Planting trees or growing them. Do the words matter for restoring land?

Every year, millions of dollars are spent on attempting to restore landscapes to health by planting trees. Success is very scanty. Researchers explain why and how rethinking the words will help achieve success.

Over the last five decades there are few success stories of land-restoration efforts and even those few did not meet all the objectives for which the resources were spent.

Typically, the tree seedlings in mass-planting schemes have a low survival rate, making the return on investment low and a mockery of well-meaning attempts to restore our planet’s health.

Why is it that often very large, well-resourced and well-publicized schemes aren’t able to achieve their goals, for the benefit of all?

A study by researchers at World Agroforestry (ICRAF) argues that often tree ‘planting’ is stated as the ultimate objective: ‘We will plant a billion trees!’ Rather, the objective should instead be ‘growing’ trees.

The success of restoration projects is often measured by the number of trees planted or the size of the area, not the number of trees grown, or the area of land covered with grown trees.