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Pakistan’s Billion Tree Honey plan could create 87,000 green jobs

What’s happening? Pakistan could generate PKR43bn ($270m) in revenues with the recently launched Billion Tree Honey initiative, which aims to reforest the country and boost the domestic honey sector, with an estimated potential annual production of 70,000 mt. Prime Minister Imran Khan said 70% of Pakistan’s forest cover had been replaced by concrete, but the beekeeping and tree-planting programmes, boosted by agreements signed between several organisations, would improve air and river pollution.

Why does this matter? This follows a national green recovery drive, with Pakistan recently ruling out coal-fired power plants and implementing a $650m reforestation initiative. Its government is currently in the first phase of planting 3.25 billion trees, as part of the five-year “Plant for Pakistan”, or “10 Billion Tree Tsunami” project as it is alternately known.

Such initiatives should be welcomed domestically given Pakistan is particularly susceptible to climate risk. It ranked fifth-highest among countries most exposed to climate change, according to the Global Climate Risk Index 2020, despite only contributing under 0.5% of global greenhouse gas emissions.

At the same time, the country has only around 5.2% forest cover – compared to a global average of 31%. Its regional neighbours, including China and India, both also have higher forest area, at 21.9% and 21.67%, respectively.

China has undergone significant reforestation since its 1999 “Grain for Greenprogramme, to reach this level. As the world’s largest ecological restoration project, the programme had multiple benefits, as it simultaneously sought to address poverty alleviation by engaging poor rural households. The nationwide programme paid farmers to convert land into grass or trees, with generally positive results, though questions remain as to how farmers’ livelihoods will be sustained, and whether government subsidies will continue into the future.

There have also been innovative developments in India recently, with the Carbon Neutral Meenangadi Project which embraces a “tree mortgage” scheme. Residents can “mortgage” individual tree saplings they have planted, obtaining an interest-free loan with repayment only required if the tree is cut down. The project has reportedly benefited stakeholders at all levels. Farmers have notably increased their income via the initiative, which is sponsored by a $1.38m grant from Kerala state.

Meanwhile, Ethiopia is aspiring to double its forest cover from 15.5% to 30% by 2030. With plans to plant five billion tree seedlings, it is using reforestation to spur the creation of green jobs, its citizens’ health and the nation’s economic recovery from the pandemic.

Colombia has also sought to reduce deforestation as part of its recovery plan. It is aiming to plant 180 million trees by August 2022. In conjunction, the Colombian government is seeking to harness agropastoralism to restore ecosystems. With rising cases of illicit deforestation among the South American continent’s Indigenous lands, this is also an issue for neighbouring countries such as Peru and Bolivia to address.

It’s not solely in emerging markets – or even rural areas – where tree planting is being turned to as an environmental solution. The city of Los Angeles, for example, has made use of technology provided by Google’s Tree Canopy Lab. By deploying aerial images, which can be viewed at a neighbourhood level, such solutions help cities track environmental metrics – from tree cover density, to emissions – which could be essential towards meeting net zero and green recovery targets, while identifying where planting trees could have benefits.

Lateral thought from Curation – Could future smart cities go further than just the application of technology-led innovation and see the coming together of urbanisation and agropastoralism with the repurposing of under-utilised commercial property into vertical farms, an increase in urban greenery and other initiatives that lead to both ecological and well-being benefits?

Abir Qazilbash

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