TreeBot and Token Hackathon

In Africa, trees mean life.

Trees have the potential to capture people’s imagination at unparalleled scales, but could the future of money be tied to this very visual part of almost everyone’s daily life?

This week, an ambitious hackathon proposal figured out how, using a chat bot and the ethereum blockchain.

Global reforestation has proven appeal. In 2007, the UN launched a one billion tree campaign. Two years later seven billion trees had been planted. And two years after that twelve billion trees had been planted.

Map of worlds degraded land. Source: Bonn Challenge

Just last month, an ambitious goal to restore 150 million hectares of degraded land succeeded in securing pledges exceeding this number from over 40 different countries. This initiative — called the Bonn Challenge — is described as a “marching flag” that anyone can pick up.

And that is exactly what the Blockchain Education Network team did when they decided to partner with Fraser Brown, a consultant working for the initiative, towards an entry to the Token Hackathon.

Restoring forests is not easy. Efforts to restore land through contract-style “tree planting” fail endlessly due to a range of issues from poor design, lack of maintenance, or careless practices. However, just as deforestation efforts are increasingly realising that the most effective way to protect the forest is through the communities that live there, so reforestation efforts are realising that communities are the key to success.

TreeBot engages communities in tree planting through an interactive web3 browser running on the ethereum blockchain.

Restoration is possible

The story of China’s Loess Plateau is beautifully told by John D Liu in this documentary, and the pictures below demonstrate what is possible.

Loess Plateau early September, 1995
Loess Plateau early September, 2009

Similarly, Forest Managed Natural Regeneration or FMNA pioneered by World Vision has had remarkable effects in Africa. In this system, farmers are trained about the benefits of trees, and make informed decisions about protecting individual trees.

Niger 1975
Niger 2005

Pictures are from permaculturenews.org

Trees bring many benefits such as securing water supply, supporting bees and honey, fertilising soils, providing shade from the hot sun, sticks for climbing bean crops, etc, but commercial solutions are elusive. An economic incentive that encourages communities to plant trees would significantly support the Bonn Challenge.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature has seen remarkable success in Uganda through Community Environment and Restoration Funds (CECF). Over 175km of river banks and wetlands have been protected and restored by communities that received a small cash fund, which they then operate as a village savings and loan scheme bundled with commitments relating to the protection and restoration of their land.

For example, near Lira in the North of Uganda vulnerable communities poverty stricken after years of conflict were forced to cut down valuable Shea trees for charcoal. Through CECF’s the communities were able to stop the destruction of this valuable asset (better reserved for Shea butter and other high-value products.)

Arriving at a community in Uganda to discuss how to scale tree planting efforts
A tree nursery set up by an entrepreneur in Uganda funded by money from CECF

This idea of tying practical environment and conservation practices to financial incentive led the Token hackathon team to understand how a TREE bot in the Token app could be designed in such a way as to effectively channel potentially unlimited financial resources efficiently into community-led global reforestation.

Tree bot offers a way to remunerate communities for ecological restoration and protection activities.

But the team’s ambition stretches much further than the Token hackathon. They believe that a tri-cryptotoken solution could be possible and would make sense for adoption by governments globally. A dollar-pegged token could secure rewards for tree planters, a vesting token that appreciates as trees grow would encourage forest protection, and a TREE token from which the other tokens derive their value could become a prominent global world-saving cryptocurrency.

The new cryptocurrency could work seamlessly with new Central Bank Crypto Currencies meaning essentially that the country’s Natural Capital would be captured on their Sovereign Blockchain supporting sovereign sustainability factors, and the incomes derived from tree planting activities and pegged to the US dollar would be no less important than, for example, dollar revenues from tourism.

The Bonn Challenge has been extended by an addition 200 million hectares of land to 350 million hectares, and it has been estimated that this could sequester 1–3 billion tonnes of CO2e per year. For comparison, 1 billion tonnes of CO2e is equal to over 95 million homes’ worth of energy use for one year in the US.

There could be a once in a millennium opportunity to redesign money in a way that lifts billions of people out of poverty, and protects the world from catastrophic climate change and food security issues through Forest Landscape Restoration. Blockchain, and innovations like Token shed light on the potential that is within our grasp to change everything.

Just as farmers in Africa are discussing the benefits of trees, everyone should be doing likewise considering the importance of global restoration to fight climate change, and help secure water and food globally.