The Tree Bank: Forest Restoration as Rural Development

By Angela Kim

Based in the mountain area of Los Cerezos, between the Dominican Republic and Haiti, the Tree Bank/Hispaniola project is helping to improve the incomes of impoverished smallholder farmers and restore native forests in the region. Earth Sangha, a nonprofit Buddhist environmental organization committed to forest conservation, started the Tree Bank in 2006 and recently launched its blog series called First-Hand, following the project’s work with local farmers in the Dominican Republic-Haiti border.

The Tree Bank/Hispaniola works with local Dominican partner organization, the Asociación de Productores de Bosque de Los Cerezos. (Photo credit: The Tree Bank/Hispaniola)

The Tree Bank’s mission is to create a system in which tropical farming is more compatible with native forests. By encouraging local family farmers to participate in conservation practices while producing their conventional crops, the Tree Bank strives to expand the function of smallholder farming to include ecological restoration services. Currently, the Tree Bank is working with twenty small farms and five programs, including a community nursery, native tree plantings, a farm microcredit system, an agroecology model, and the Rising Forests coffee brand. The coffee is shade-grown under the forest canopy of the region and produced exclusively by farmers involved in the program. Sales may come in the form of crops such as Rising Forests coffee, carbon or biodiversity credits, and direct donations for conservation.

Matt Bright, the Tree Bank’s Coordinator and author of First-Hand, writes the blog to show the concrete process and results of the Tree Bank’s efforts, from coffee development to conservation easements. Moreover, he connects readers and viewers to the local people working together on the rural development programs, from smallholder farmers to schoolteachers and doctors as well.

To read more about Earth Sangha, check out this post: “Earth Sangha Announces ‘Rising Forest Coffee”

Angela Kim is a research intern with the Nourishing the Planet project.

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