TEND: a farmer-led fix for our planet
One-line solution summary:
A digital platform that connects a youth workforce with farmers to tend forests, share knowledge, and restore dignity at scale
Pitch your solution.
Climate change threatens the well-being of people and the planet. In response, NGOs and private companies are working to reforest large areas throughout the tropics. Unfortunately, only 1.7% of the funding for these projects reaches rural households, thus perpetuating the very economic and social disparities that leave people vulnerable to climate change. What if, rather than scaling trees, we scale the ability solve? Our digital platform will recruit underemployed youth who have familial ties to rural areas. The platform will provide them with digital training in forestry, remote sensing, and culture. The platform will link the youth to farmers, who they will go visit, inviting them to use their traditional tools and knowledge to propagate and grow trees. The young people will visit the farmers over time, documenting the tree-growing using digital tools, enabling accounting for carbon and benefits livelihoods and ecosystem resilience. Farmers will also be able to share their knowledge and wisdom through digital storytelling tools accessible and curated through the platform. We aim to provide green jobs to nearly a million marginalized youth and reach 45 million farmers throughout the developing tropics during the next five years. By restoring dignity to the farmers who tend to the land and building a new generation of forest technicians, we will share and promote the ability to solve.
What specific problem are you solving?
Society is increasingly aware of the urgency to address climate change. To act in time, countries must reduce emissions and transform economies, while also finding ways to remove atmospheric carbon. Tropical trees are the most efficient and measurable way to fix greenhouse gases. For the past 15 years, carbon finance has sought to scale forest-based projects, relying on private and public finance and working through NGOs, governments, and private carbon companies. Unfortunately, with this top-down approach, only 1.7% of climate-change finance reaches rural households. This system perpetuates disparities that increase vulnerability to climate change. They also contribute to rural flight to urban areas and second countries where the quality of life declines. Research has shown that as people migrate to cities and agricultural exports increase, deforestation goes up. By excluding a billion farmers and indigenous people from the climate change solution, the world misses out on the opportunity to reduce greenhouse gases while also improving local economies and climate resilience.
What is your solution?
Our solution is a digital platform for youth and farmers. First, our solution will recruit and provide forestry, cultural, and story-telling training to youth in the developing tropics. The target demographic is the youth who were born in rural areas and have migrated to cities for educational or labor opportunities. These young people can navigate smartphones and digital social networks, and yet often lack the social connections to gain stable employment or are distanced from their familial roots. They also have a figurative ‘passport’ to visit and relate to farmers from their geography. Youth will use “prompts” or conversation starters, allowing farmers to take the lead in showing how trees are grown. Youth will follow up by teaching farmers how to use the digital platform to share their tree-growing techniques with other farmers and to measure tree growth through satellite telemetry. Finally, the platform will enable the world to see the impacts and importance of rural farmers, and thereby will enable a mechanism for digital payments and social recognition and rewards. Youth will find status as solvers of climate change and purpose as connectors between global society and their communities.
Who does your solution serve, and in what ways will the solution impact their lives?
Farmers in the tropical regions use machetes to clear land, hunt for game, cut firewood, and to harvest crops. Most often these uses are extractive, perhaps encouraged by a colonial past.But, farmers can also use machetes to help grow trees, quickly. 80% of tropical trees can reproduce without a seed. A cut to a stem or root by a machete can stimulate a sprout to grow, one that can quickly spring up to become a tree. Other young trees are shaded out by grasses and vines, but a machete can be used to tend to the tree and remove competing plants.
With nearly a billion small-scale farmers in the rural moist tropics and an estimated population of 3 billion people, the potential to grow trees on 2 billion hectares of marginal, degraded or uncultivated lands could turn the tide against climate change and improve people’s lives.
Each farmer and indigenous person carries a deep wisdom for tending to plant and forest growth. Yet their knowledge is economically remaindered. So their kids “make do”, and their grandkids leave their land, often becoming undervalued workers in urban areas. Farmers do not want to leave their land and are worried that their children will not come back. But why would a farmer want to change how they use their machete. Research has found that farmers are motivated to contribute to a greater good and to clarify their land tenure. We found a similar thing in our ethnographic study. In our study of machete use, we learned that farmers have deep knowledge on how to use their machete to grow trees and manage vegetation, and they are eager to share their knowledge when treated with dignity and interest by young adults they recognize from their communities.
But what about the youth? The youths are dual citizens. They understand their traditional farming cultures and love coming home to their remote families and communities, and importantly, they understand how to use interface with the world through technology. Youth from rural areas often migrate to the cities, seeking educational and employment opportunities. They often end up working in factories or in the informal sector. And many, end up unemployed and living in urban slums. In many tropical countries youth unemployment is greater than 20%.While the youth might seek validation from the world through jobs and financial opportunity, they also seek connection and identity.The young generation is connected globally, and is conscious of the global climate crises and the needs of our future. But the people on the land with the knowledge and the skills to grow trees are the farmers. A connection can be made.
Which dimension of the Challenge does your solution most closely address?Provide scalable and verifiable monitoring and data collection to track ecosystem conditions, such as biodiversity, carbon stocks, or productivity.
Explain how the problem you are addressing, the solution you have designed, and the population you are serving align with the Challenge.
This technology-based solution will help vulnerable people who live on marginal lands to restore and sustain ecosystems and the social fabric of their communities. The impact of this restoration work will be visible and monitored through forest-based digital technology. Youth leaders who use this platform will receive financial benefits, and over the long term, carbon finance and corporate partnership can enable financial viability. The long-term sustainability of this program rests in its future-oriented approach which builds a new generation of foresters and farmers who know how to practice a diverse range of forestry and agroforestry techniques. Knowledge-sharing also strengthens them.
In what city, town, or region is your solution team headquartered?Ventura, CA, USA
What is your solution’s stage of development?Prototype: A venture or organization building and testing its product, service, or business model.
Explain why you selected this stage of development for your solution.
We are presently testing the analog of this platform in four countries while we build out the digital infrastructure.
Who is the Team Lead for your solution?
Dr. Sarah Otterstrom
What makes your solution innovative?
It combined job development with addressing poverty and social marginalization in society as part of a solution to address climate change and to build more resilient ecosystems. The solution can reach scale by catalyzing positive social interactions, not just by efficiently planting trees that are selected and managed in a top-down way.
Please select the technologies currently used in your solution: