The late English forester and environmental activist, Richard St. Barbe Baker once said, “You can gauge a country’s wealth, its real wealth, by its tree cover.” An advocate of reforestation, he was certainly right on the mark.
Depleting our Earth’s forests does not only lead to an impoverished eco-system that is threatening animal species and contributing to devastating global climate change, it is also creating a vicious cycle of increasing poverty. It is estimated that every eight hours, we lose a piece of tropical forest the size of Singapore. This is pushing millions of already extremely poor indigenous people who are dependent on the forests for their livelihood into even greater poverty.
CapitaLand is well aware of the implication of the loss of our forests and has invested both time and effort to greening the planet.
Planting a Richer Future
Some of the lands of Tongwei County in Gansu Province are parched and cracked. The Chinese county in western China is one of 18 in the country ravaged by drought and one of 41 facing poverty. The people who have long eked out a living from the harsh land, battling poor natural condition now have little to depend on.
Last year, CapitaLand China participated in the Million Forest campaign to help areas such as Tongwei rise above their circumstances. The Million Forest campaign is a project jointly led by the China Green Foundation and The Climate Group and co-sponsored by the United Nations Environment Programme to help people in northwest China by raising funds to plant millions of sea buckthorn trees. For a donation of 5 RMB, a tree will be planted. CapitaLand donated to help the 12,500 peasants in the area plant 100 mu (the equivalent of 66 700 square metres) of sea buckthorn. It is the first and only real estate developer in the country to do so.
The hope is that these trees will mitigate climate change. In the last 50 years or so, temperature in the region has risen so much that average annual rainfall has fallen, increasing susceptibility to drought. The sea buckthorn’s root system, leaf structure and rapid growth allow them to get rid of carbon emission efficiently. If done right, the project which started in 2007 with Tongwei as a pilot county, the trees will be able to absorb a total of 150 million tons of carbon dioxide over 30 years. This will, in turn, help to reduce temperatures.
On the economic front, the trees will provide the farmers with a means of livelihood and improve their financial situation. Sea buckthorn is a particularly hardy plant. It grows well in rich sandy soil and mountainous regions and is good for fuel, feed, fertilizer and fruit. Restoring the natural vegetation will rehabilitate the severely degraded land as well, reducing soil erosion and improving water quality and water storage capacity, and improving local air quality. The improved ecological environment of Gansu Province will make the region less susceptible to droughts.
Growing a New Eco-conscious Generation
In Australia, Australand has also been taking part in a tree-planting exercise. For the fourth year running, it was part of the national Planet Ark’s Schools Tree Day. Across the continent, Australand’s staff in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth went to selected schools to plant gardens and to give them a green makeover. They worked with the schools and landscape architects to design the garden, sourced for suppliers to donate their products and worked with volunteers to deliver the trees and plants. They also prepared the site for gardening and eventually planted the trees and grass. A total of 1,103 trees, shrubs and native grasses were planted in a single day. This is the biggest community tree-planting project Australand has been involved in thus far and it aims to inspire and educate the locals about the care of their land and to grow another generation of custodians of the Earth.
The collaboration has led more community co-operations. Australand was also a partner of the Red Cross Schools Garden programme in Sydney and Perth. The endeavour is part of Red Cross’s Food Security Programme to address major issues of food insecurity in communities with high unemployment, low income and single parent families.
Australand’s staff volunteered to build large community gardens at schools and create outdoor areas for the children. The green areas are then used for lessons on healthy eating and food preparation as well as to foster a sense of ownership and pride in the school.
If wealth is truly measured by the number of trees a nation has, with these efforts, CapitaLand has certainly planted enough money trees to prosper generations to come.