Addressing Tree Inequality is Key to Achieving the SDGs
People surviving on less than $1.90 daily live in extreme poverty, which accounts for 9.2% of the global population in line with a 2021 World Vision report. With worldwide disruptions to economic activity amid the COVID-19 pandemic, progress against global inequality is continuously under threat, especially as 97 million more individuals fell into extreme poverty in 2020 the World Bank testified. A 2020 ForestNation report has revealed a causal relationship between tree canopy and income, stating a clear association between high income and green-rich areas. One can see this trend on the island of Montreal, highlighting an apparent discrepancy between the prosperous Town of Mount Royal and a low-income neighborhood, Parc-Extension.

According to a 2021 CBC News Analysis of City of Montreal and Census Data, the average household income for the former accounts for $110,000, equating to 30% tree cover. Meanwhile, the latter assumes a median income ranging from $32,000 to $40,000 with only 6%-15% tree cover.

Addressing Tree Inequality is Key to Achieving the SDGs

Planting trees in both rural and urban areas strengthens the world’s economic systems by introducing new opportunities for employment and trade. The timber sector validates this, generating worldwide economic contributions worth $600 billion, equivalent to 1% of global Gross Domestic Product (GDP), while also providing a total of 54.2 million formal and informal employment opportunities as per the World Bank.

According to the Global Assistance Report, trees provide valuable nutritional support necessary for eradicating food insecurity. One billion of the world’s population relies on forests to secure food, with women and children resembling an unprecedented share. This illustrates how addressing tree inequality is key to achieving the SDGs via reducing inequality and hunger and improving human welfare, livelihood and food security.

Trees help improve agriculture by creating an environment favorable for growing crops. By regulating the temperature and improving moisture, trees reduce soil salinization and make crops less sensitive to weather fluctuations and especially violent winds. Recognizing that agriculture assumes an essential role in enhancing worldwide economic development, accounting for 4% of global GDP according to the World Bank, this highlights one way how addressing tree inequality is key to achieving the SDGs by attaining economic growth and improved standards of living.

UNICEF defines quality education as access to rudimentary literacy and numeracy skills for every human irrespective of one’s origin. ForestNation shows that planting trees can improve a student’s cognition and linguistic, scientific and mathematical proficiency. Trees can widen students’ knowledge of environmental and ecological matters, as well as spark curiosity and innovation amongst them, which illustrates the positive ramifications of expanding access to trees in education.

Positive Work Across the Globe

Several organizations have launched various worldwide efforts to lead reforestation. Since 2015, ForestNation, a for-profit sustainable business, has aided Tanzania in planting trees across the country. Today, the number of trees that the business planted exceeds 1 million, which brings eminent contributions to Tanzania’s wealth. For example, every 100 fully grown fruit-bearing trees including mangos and bananas generate around $173 in income. Knowing that agriculture represents one-quarter of Tanzania’s GDP, indicates significant economic development within the country.

In Morocco, the country sought to lead an initiative to overcome the country’s susceptibility to drought, collaborating with civil society, the government aims to plant 800,000 trees by 2024 in varying parts of the country. Such a partnership aims to reinforce the agricultural sector’s strength and provide food sources necessary for socioeconomic development, particularly since agriculture assumes 30% of Morocco’s employment and 20% of GDP.

To build inclusive development among rural and urban areas across Turkmenistan, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) aided a tree planting campaign on the national level. Following training sessions that USAID funded, and with support from several local community, private sector and administrator representatives, around 5,000 fruit-bearing tree seedlings have undergone implementation in two different project areas. Such a sustainable endeavor plays an important role in developing Turkmenistan’s agriculture and widens its income sources according to the UNDP.

Overall, tree equality has proven effective in enabling the world to stay on track to achieving the SDGs by 2030, as the positive impact of trees can trickle down from addressing poverty to other SDGs.

– Noor Al-Zubi
Photo: Flickr