Frequently Asked Questions
What exactly is a Forest Garden and are they unique to Trees for the Future?
A Forest Garden is a combination of trees, shrubs, fruits, vegetables, and grains, strategically planted to support one another, the land, and farmers. Forest Gardens are an example of agroforestry, which incorporates trees to protect and improve the soil. As opposed to the common approach to agriculture known as monocropping (planting and harvesting one crop), Forest Gardens are home to a diverse array of species, including food crops and medicinal crops which allows a farming family to improve their nutrition and stabilize their income. Lastly, Forest Gardens optimize space used in an area and spread harvest across time so that the farmer can get the most out of their land and the growing seasons.
Do you do other types of international development work beyond agroforestry?
Our expertise is in agroforestry, but we’re doing so much more than planting trees. Through the Forest Garden Approach, we’re able to achieve many important humanitarian and environmental goals. Farming families in our program are able to improve nutrition, income, and education. We’re improving water access and helping to connect communities to market opportunities. The trees planted through our approach are helping the environment, and they’re helping to mitigate the current climate challenges farmers are facing.
Agroforestry has a very important place in international development work, so we partner with other organizations to ensure that they’re getting the most out of this solution too. We work with organizations dedicated to water access, education, hunger alleviation and more.
What do all these words mean: agroforestry, permaculture, regenerative agriculture?
Agroforestry just means we’re integrating trees into farming practices. Agro (agriculture) + Forestry (forests/trees) = Agroforestry. An orchard of, say apple trees is not considered agroforestry. In agroforestry, we plant trees and other crops close to one another so that the crops can benefit from the tree, whether that’s through shade, protection from the wind, or the increased moisture in the ground and air.
Permaculture should be the ultimate goal of every farmer. Permaculture is a system of agriculture that allows the land and farmer to produce food and resources year round and often incorporates perennial crops (plants that come back year after year). Permaculture also relies on the natural processes of the land, allowing the farm or garden to care for itself to some degree. Perma (permanent) + Culture (agriculture) = Permaculture
Regenerative agriculture focuses on the health of the land and soil. Regenerative agriculture is becoming increasingly popular because our planet’s soil is disappearing at an alarming rate. Through regenerative practices, we can rebuild our soil as well as the natural (and very important) flora and fauna.
How long has Trees for the Future been around? What experience do you have?
Trees for the Future was founded in August 1989 by Dave and Grace Deppner. TREES has over 30 years of experience working with impoverished communities to improve their land and lives through regenerative agriculture. Our global team of passionate changemakers has vast experience in international development and agroforestry which enables us to provide the highest quality training and support to the communities we serve. Our 2019 Impact Report features a timeline of our history, check it out.
How do Forest Gardens improve the land and support the environment?
Trees are magnificent organisms that can help combat the negative effects of climate change. Trees provide oxygen, habitats, food, fuelwood, animal fodder, and much more. Forest Gardens take advantage of all of those benefits to sustainably revitalize degraded land and improve the lives of farming families. Through our Forest Garden Approach, we’ve proven that the integration of trees into agriculture and landscapes can help farmers transform their degraded soils into fertile land, increase water penetration into underground aquifers, prevent wind and soil erosion, and trap moisture and nutrients in the soils so that crops can thrive.
What does tree planting have to do with hunger and poverty?
Trees have everything to do with hunger and poverty, because when trees disappear from a landscape, so does moisture and soil, farmable land vanishes, opportunity disappears, and farming families are left with nothing. There is a direct link between poverty and deforestation throughout the developing world. Planting trees can effectively end hunger and poverty by improving land quality and productivity so farmers have a sustainable source of food and income.
What trees and produce are growing in Forest Gardens?
We have a variety of trees and produce growing in Forest Gardens depending on the location and the farmer’s needs. You can find a comprehensive list here.
How do you work with farming communities, is your program “grassroots”?
We understand that farmers have been taught techniques over generations and that our approach can seem too different or too risky. That’s why we employ local staff who understand the culture and speak the local language and who can explain the benefits and opportunity that the Forest Garden offers. We also spend months working with farmer groups and local officials to understand receptiveness and any potential challenges before we begin working in a new region. Once a farmer signs up for the program, local staff members work directly with farmers to train, distribute materials, and provide onsite consultation. Because of the training intensive nature of the program, once farmers graduate, they have the tools, resources, and knowledge they need to succeed without TREES.
How long does your program last? And do you leave the communities after the program is over?
Our program lasts four years. Through a phased approach, we work with farming communities for four years. After we mobilize staff in a region and ensure community interest (as explained in question eight above) we guide farmers through a series of steps to transform their field: Protection, Diversification, Optimization. At the end of the four years, farmers have designed, established, managed and optimized their Forest Gardens and we celebrate with a graduation ceremony. When farmers complete their training and graduate, we no longer need to provide direct support. However, many graduates have used the skills they honed during their training to educate others in the Forest Garden Approach, expanding our impact even further, and some even come on as staff.
Who owns the Forest Gardens?
Program participants (farmers) own their land and everything on it. With the support of our donors, we provide expert agroforestry training, seeds and tools while farmers provide their own land and entrepreneurial spirits to effectively implement the Forest Garden Approach.
Do you pay farmers to plant trees?
Trees for the Future does not pay farmers to participate in the Forest Garden Training Program. We provide in-kind training, seeds, materials, and tools to program participants. The Forest Garden Approach is a significantly different way of farming and we understand that in order for farmers to take the leap to join the program, we can encourage them with training and materials. We do not pay farmers to join the program because it can create the wrong incentive for them to plant trees and care for their land.
Is water an issue for the farmers you work with?
Water is a necessity in farming and in tree planting. We make sure that there is available water before starting a new project and we work with the local community to improve farmer access to water sources.
Water is the leading barrier to farmer success in the countries where we work, but that is exactly why we work there. Semi-arid regions like sub-Saharan Africa are losing tree cover at an alarming rate and when that happens the water dries up too. If we can repair the tree cover and soil structure in these regions, the rain can make its way to wells and aquifers below ground and the ecosystem will work as it is meant to.
Why doesn’t Trees for the Future use machines to plant?
Drones, robots, or AI technology are not effective tools for tree planting. While we the idea of dropping seeds over a field and watching a forest effortlessly appear, that isn’t what happens in reality. Even if it were, it wouldn’t be the sustainable solution that we need.
In barren, nutrient-sparse regions in need of reforestation, a tree seed needs care and attention if it’s going to grow into a mature tree. A machine could plant the seed, but it can’t nurture the tree. A Forest Garden farmer has a vested interest in the success of every tree planted on their land, they make sure that seedling makes it to maturity. When humans connect with trees, there is a connection with nature that is sparked and this effort goes beyond what any machine could do.
If drones could plant millions of trees with a low mortality rate, we still wouldn’t be solving the root problem. The way farmers grow food is detrimental to our land and planet. As long as farmers and Big Ag companies focus on clearing land and growing swathes of monoculture crops, mass tree planting efforts will be in vain.
What is carbon sequestration and how much carbon do Forest Gardens remove from the atmosphere?
Carbon sequestration is a natural process in which organic matter (trees, plants, soil) takes in carbon dioxide and stores the carbon. Trees and healthy soil organic matter are excellent ways of storing carbon over many years, and our approach supports long-term carbon sequestration.
On average, a Forest Garden offsets 144.64 metric tons of carbon dioxide per acre of land over 20 years.
What countries do you work in?
Right now, we have projects in Kenya, Senegal, Tanzania, and Uganda. We also work in Cameroon, Gambia, Mali, and The Central African Republic through partnerships.
In our 30 years, we have worked all around the globe and currently offer remote training to anyone who needs it through our Forest Garden Training Center.
Why do you only work in Africa currently?
We’ve worked in more than 60 countries around the globe, but despite all the good we were doing, it was difficult to measure the impact and capture the data we needed to change minds and behavior.
We decided to focus our work in sub-Saharan Africa because of the climate, the need, and the potential. Farming families in semi-arid Africa are living in hunger and poverty and they are on the frontlines of the climate crisis. By working with these farmers and measuring the improvements of their land and livelihoods, we are proving that the Forest Garden Approach, agroforestry, and permaculture are promising solutions to hunger, poverty, and environmental degradation. And although our offices and staff are in sub-Saharan Africa, we are currently reaching farmers and international development actors around the world through our online Forest Garden Training Center and app. Our goal is to make this proven solution available to everyone.
Do you offer training outside of the countries where you work? Can I learn how to use the Forest Garden Approach on my own land or for the benefit of an organization I am involved in?
We do! Our Forest Garden Training Center is available online and through a mobile app and all the resources and training materials are free and open to the public. Visit the training center to learn more.
Depending on the location and organization, our staff can offer what we call Training of Trainer workshops. Click here to inquire.
Finances, Donations, and How to Get Involved
How do I know Trees for the Future is a trustworthy and accredited organization?
We’re glad you are taking the time to research where you donate. Trees for Future is a top-rated, award-winning organization. We are regularly reviewed and rated by the world’s leading charity watchdog groups, see our latest reviews and awards. As a 501 (c)(3) nonprofit, we undergo an annual independent audit and all of our audited financial reports are available to the public.
Where do I go to donate?
Can I donate in honor of someone else?
Of course! Click here to make a donation in someone’s honor. We will send you a certificate in their honor.
Where does my money go when I donate to Trees for the Future?
When you donate to Trees for the Future, you’re doing more than planting trees. You’re helping our team provide world-class agroforestry training, supplying necessary training materials, seeds, tools and biodegradable tree sacks. Your donation holistically supports our mission to end hunger, poverty and deforestation. We are diligent to ensure that every cent possible goes towards the efficacy of our programs.
Where can I find your financials?
Can I volunteer for Trees for the Future?
TREES appreciates the countless volunteers we’ve had over the years. During COVID-19, our volunteer opportunities are limited, but you can still offer your time and energy as an ambassador or by hosting a fundraiser. Visit our Ways to Help page to find out more.
Where does Trees for the Future get its funding?
The majority of our funding comes from our brand partners, these range from small, family-owned businesses to large corporate companies. The support we receive from socially and environmentally conscious individuals is rapidly growing. We also receive funding from foundations and government organizations.
What companies support Trees for the Future?
Check out our brand partnerships page for more information on companies that support our mission.
Can I donate cryptocurrency to your organization?
Yes, you can donate your cryptocurrency! Donating cryptocurrency is a non-taxable event, meaning you do not owe capital gains tax on the appreciated amount and can deduct it on your taxes. This makes Bitcoin and other cryptocurrency donations one of the most tax-efficient ways to support your favorite cause.
Visit our crypto page to learn more or to make a crypto donation.
How can I start a fundraiser for your organization?
Thank you for your interest in fundraising for our organization. Visit our Fundraisers page for more information on how to get started.
Can I visit one of these Forest Gardens?
We are happy to help organize field visits for our active Harvest donors and business partners. Supporters who visit the field are responsible for all costs.
I'd like to donate through PayPal. How do I do that?
Thank you for supporting our mission. If you prefer to pay with PayPal, you can donate through our PayPal Giving Fund.
I’m an individual donor, who can I talk to about my donation?
We appreciate your support! For more information about your donation, please contact email@example.com and someone will get back to you within 2 business days.
I would like to inquire about donating as a business. How can I do that?
We are so grateful to have you consider donating to us as a business. Please fill out this form and a member of our team will be in touch within 2 business days.
How can I become a brand ambassador?
Thank you for your interest in becoming a brand ambassador. Please visit our ambassador page for more information and to fill out a short form to sign up. Once you submit your request, we’ll be in touch within 2 business days.
I want to present about Trees for the Future to my class, how can I do that?
Whether you are a teacher looking for more lesson material or a student working on (what will be an amazing) report, we have a plethora of resources available to you. You may want to start with our short documentary. If you’re looking for technical information about agroforestry, visit the training site. You can also pull information from our blogs. If you need additional information or need to ask us a few questions, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org and we will support you in this endeavor.
My child wants to get involved, how can they do that?
I have a general inquiry, who should I contact?
Thank you for your interest in our work. For general information, please contact email@example.com.
I am an international donor (outside of the U.S.) and I’m having a difficult time getting my donation to go through. What should I do next?
If you live outside of the U.S. and are interested in donating to Trees for the Future, the easiest way for you to donate would be through a wire transfer. If you attempted to make a donation through our donation platform and your bank’s currency is not in U.S. dollars, it is possible that your bank has tagged the payment as fraudulent. We’d recommend contacting your bank to verify that the payment was intentional and legitimate, and then try the process again. If you have any further questions, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
How do I change my monthly giving method of payment, monthly giving amount or stop my recurring payments?
As a supporter, you can manage your recurring donation by logging into your Classy account. Please follow these instructions to do so:
Open your Supporter Page
- Sign into your Classy account
- Navigate to the Recurring Donations section
- Select Edit Donation under the recurring donation you want to edit
Edit Recurring Donation
- From here, you can edit the credit card information and the billing address for your recurring donation. Make sure to click Save to update your donation information.
If you need additional support, please contact email@example.com.