one more name on the roster: we’re in the process of establishing a Timberland manufacturing facility there. The factory is being built in a trade zone located in Oanaminthe, a town that sits on the eastern border of Haiti adjacent to the Dominican Republic.  Oanaminthe is about 200 miles from Port au Prince, where the earthquake struck last January — but like Port au Prince, and most every other region of the country, it is an area of critical, persistent need.  The unemployment rate there mirrors the rest of the country, the living conditions are dismal and the local community is desperate for a ladder to climb.  With any luck, our factory will be open and operating by early summer … and while we’re starting small – 30 or 40 jobs to start – we’re hoping to grow to a point where we’ll need a workforce of 300 – 400 employees in the next few years.

Importantly, opening a factory in Haiti has some clear advantages for Timberland.  It will help us build our manufacturing capacity in a region that’s closer to our major markets; the abundant, motivated workforce is pretty attractive, too.  If the goal is to expand our manufacturing capacity in a manner and a location that makes economic and logistical sense, Haiti looks pretty good.

And as a company that’s committed to creating positive social and environmental impact at the same time we’re earning a buck, Haiti makes sense, too.  For nearly 2 years now, we’ve had a program in Haiti called Yele Vert which is all about reforestation and sustainable agriculture.  A little over a year ago we broke ground on the first Yele Vert nursery, with a vision of training local farmers to grow and cultivate trees, which would be sold (an economic boost for farmers and their community) or used to reforest the local hillsides.  While the earthquake took us (along with much of the rest of the world) temporarily off-track, it never took us off course.  A year later there are 6 Yele Vert community nurseries up and running at full capacity, with nearly 300,000 nursery-grown trees already planted by local farmers, and more than 100,000 slated to be planted in the next few months.

Since we’re already making social and environmental investments in Haiti, it makes sense – and is in our own best interest, if we want to see the Yele Vert vision become a blossoming reality – to invest our business there, too.  And with the establishment of a Timberland factory in Haiti, we’re completing the equation and living up to our own business model, which prescribes that commerce and justice should coexist and be mutually supportive.  I believe in our model of commerce and justice completely … and I’m as anxious as anyone to see it succeed in a country that is sorely lacking both.

Haiti probably doesn’t present as many compelling opportunities for other businesses as it does for Timberland, and I get that.  It’s a unique combination of right-place-right-time factors that have convinced us to make the leap and give it a try.  But the mentality that brought us to this point – regarding Haiti not as a repository for charitable giving and donations, but as a country that might in fact have something to offer us in the way of bottom-line business benefit – that’s the kind of shift in thinking I believe could be more valuable than check-writing and more profitable than a fundraiser.

Is going into business in Haiti a smart business decision?  That remains to be seen.  It certainly isn’t without substantial risks … but life, and business, is full of risks.  I for one choose not to dwell on “what if” and focus instead on what might be … more trees, more jobs, more stability for Haiti; a stronger, healthier relationship between an historically downtrodden country and the businesses and organizations that engage with it.

Crazy CEO fantasy?  Could be.  But as long as the fantasy is better than realty, I’ll be working toward it.

“They’re Gonna Feed Themselves”

“They’re gonna feed themselves.  They’re gonna be a proud, independent nation.”

Timberland President & CEO Jeff Swartz

To create real and sustainable community impact, you’ve got to involve community in the process.  Our second Yele Vert video highlights the critical role local residents play in the success of the Haiti reforestation program — from sifting soil and planting seeds to cultivating the trees that will provide long-term environmental and economic support.

To learn more about Timberland’s Yele Vert program — and to contribute to our reforestation effort in Haiti — visit www.Facebook/Timberland and start your own virtual forest.

Trees for Haiti

“Pouring money on top of dry land isn’t reforesting.  Reforesting is, you’ve got to come out in the dirt.  You’ve got to talk to people.  This is your home, this is our passion … how do we put those things together?”

Timberland President & CEO Jeff Swartz

We’ve just announced a commitment to plant five million trees in five years to help create sustainable solutions in Haiti and China — two areas plagued by the disastrous effects of deforestation.

To help illustrate the need for — and impact of — those five million trees, we’ve produced a series of videos about our Haiti tree planting project, Yele Vert.  Episode 1 appears below … and you can watch the entire series of videos on our YouTube channel.

Inspired to help?  Visit www.Facebook.com/Timberland and start growing your own virtual forest.  The more virtual trees planted, the more real trees we’ll put in the ground in Haiti.

Excited About Planting Trees

Since last Tuesday, September 28, I’ve been coming to work excited. I’m talking two-stairs-at-a-time excited. Excited about planting trees and excited to think about how to get other people excited about planting trees.

It was last Tuesday that I monitored Timberland’s quarterly stakeholder conference call about “The Real Impact of Tree Planting.”  (You can listen to the podcast here.) Our CEO, Jeff Swartz, hosts these calls to discuss with stakeholders (who range from other CEOs to non-profit leaders to influential environmental stewards to Timberland consumers), topics that directly impact Timberland’s CSR agenda. The goal of the call is to share with the participants ideas we consider, challenges we face and best practices we develop as we go about our business of making boots and being an environmentally and socially responsible company. Jeff and invited partners get the dialogue started and then the stakeholders share their thoughts, ideas and challenges.

The quarterly calls are stakeholder engagement at its finest. It’s a cool concept – stakeholder engagement. And guess what, it really works! I know because I witnessed it last Tuesday.

After Jeff and Dave Deppner from Trees for the Future, our partner in the Yele Vert tree nursery project in Haiti, set up the call with some really meaningful comments, the callers started asking great questions and sharing some valuable insight. These were extremely smart, engaged people from organizations like Alcoa, the World Wildlife Fund and the New York Restoration Project – people who really care about trees and are managing these truly impactful projects, just like the ones Timberland is supporting in Haiti and China.

The questions and the ensuing dialogue got me thinking about the commitment to plant five million trees in five years in Haiti and China that Timberland made at the 2010 Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) the previous week. I wondered; how can we a) get people to understand why we plant trees and why it matters; and b) get other companies to join us to exponentially increase the impact.

Yeah, increase exponentially. If Timberland and its partners, Trees for the Future and Yele Haiti, can build six tree nurseries in Gonaives, Haiti in less than six months by engaging and training the local farmers, who will eventually take ownership of the nurseries, imagine what can five companies like Timberland could do with the help of five partners like Trees for the Future.

If our six nurseries will produce more than 1 million trees per year at full capacity, imagine what 30 nurseries will produce in a year – 5 million! And if those 5 million trees we’re planting annually provide the local citizens with sustainable resources for food, fuel, shelter and watershed management – not to mention jobs – well, imagine how many houses we can build, homes we can heat, stoves we can fuel and mouths we can feed.

And imagine – this is what gets really exciting – if the local farming population, which is now trained and engaged at every level of forestry and agriculture, arrives at the juncture where their crop productivity has increased to the point where they can not only feed their families but have enough corn and rice and other corps left over to sell – for a profit – to the very companies that initially helped the farmer set up their tree nurseries!

And then imagine if each of those companies implemented creative ways, like social networks, to tell the story of the farmer and his tree nurseries to their consumers. The stories would excite the consumers and inspire them to tell their friends and those friends told their friends and so on and so on – to the point where the company gained more consumers, sold more products and were able to invest more dollars into building more tree nurseries.

Imagine. Isn’t it exciting to imagine?

So what’s next? I’m going to start reaching out to leaders at other companies and see if I can’t get them excited and interested in planting trees with us. And you? For starters, you can check out our new Facebook application where you can cause real trees to be planted in Haiti by creating a virtual forest. The more virtual trees and virtual forests, the more trees we’ll plant in Haiti – in addition to the ones we’re already planting there. And while you’re surfing around the app, check out the videos that chronicle our projects in Haiti and share them with your friends. Then, share your ideas on how to get people more excited about planting trees on the application’s Wall, or join the conversation on our Earthkeeper Forum.  If you’ve read this far, you’re now officially a Timberland stakeholder and as such, we welcome your engagement at any and all levels.

Imagine a company that wants to engage with its stakeholders about the simple act of planting a tree. Isn’t that exciting?

Margaret Morey-Reuner
Senior Manager of Values Marketing, Timberland

Tree Planting Recap: The Importance of Strategy, Collaboration, Engagement

This morning Timberland CEO Jeff Swartz hosted one of our regular CSR Stakeholder Calls. Coming off our commitment made to plant 5 million trees in the next 5 years (announced last week at the Clinton Global Initiative), Jeff was joined by Trees for the Future Founder Dave Deppner to talk about The Real Impact of Tree Planting. Our logo’s a tree and we’re an outdoor brand, so tree planting might seem like a natural connection for Timberland. But we don’t just plant trees for the sake of doing so — we’re committed to ensuring our tree planting efforts create positive impacts for people and the environment. And what’s more, we know we can’t do this alone.

Our friends at the New York Restoration Project(NYRP) eloquently stated the case on today’s call: having an effective strategy is necessary to be successful. In the case of NYRP, they’re deciding where to plant 1 million trees based (in part) on data that connects adolescent high asthma rates with a lack of clean air in local neighborhoods. This is not simply environmental restoration (a worthy cause unto itself) – it’s the creation of health, social and economic benefits.

This is the same model that Timberland uses. We truly believe that tree planting can be a viable way to create sustainable agriculture, environmental restoration and socio-economic development, whether we’re planting trees in the Horqin Desert in China, the Marston Vale forest just north of London, or in rural communities. The areas of need are too many to name. On this morning’s call, we took a virtual trip around the world – discussing tree planting projects that Timberland is involved in, as well as the work of many others. We started off with the reforestation work underway in Haiti, and stakeholder participants shared information about their own projects – such as the World Wildlife Fund’s project to restore tiger habitat in Nepal or The Nature Conservancy’s tree planting efforts in Brazil.

So here we’ve gone from Haiti to China to Nepal to Brazil – “all without getting on a plane,” as Jeff Swartz candidly pointed out (how’s that for having your CEO understand the connection to carbon footprint!). The point I’m making here is that Timberland can’t do this alone. We rely on partnerships with groups that have the know-how, technical expertise and commitment to empowering local communities to be active participants in our environmental stewardship efforts. And while our NGO partners are critical to implementing these projects, we also know that Timberland is but just one company what if we convened a group of brands and NGOs to come together to restore physical environments and create sustainable livelihoods for local people?

Now that’s a conversation I’m dying to have. Go to http://www.earthkeeper.com/Voices/Service to share information about your projects, aspirations, or ambitions. We’d love to hear your thoughts and engage with you further!

Beth Holzman
CSR Strategy & Reporting Manager, Timberland