Twelve years ago Barker and Stonehouse Managing Director, James Barker, aware of the ecological impact of the furniture industry, helped found Trees4Trees, a major reforestation project in Indonesia.
Since then the project has evolved into a not-for-profit foundation that has planted over a million and a half trees. But the project has not only helped prevent deforestation and improve carbon offsetting, it has also brought multiple social and economic benefits to the farmers and communities that live and work on the land. In fact, Trees4Trees have helped more than 15,000 farming families by teaching them skills to enable them to plant higher value species.
George Barker (pictured centre), the great grandson of the company’s founder, recently spent time at the project. Here he talks about his experience.
My first stop was the nursery where the trees and other plants are given the best conditions for healthy growth. The nursery provides work and education to the farmers helping them to maximise outputs and make the most of their crops.
The project’s education programme covers all aspects, from best planting methods to creating an understanding of the negative impacts on the planet of harvesting too many trees too soon. As well as practical agricultural support for farmers, Trees4Trees also provides general environmental education for the farming communities.
Through a deepening understanding of the issues of harvesting timber too soon, farmers have changed their practices to include crop circulation and the planting of other valuable crops. Now the timber cutting is managed sustainably ensuring long term prosperity for the communities and better ecological impacts.
Before my visit, I hadn’t realised that coffee is a key crop that the project also plants and harvests. The coffee plants help to condition the soil and ensure the farmers have a high-value faster yielding crop than could be gained from solely harvesting timber. The knock-on effect of this is that farming communities are able to earn a decent living wage without having to revert to harvesting too many trees too soon.
Trees4Trees has helped pull farming communities together to work for collective benefit, helping to stamp out the negative practices that were happening before the project started. The fact that farmers can now earn a decent sustainable wage has helped widen and deepen the work of the project and communities are thriving once again.
“Barker and Stonehouse have supported us throughout our whole twelve year journey. Their committed family interest in making our work successful has been invaluable to us and has helped make a massive difference to the reforesting activity here.” Daniel Saunders, Co-Founder of Trees4Trees.
A journey of experience
As a recent graduate with an interest in environmental issues, I jumped at the chance to travel to Indonesia for a month to learn more about the Trees4Trees foundation. My aim was to meet the team on the ground, and in the process, understand more about how we can continue to build on the successes to date. I also wanted to do my bit and work alongside some of the farmers, to experience all aspects of the work for myself. I met some inspirational people and was made extremely welcome by the local communities. The feeling I took away from this was how far things had come but also how much more there is we can do.
One of the simplest things I can do is ensure the project’s message and work becomes better known. I would like to encourage other firms to join with Barker and Stonehouse to support the scheme and to help consumers understand more about the products they are buying. Together we can all make a difference.
All of the trees planted by Trees4Trees are recorded by GPS to allow furniture buyers to see the location of their trees and information about the farmers growing them.
The main purpose of Trees4Trees, as far as we are concerned, is not just to have enough wood to make good furniture, it is fundamentally to ensure that the practices of our industry do not lead to yet more ecological issues. The furniture that contributes to Trees4Trees plantings, just so happens to be one of our bestselling ranges, proving in some sort of karmic way, that doing good can bring benefits in just about every way.
Take a look at some of our Trees 4 Trees furniture ranges.