Frequently asked questions

Why do the communities want to work with TroFaCo?

Many benefits to the community

Communities cooperating with TroFaCo and its partners enjoy good benefits.

In Cambodia we calculated those in our final report to the donor (Nordic Climate Facility), who funded the beginning. It turned out the communities over the coming 20 years will have benefits that are five times larger than the initial investments – on top of the the money they earn from our selling of offsets.

Farmers in Tororo, Uganda voting to work with TroFaCo

These benefits come from:

  • Sales of fruits: The farmers choose which kinds of trees they want, and they usually include some fruit trees like mango or tamarind. When the trees start having fruits the income can be 10-30 USD per tree per year.
  • Saved health costs: The farmers almost always include a few trees with good medicinal properties. It may be the neem tree (known as the ‘village drugstore’), the moringa tree or others. The use of these save many trips to the drugstore and many purchases of medicine as well as many sick days.
  • Reduced damage to infrastructure, such as irrigation canals and roads: The trees reduce erosion when the rain falls heavily. That saves good money in the public budgets.

Mainly women enjoy income from the fruits and savings from the avoided health costs.

How do TroFaCo organise the tree planting?

We plant trees together with the villagers

TroFaCo only works in collaboration with the strong communities. So, we or rather, our local partner, ask the community to identify one or more persons skilful with trees. Usually there is one or more in a village (or in neighbour village) who knows.

That person or group

Tree nursery in Rakai, Uganda

is then given a contract by TroFaCo’s partner, to collect seeds, produce the seedlings the community wants and supervise the planting of the seedlings.

The local farmer association then organises the planting. The partner ensures that women gets most of the (paid) job for this, and also for the weeding around the trees.

TroFaCo’s partner pays for the seedlings, the planting and the weeding. So, villages get useful trees for free. TroFaCo and the partner only gets the right to sell the climate benefits and share the income from this with the village.

The reasons why we do like this: Local trees are well adapted to the local conditions. Local trees are also well known to the villagers. They know where to find the best ones from which to take seeds, and they know how to use the trees and their products.

We ask for local nurseries to produce the seedlings, because that creates employment and it ensures responsibility. The nursery can then also sell to others and provide better income.

TroFaCo’s partner pays for the seedlings, in order to prove our sincerity. We only pay for living seedlings, so we can motivate good quality work. TroFaCo also ensures the contract with the community about the tree planting stipulate that the community has to replant trees that may die within the first two years. This motivates good work.

If the community needs technical help, TroFaCo can provide. We organise training visits by skilled tree-persons from a neighbour location, so the villagers can learn from peers. This also expand their network.

Which kinds of trees do TroFaCo plant?

Is TroFaCo member of a carbon standard?

TroFaCo is very effective in getting benefits to local villages and accurate documentation to you. That is because we use a unique verification system, instead of certification by a standard.

There are mainly three reasons we chose to do our own verification:

1)  Development of projects under the various standards is expensive, i.e. often more than 200,000 USD per project. That would lead us to have to pay less to farmers and to develop only large projects. Verification as done under a standard is also costly.

2) We work with trees. These are immediately visible. Therefore, we can apply our smartphone/website-based verification. We frankly also think this brings more exciting information than a verification report, as used by the standards.

3) Most standards for verification of tree-based offsets only work with a limited number of tree species, i.e. those used in commercial plantations. If we were to use a standard, that would exclude local people from planting most of the useful trees. And those are the ones they actually prefer.

That was the short version. Here we expand a bit:

Regarding number 1: By applying our inexpensive, yet highly credible verification, we ensure that we can plant relatively small stands of trees.  Saving expensive project development, we can pay farmers 20-30% of the price we ask you. And we offer the best possible verification. Pictures from ‘your site’. (We are the ONLY climate compensation initiative to give this level of transparency). And you can touch the trees if you travel a bit. The map tells you exactly where the trees are, and so does the certificate you get with any purchase. Anybody who wants to see the trees is most welcome. Let TroFaCo help with logistics, if you wish to visit. If you are a company or institution and want to verify, we suggest sending your auditor or some employees you want to reward. (That is still a lot less costly than a verification report..) We will provide any tools or information needed for them to verify on the spot.

In case of large projects, which would be needed to cover high project preparation costs (and outside verification), it is hard to find available land. There are known cases in which tree-based climate projects have been implemented in forest areas (after clearing the forest..) or on land where ownership is contested. Even worse: in some cases, farmers have been chased away from their farmland. We avoid any danger of that, by going smaller for each planting and planting on land that the community has identified.

Regarding number 2: We provide pictures that are time- and geo-referenced and placed on a map on a website. This means; a) Any donor or client can see pictures of his/her trees with his/her name or company logo, on the spot on the map. This in turn also means that it is impossible for us to sell the same trees more than once. Unfortunately, this has happened for some other initiatives. You may get a copy of the TroFaCo map on your own website  or you can have a link to our site with your plantings.

Also, the local farmers select the areas where to plant. TroFaCo accept only areas, which are devoid of trees before we plant as shown on Google Earth. By the way, we also document this through pre-planting pictures.

Regarding number 3: The largest benefits to the communities come from the trees and from the products people may get from them. At the current level of carbon prices, the income for the climate compensation is secondary, albeit still nice. Were we to restrict the kinds of trees that could be planted, the farmers and communities would have significantly less benefits. Any kind of tree absorb CO2. So for the climate the kind of trees does not matter.

Will TroFaCo ever apply for verification under a standard? Of course, we will!

If a standard emerges that solve the three issues above, or if we start producing very large quantities of CO2 absorption that may be ‘bundled’ to fit under an existing standard, then we may well join.

How do TroFaCo measure the amount of carbon in the trees?

How we measure carbon in the trees

According to agreement with each sponsor we can do very accurate carbon calculations:

Our Monitoring and Reporting specialist visits the field, leading a team from our partner or local office, together with interested farmers.

First, we count the number of surviving trees. Then we take out a tape measure and measure around the trunks of one of one in every 10 or 20 trees; 20 if it is a very large stand. We also measure height of the selected trees.

The above ground (dry) biomass (AGB) of standing trees is calculated using the following formula:

AGB = pi/4 * f * d * DBH* H

Where DBH is ‘diameter of the trunk at breast height’, H is the height of the tree and d is the wood density, which is variable among tree species; i.e. some wood is heavier than other. The value for many species can be found in databases. pi/4 ‘translates’ the square (DBH) to a circle. Finally f is a factor for the shape of the tree, depending for example whether its trunk is straight or it has many branches already from low above the ground.

We then calculate using the ‘rule of thumb’ that 1 ton of dry wood biomass (AGB) = 0,5 tons of carbon. Each tonne of carbon then equals 3,6 tonnes CO2, because the molecular weight of CO2 is 3,6 times the atomic weight of C (Carbon)

This sounds relatively easy, yes? It is not that easy, actually….

How do you, for example, measure the DBH? That is straightforward in a plantation on flat ground with trees each of which have only one stem/trunk. You take a tape measure and measure around the tree. Then you convert this circumference, as measured with the tape measure, to diameter. But not all trees stand in plantations, and not all on flat ground. This picture shows what you need to do, if the situation is more complex:


And how do you measure height? When the trees are small we measure by a measuring stick (and show you the stick next to the tree, on our pictures on the webpage). When the trees are larger, you can use an app on our smartphones. It can do the trigonometry. We will spare you the equations here, but feel free to ask!

And all of this can only happen when the trees are growing, on trees that are already some years old.

A middle-aged Mvule in Soroti town, Uganda

So how do TroFaCo know how many trees are needed to offset e.g. 5,000 tonnes of CO2?

The short version is we assume an average number for the tree growth each year over 20 years. The assumption is based on (very conservative) estimates by experienced tropical foresters. If you want the whole explanation, please ask.

The longer description is: We are getting quite a lot of data from our plantings, so we now know how fast many species (kinds of trees) grow, at least in their younger years. For many species we can get information about age and average height and diameter at maturity. From that we get a pretty good idea how much carbon they will contain when they are fully grown. We know, for example, that the largest tree we plant (and indeed one of the largest known trees) the ‘Mvule’ (Milicia excelsa)  contain more than 40 tonnes CO2 equivalents when it is fully grown.

How do TroFaCo document tree growth by using smartphones?

We work with local people as reporters from the communities and the trees. In Cambodia these are employed directly by us, while in Uganda they are staff of our partners, CIDI or EADEN. They are often somebody with long NGO experience and always somebody well respected in the home area. We then supply them with smartphones with camera. Then we train a bit in how to take pictures where the trees can clearly be seen. Often the first pictures are of newly planted, quite small trees. If needed, we put a stick next to each small tree for visibility.

Our Friendly ICT partner, EYWA Systems, has then developed software, which can read the GPS information and date from each photo, put them in the right places in our database and display them to you. Sounds easy? Takes skills!!

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