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Rooted in Ethics: Ethics in Action

CASE STUDY 1 - International Tree Foundation (ITF)

Mainstreaming threatened species in the Upper Imenti Forest

Ethical Principle - 1. Honouring Trees 

Projects consider the existence and maintenance of ecologically and culturally significant trees.

Working Practice - 6. Land Use, Land Tenure & Biocultural Protocols

Actively encourage the growth of threatened and endangered tree species.

The Upper Imenti Forest was once a lush landscape populated with indigenous trees. Yet illegal logging and agricultural expansion took almost all the native species, devastating wildlife, food and water supplies. 

In 2020, we (ITF) joined TreeSisters to support a community group eager to restore the lost species of the Imenti, an organisation called MEFECAP - Meru Forest Environmental Conservation and Protection.

Working with the community and other Kenyan government institutions, ITF ran training sessions on how to identify indigenous trees and how to collect and propagate seeds. Using seeds collected from the forest, we created nurseries of threatened species.

When the nursery seedlings grow big enough, they're planted in the forest, and the results are incredible—already, dried rivers are flowing again, and wildlife is thriving. Local communities have seen young elephants roam the forest corridors. Antelopes, primates, and buffaloes are coming back to the area once again.

We also encourage the growth of threatened species with agroforestry. For example, the Meru Oak is a beautiful native tree that only grows in some parts of Kenya, but it’s been severely over-exploited for its teak-like wood. But when communities grow the Meru Oak on their farms, they experience its shade, harvest its fruits, and see it enrich the soil where they grow their crops. The rare Meru Oak becomes a precious part of their livelihood, flourishing both on farms and in the forest.  

So far, the community has identified and propagated four species of threatened tree

species that are native to Meru and have propagated these in the community tree


A group of women beneficiaries from the training are utilising the knowledge, collecting

the threatened tree seeds, which are in high demand, propagating these at the

nursery, and selling the surplus seeds. An ideal income-generating activity. The

trained women also pass on the knowledge to the rest of the community through peer

learning, demonstrating the propagation method and collectively

propagating the threatened species in the community nursery. The community

members are also encouraged to propagate these species in their home




Empowering women in Western Uganda

Ethical Principle - 6. Gender Equity & Including Women in Decision Making 

Deliberate efforts are made to ensure gender equity and active and equitable women’s leadership in the design, decision-making and implementation of projects, which are essential for attaining environmental and social justice.

Working Practice - 8. Pillars of Nature Relationships in Listening & Collaboration

Deliberate efforts are made to ensure gender equity and women's active and equitable leadership in design, decision-making, and implementation.

We’re (ITF) working to empower women and restore forests in Western Uganda, joining with our local partner, Alpha Women Empowerment Initiative (AWEI).

We work with AWEI to bring social and environmental change to poorer rural areas, focusing on nutrition, income and training. Often, the communities we serve are pitted against shortages and food poverty and forced to cut down the forest to survive. We’ve worked with AWEI to plant fruit trees, including jackfruit, avocado and grafted mango. As we work, local women are gradually empowered to plant for themselves, doubling their food supply and income.

Planting gives women the chance to become leaders, as well as new-found financial independence. ITF workshops and training on agroforestry, cultivation, and gender inclusion encourage this, adding to the skills participants learn just by raising seedlings for themselves.

Supported by ITF and AWEI, project participant Mary Biira planted and raised tree seedlings in her nursery, and it wasn’t long before she found herself training other families. Her knowledge and skills saw her take a leading role in her community by managing the seedlings in the nursery, leaving her “feeling happy, with the hope of a good environment and income in the near future”.

So far, over 1,000 women have been mobilised for agroforestry, and another 1,000 supported in mango grafting. Our work with Alpha Women is seeing women beat food poverty. They’re gaining independence and leading reforestation efforts. They’re becoming powerful agents of change.



Sowing seeds of life in Colombia 

Ethical Principle - 3. Collaboration & Ongoing Relationships

Respect self-determination and Free, Prior and Informed Consent. Original Nations and communities are initially and ongoing in decision-making processes as partners.

Working Practice - 2. Good Living for All

Efforts improve community access to healthy living systems, including water, soil, air, minerals, food, local economies and biodiversity.

Around Belén de los Andaquíes, in the Colombian Amazonian-Andean foothills, there are nine Municipal Natural Parks and a National Park protecting more than 40,000 hectares of primary and secondary forest, as well as all the rivers and streams that feed the Caquetá and Amazon rivers and provide water to the people of Caquetá.

Here, TreeSisters and CORDESPA (Corporation for the Sustainable Development of the Amazonian Andean Foothills) are working alongside local communities and organisations such as Tierra Viva, who for more than 30 years have fought to protect the forests and water sources and maintain biodiversity in the area. Together, we are planting 100,000 trees around Belén, contributing to the consolidation and restoration of biological corridors, the recovery and conservation of native species and the construction of nurseries.  The project also includes environmental education aims and the strengthening of communities through initiatives like ‘Women Sowers of Life’, which connects farming and indigenous women who for years have contributed to the care of the land.

One of these women is Silvia Eugenia Ríos Alvarado, who, as a girl participated in the environmental monitoring groups that Tierra Viva created, and now teaches her daughter how to lovingly care for the native seeds that germinate in the nursery built in her hamlet. She tells us, “I am happy in this nursery, I combine my work as a housewife with the care of the trees and I also improve my income. We want to continue the work and expand the range of species, as well as making use of the fruits of the forest, rather than cutting down the trees.”

With this initiative, we honour the Earth, forests and rivers that nourish and sustain us, while also strengthening the community connections with the land and deepening a lived experience of harmony with Nature, rather than dominance over it.


Indigenous-led forest restoration and food sovereignty in Acre, Brazil

Ethical Principle: 4. Community Rights, Land Tenure & Indigenous Data Sovereignty

Communities and individuals are supported to access and strengthen community rights and access to land tenure.  Biocultural Knowledge and data sovereignty are managed according to the protocols of the communities and Nations where they originate.

Practice represented:  2. Good Living for All

Supporting community organisations to build local food systems and their sovereignty through agroecology (ecologically sensitive farming), agroforestry and analog forestry.

Indigenous-led forest restoration and food sovereignty in Acre, Brazil

The Forest Garden project of the Yorenka Tasorentsi Institute in partnership with Aquaverde is an inspirational project focused on forest restoration and food sovereignty. Designed by Benki Piyãko, an Ashaninka leader and President of the Yorenka Tasorentsi Institute, the project is working to transform a degraded landscape invaded by African grasses into a flourishing native forest garden. This project not only reforests the landscape, protecting habitat and restoring biodiversity but also engages the community, uplifts indigenous practices and worldviews and provides sustainable and nutritious food for the local indigenous and non-indigenous population, including for local schools.

In his own words, Benki Piyãko describes how the project integrates reforestation with food autonomy.

 Benki Piyãko:

“It’s not just about growing fruit and planting trees to create vegetation cover for the earth, it’s also about the medicinal species and how they are developed in the agroforestry system. The agroforestry system brought us autonomy and self-sustainability in balance. Firstly our food, secondly for our financial situation, and thirdly our ability to see the agroforestry system as a self-benefit resulting from reforestation. We created benefits for ourselves through our reforestation because we planted a great variety of fruit species and we also planted hundreds of native trees that are not edible but are used as medicine. And they are the medicines that we use in our system. So this brings for us true sustainability in balance. This is how we were able to help many families with natural medicines and this knowledge, so that they could also develop this in their own parcels of land so that they could have these medicines around their houses. So this creates self-sustainability and self-economy in balance, also positioning our community and our home as a pattern at a level that is appropriate for a truly sustainable system with all this diversity. 

I see that the financial resources are very important but above all if you have your own parcel of land full of a diversity of fruits, woods, fish, food and all the species, you also have all the medicines at your home. Because the food, the fish, the meat, the vegetables and the plants are also our medicine. They are the essences. So this harmonises the whole system and provides everything that people need. This is one of the best models I have to show the world, and to show in our region. We have shown this in the pandemic for the whole population of our region. Only a system like this can create autonomy, self-sustainability, for a family, for a community, for a people, for a municipality or for a country. We have created integrative self-sustainability. It is the only system that can be adapted to a model at a level which is so much superior to so many models that people are creating of monoculture in the world. So I see that this is a model that can bring a sustainable balance and bring happiness for us all, joy for everyone who is eating. It’s a model of knowledge and intelligence but also of programmes that people can develop to keep their family alive and create self-sustainability.”


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