The effects of climate change are already being felt in Malawi. 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.
The Clinton Development Initiative’s Trees of Hope project works to reverse deforestation by addressing issues of environmental degradation while making tree farming profitable for farmers in the Dowa and Neno districts of Malawi. The Trees of Hope project 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 the following systems: mixed woodlot; boundary planting; dispersed systematic inter-planting; citrus fruit orchard; and mango orchard. By using one of these systems, farmers profit from planting trees through the carbon credits they acquire. Already, farmers have sequestered 200,000 tons of CO2 – which are also certified by Plan Vivo – enabling farmers to immediately profit off their trees before they mature and become productive. In 2012, the Trees of Hope program made its first seven sales of carbon offsets, totaling 8,950 tons and providing $39,380 in income for farmers. To date, nearly $60,000 in payments have been made to nearly 300 farmers through Payment for Ecosystem Services (PES) agreements.
In addition to its economic benefits, the Trees of Hope project has been able to alleviate threats to the local ecosystem. 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.