San Diego Group Celebrates Planting Of 10 Million Trees
How many trees does it take to give some of the poorest people in the world a better future?
To the leaders of Plant With Purpose, the answer is easy: about 10 million.
The organization's 10-million-trees milestone has garnered the attention of the Arbor Day Foundation, which is set to award the group with its Good Steward Award later this month. The San Diego-based nonprofit, founded in 1984, has made a mission out of planting trees in poor, rural areas throughout the world as a means to help tackle both deforestation and poverty.
Much of the world's poverty is concentrated in small villages where deforestation has affected not only the environment, but also the economy. As land in farm-reliant places such as Tanzania, Burundi and Haiti is flattened, the main source of income for residents of those areas also diminishes. It's a lose-lose situation that Plant With Purpose has tried turn around for more than 30 years.
"We don't just say 'plant more trees because it's good for the environment,'" said Doug Satre, director of outreach and development for the organization. "But 'plant more trees because it's good for the environment and you'll be able to feed your family.'"
What's key to Plant With Purpose is the "teach a man to fish" philosophy. Satre said the group ultimately tries to put itself out of a job by giving the rural poor enough resources to grow into prosperity instead of relying indefinitely on an outside organization.
Satre said he's seen rugged hillsides, small villages and whole families transformed by the power of cacao, citrus and eucalyptus trees. Families that once could not afford to eat are now able to sell the fruit from trees or make furniture from the wood and use money to send their children to school.
Seeing the change in the livelihoods of those communities is powerful, Satre said. And it keeps Plant With Purpose focused on growing its mission to include even more countries in the future.
"We see (the first 10 million trees) really as just the start," he said. "We want to continue to grow ... and we're looking forward to the next 10 million."