What is the True Value of a Tree?

“Animals are the messengers of the tree, and trees the gardens of animals. Life depends upon life. All forces, all elements, all life forms are the biomass of the tree.” 
~ Bill Mollison, Permaculture: A Designers’ Manual

Permaculture guru Bill Mollison.

Our first plantation of 50,000 Lira trees is thriving and new opportunities are coming to light as we prepare to head back to Priceless Farms in Uganda, October 21st. A lot has happened over the past year and I’m going to send out a several reports over the next few weeks to bring you up to date.

In this writing we look back and put this Ventree Plantations idea into a broader perspective to answer the big question that is often blurred and lost in the mix of doing and perusing.

Why? Why are we doing this and why is it so important?

What is the bigger picture, the idea that makes this venture worthy of pursuing on a grand scale? Once one understands the depth and breadth of this adventure it stirs the imagination and it hits you at a visceral level. I’ve been watching this evolve over the past 14 years as Aaron (my son) has been working in the region and going through a long string of projects, relationships, connections, permaculture installations and learning centres; a seemingly chaotic journey but each connection along the way, was a step forward.

As it is with organic processes there comes a moment when everything bursts and blooms, suddenly, as though overnight—a doubling effect that surges exponentially and hits you between the eyes when you realize that what had appeared to be a daunting and onerous process is suddenly evident and real, happening so quickly you instantly see the vision with clarity. Lofty goals become tangible, real.

What are we doing? The BIG picture? The BIG idea?

We are Re-Foresting East Africa! And, we won’t stop there. This is a “Ripley’s Believe it or Not” moment for some but once understood, this goal is, as achievable, as it is imperative for the survival of our species. In our communications on this first plantation I don’t think we accurately described this longer-term vision of Ventree Plantations. So, I’ll take another run at it. I have stated this before, and it follows the wisdom of the quote above from Bill Mollison. I don’t remember the source of this quote, but it captures the purpose of our vision:

“Trees are the mother species of our planet. As the biggest plants on earth, they are vital to our survival. They give us oxygen, store carbon, build and stabilize soils and give life to the world’s wildlife. But because of destructive forestry and farming practices we are losing our forests. As a result, soil loss; desertification and global warming threaten our very existence. Propagating healthy trees and increasing the forest cover is the only path toward restoration.”

Let me add; “and survival.”

Our first plantation represents a 6 to 8-year plan during which the plantation will be culled in stages to harvest pole and craft wood lumber and finally the fully mature trees for their valuable timber. So, it’s reasonable to ask; how is growing trees and cutting them down for lumber actually building and recovering the high-canopy forests that once flourished on these now degraded lands—the victims of past destructive farming practices? It may seem that we are no different. Here’s the difference:

The slash and burn practices of many forestry companies, who then reluctantly re-plant a monoculture of seedlings, more to fulfill a public relations strategy than a practical re-forestation plan, are destroying the genetic diversity our forests, and these practices are being used world-wide. Depleted soils and desertification are the result and we are literally choking the life out of the planet and the animal species that live on it. That includes us. We may think that we are superior beings in some biblical sense but in the end, we are just as vulnerable as any other animal species.

We however, have the ability to do something about it. It will take a lot of thoughtful, determined people, excellent science and stewardship to turn this ship around. But like the example above, once the seed is planted and responsible care is given, that BIG IDEA blooms and explodes exponentially and like the seedling that, once established, will grow inexorably to become a tree. When you get it right it happens quickly. Trees are strong and resilient and once established and left unencumbered they propagate on their own.

Once again Bill Mollison gives use reason for shame:
“Though the problems of the world are increasingly complex, the solutions remain embarrassingly simple.”
Bill Mollison

Permaculture principled, agroforestry practices used on our plantations build and replenish soils through inter-cropping and preserving the genetics of the original forest through the preservation of the few that have survived, creating space for them to grow and provide cover and shade for the lower shrubs and root crops. The thinning and harvesting of the trees are done judiciously opening up areas underneath the canopy of the larger trees to be used for lower shrub, root species and food crops as well as supporting a variety of animal systems that weed, fertilize and support plantation management. This is the science of agriculture learning from and supporting the wisdom and inter-connected fecundity of the natural forest. Simple. The answer has always been right there in front of us.

The visible portion of a tree is a wonder to behold, but did you know that the biomass of the tree’s root system is equal to the mass of the tree above ground. When a tree is harvested properly, the biomass below the ground is not lost. That organic material is rich with  nutrients that feed, restore and build resilient, drought and flood resistant soils that nurture the next generation of growth. This is how jungles become jungles, teaming with life.

Our first plantation is a drop in the ocean but that drop will cause a ripple effect that has the potential to grow to grow quickly, exponentially. It is not too ambitious to say that we can re-forest East Africa. Look at how quickly our Lira trees have grown from a 6 to 10-inch seedling into an 8 to 10 foot tree in just 1-year. And consider that the biomass beneath the tree is equally large, creating soils that will sustain huge forests and support animal systems that depend on them.

This first plantation  will cause a ripple effect that has the potential to grow quickly and exponentially. The simple example of a handful of seeds demonstrates the potential for a plantation of thousands of trees. It is in our hands and is our responsibility to never waste a single seed. 

Re-forest East Africa! No problem. Then  the rest of the planet? You bet. Leonard Cohen Said it well: “First we take Manhattan then we take Berlin.”

Time to close out this missive. View the video below for a more detailed description of this grand idea. A presentation by Aaron Recorded back in May of this year when we had jut come through a drought that took 30% of our planting but we soon recovered and filled the gaps for a fully established plantation of 50,000 Lira trees. The video introduces the Moringa Tree  plantation and processing facilities soon to be completed; a project I’ll be telling you more about in up-coming reports once we land in Uganda.

Thank you for reading this far and thank you for your support.
Watch this video and “Dig It!!”

Kim Elton,
Partner – Ventree Plantations