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Decolonising Restoration: A Community-Led Approach

The recent news that NGOs are beginning to recognise the potential for greater impact by shifting focus to local and grassroots organisations rather than large-scale agencies is a welcome one. The humanitarian aid system has often been accused of having a "colonial mindset,” one that overlooks the cultural knowledge and expertise of grassroots organisations.


TreeSisters shift from transactional tree planting at scale to a decolonised community-led and systemic way of working partly came on the back of understanding that less than 2.5% of donor funds go directly to local people.

We have always been about healing the Earth. Our early model for this was to plant trees. As many as we could from the generous donations of our supporters. While we are hugely proud of what we achieved during this time, through listening to our partners and with deep reflection we recognised that this model was not addressing the root causes of deforestation nor particularly serving the communities who live as part of the forest. We did not want to impose Western ways of restoring Nature on local communities, and we wanted to see more resources going to those who lived in and deeply cared for these lands. 

Because of this, we developed our Restoration Strategy, transforming our approach to tree planting and reforestation. We now prioritise community-led reforestation, which supports connections and relationships with Nature, rebalances power dynamics and respects the knowledge and wisdom of the communities living in these places.

As we continue to transition to this approach,  we are sharing this shift with our current partners and hope to influence other international forest restoration organisations to also reflect on these issues and consider the future we want to cultivate together.  

Our 5-year, co-created Rooted in Ethics framework and our Restoration Strategy provide the pathway we need to move from large-scale tree planting to holistic community-led restoration. Restoration that puts more resources, autonomy and ownership directly into the hands of the local communities that can do the most good with it.


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