Providing ecosystem, climate, and livelihood benefits to smallholder farmers in Malawi.
The Clinton Development Initiative (CDI) established the Trees of Hope project in 2007 in the Dowa and Neno districts of Malawi to reverse deforestation, mitigate the harmful effects of climate change, and bolster a self-sustaining marketplace by making tree farming profitable and attractive for smallholder farmers. The Trees of Hope project helps decrease the community's vulnerability to climate change by implementing tree-based land use systems, while also providing farmers with increased income from the sale of Plan Vivo certified carbon credits. Plan Vivo supports communities in managing their natural resources by quantifying ecosystem services. Through the Trees of Hope project, rural farmers in Malawi decide how they can best address threats to their local ecosystems by choosing one of five land-use systems. These systems represent responsible land management strategies that benefit the environment by reducing soil erosion and increasing soil fertility.

The effects of climate change are being felt in Malawi and frequent droughts, floods, and disruption of rainfall seasons are leading to decreasing water security, soil productivity, crop yields, forest cover, and biodiversity. Rampant deforestation and poor land management exacerbate the effects of climate change, including increased soil degradation. For the majority of Malawians that are dependent on subsistence agriculture, these changes in the environment threaten their livelihoods, putting them at risk for increasing incidence of poverty and diminishing opportunities.

CDI’s Trees of Hope project works to reverse deforestation by addressing issues of environmental degradation while making tree farming profitable. Trees of Hope is certified by Plan Vivo, a program which supports communities in managing their natural resources by quantifying ecosystem services through certificates sold to generate funds. Through Plan Vivo certification, rural farmers in the Dowa and Neno districts decide how they can best address threats to their local ecosystems by planting their trees through one of five systems. By using one of these systems, farmers profit from planting trees through the carbon credits they acquire. Farmers have already sequestered 200,000 tons of CO2—which are also certified by Plan Vivo—enabling them to immediately profit off their trees before they mature and become productive. To date, CDI has sold certificates for more than 30,000 tons of carbon.

In addition to its economic benefits, the Trees of Hope project has been able to alleviate threats to the local ecosystem and decrease the population's vulnerability to climate change. The trees contribute to reducing soil erosion by checking run off, improving soil fertility by increasing bio-diversity, and limiting deforestation through improved land management strategies. Furthermore, the Trees of Hope project decreases the population’s vulnerability to climate change not only with benefits derived from the tree-based land use systems, but also through increased income from the sale of Plan Vivo carbon certificates.