Imagine a world where merely growing commercially useless trees in your garden gave you a monthly income. Located in the southwest part of the tropical island paradise of Sri Lanka, a groundbreaking re-forestation project is improving the living standards of impoverished local farmers, while at the same time providing a host of much needed eco system services.
The Hiniduma Bio Link was conceived to create a vitally needed link between 2 of the 180 plus distinct patches of remnant rainforest in Sri Lanka. One of world’s bio diversity hotspots, Sri Lanka has only a dismaying 4% of its estimated original rainforest cover remaining. Large scale plantations and deforestation by adjacent communicates have added onto the destruction of the once thriving rainforest.
The Pilot phase of the bio link was inaugurated on the fringes of the patch of rainforest known as ‘Kanneliya’. The project engages with the rural farming communities living on the border of the rainforest, and enlists them in helping to fight climate change through affirmative environmental action. Experts in Forestry and Bio Diversity from the Carbon Consulting Company (CCC) and its specialist consultants, selected an optimal mix of tree species carefully designed to match the bio diversity of the rainforest. These saplings are grown in nurseries managed by the Forest Department as well as by the participant farmers and are then planted on selected sites chosen by keen eyed specialist team members of CCC. Participant farmers give written undertakings to monitor and nurture the trees for a 15 year period to ensure they reach full maturity
Utilizing the principal of ‘Analog Forestry’ the project plants these rainforest trees on unutilized and underutilized patches of land belonging to the participant farmers. Once fully grown, the plants will add a vitally needed dimension of biodiversity to the land giving added value by creating a natural corridor or ‘bio link’ between rainforest patches and providing a much needed boost to both fauna and flora. The project was the first of its kind in the Asian region and uses carbon finance mechanisms to partially fund itself. The carbon sequestered by the newly planted trees is quantified and after independent expert verification from the UK, is registered for carbon credits under the Plan Vivo standard – a global standard known for its focus in community based carbon sequestration projects.
The first batch of credits were sold to UK’s Marks and Spencer to create the world’s FIRST carbon neutral bra. Since then several international and Sri Lankan corporates have partnered with the project both in purchasing offsets or funding partial costs of planting the trees. The pilot phase will have approximately 15,000 trees in the ground by the end of the year, with over 50 participating farming families on the books. With a stipulated percentage of the obtained funding being paid to the participants, the project estimates that it has been responsible for the increase of between 15-20% in the average declared household income of its participants. So while saving the planet is never going to be easy, for some rural communities in the tiny island of Sri Lanka, money CAN grown trees !