What Is Agroforestry? How Nonprofit Grow Ahead Uses It to Fight Climate Change

Approximately 80% of global deforestation stems from agricultural production, contributing to 15-18% of greenhouse emissions. This widespread issue may seem overwhelming, leaving us feeling powerless against climate change. However, a viable solution might exist.

California nonprofit Grow Ahead champions agroforestry as a dynamic response to combat climate change. Agroforestry involves planting trees alongside crops in a food forest system, enabling farmers to replenish soil, water, and nutrients, boost food production, and remove carbon from the atmosphere. This approach benefits both the planet and the farmers themselves, as they can better

  • Meet community needs,
  • Generate income through fair trade product sales, and
  • Enhance climate resiliency

The Crisis of Inequality and Climate Change

Ryan Zinn is the Director and President of Grow Ahead and has worked in the food and farm justice movement domestically and abroad for over twenty years. When it comes to climate change, he sees its direct effect on poverty in many communities.

“We are facing a dual crisis of climate change and global inequality,” says Ryan. “Climate chaos is further impoverishing rural communities around the world. Unfair trade has meant that farmers and farm workers around the world face crushing poverty. While there are no silver bullets to address the challenges ahead, agroforestry projects, designed and implemented by local communities, have many benefits that go beyond cooling the planet and sequestering carbon.”

How Does Agroforestry Fight Climate Change?

Photo courtesy of Grow Ahead

When it comes to agroforestry, Ryan is very optimistic about its potential. “Agroforestry is a way of planting crops and trees together to improve social, economic, and environmental benefits.” In other words, agroforestry helps farmers restore water and nutrients to their soil, increase the production of food, and pull carbon out of the atmosphere.

“Agroforestry, when designed and implemented correctly, can enhance local food security, diversify and increase income for farmers, support biodiversity, and regenerate the water cycle. Importantly, regenerative organic agroforestry systems have proven resilient when faced with extreme drought, flooding, and storms as compared to conventional monocultures.

“Small farmer organizations in the developing world are historically under-resourced, with limited access to the capital needed to grow their organizations and invest in climate solutions.”

What Is Grow Ahead? How Does It Help?

Grow Ahead partners directly with small farmer organizations around the world to support and fund community-driven agroforestry projects. When compared to other “tree-planting organizations,” Grow Ahead is unique. The organization works exclusively with fair trade farmers and frontline rural communities to design and fund projects that meet their needs.

Ryan says, “Agroforestry has tremendous potential, but many small farmer organizations are often unable to access funding to support these projects. Grow Ahead aims to fill this gap by educating, advocating, and funding agroforestry projects that would not otherwise get funded.”

Grow Ahead is more than just a crowdfunding platform. It serves as a catalyst for change by uniting individuals, businesses, organizations, and grants to support community-led projects that tackle the pressing issues of climate change and rural poverty. With a focus on farmer-led agroforestry initiatives, Grow Ahead channels funds toward climate solutions while remaining accountable to frontline communities. By backing reforestation projects led by small-scale farmer organizations, they actively contribute to combating climate change and fostering community support.

Grow Ahead’s Community-Supported Impact

With donations and support from individuals and organizations, Grow Ahead has funded:

    • Campaign Goal: $10,000
    • Campaign Goal: $65,000
    • Campaign Goal: $50,000
    • Campaign Goal: $50,000
    • Campaign Goal: $40,000
    • Campaign Goal: $20,000

Learn more about Grow Ahead’s Impact

Grow Ahead and Dr. Bronner’s Cosmic Principles

Dr. Bronner’s Cosmic Principles guide us in everything we do, from soapmaking to peacemaking. When asked which of our Cosmic Principles resonates the most with Grow Ahead, Ryan responds:

“All-One and the Cosmic Principles are the foundation of our work. Cosmic Principle #4: Be Fair to Suppliers, is the principle that inspires and informs our work. To create a truly regenerative planet will require that fairness be our departure point. Our small farmer partners play critical roles in feeding their communities and the globe, safeguarding biodiversity through traditional knowledge, and cooling the planet through regenerative organic agriculture. We cannot protect the planet unless we are in solidarity with the millions of farmers and farmworkers actually doing the work.”

How Can Someone Get Involved and Support Grow Ahead’s Mission?

You can play a significant part in supporting Grow Ahead’s farmer-driven agroforestry campaigns by contributing directly at Growahead.org. Additionally, businesses can get involved by sponsoring tree-planting campaigns through contributions or participating in their diverse business partnership programs.

Currently, Grow Ahead has joined forces with The Association for Agricultural, Education and Environment Cooperation (ACAEMPE), an organization that represents small farmers in Pernambuco, Brazil. Together, they aim to plant 80,000 native species and fruit trees, fostering food sovereignty in the Caatinga and Atlantic Forest biomes of Brazil. This initiative involves collaboration between farmers, farmworkers, their families, and various entities such as family centers, youth groups, associations, and cooperatives. Discover how you can support this remarkable endeavor by visiting Grow Ahead’s Reforestation in Brazil Campaign Page.

Author Profile

Cristina Muñoz

Cristina Muñoz is Dr. Bronner’s Constructive Capital Project Specialist. She manages Dr. Bronner’s product donation program, facilitates funding requests, and event activations with nonprofit allies and campaigns. She loves treasure hunting at second-hand bookshops, hiking, and exploring new ways to embrace a slower, more sustainable lifestyle.

See all stories by Cristina Muñoz