Address of Winrock President and CEO Rodney Ferguson to Redlands Forum
September 11, 2018
Well, thank you, Shelly, and thank all of you for coming out tonight. When I heard that I’m coming before Dolores Huerta, it’s pretty daunting. I don’t have 11 kids, either. Also, I’d like to thank the colleagues at Esri, Jack and Laura Dangermond for their support, and the University of Redlands and the Town and Gown Organization. Thank you very much for having me. I really, really appreciate it.
Tonight, I’m going to talk about trees, and I’m going to talk about forests. When Jack asked if I would be interested in talking about some of Winrock’s work, it’s a fairly daunting prospect because, number one, it’s daunting to come in front of such a distinguished group of people with such varied backgrounds and bases of understanding and knowledge, including colleagues from Esri, who are going to know far, far more about geospatial than I do.
I also wanted to find something that I thought really encapsulated a couple of different things that I think are really important. I chose to look at Winrock’s forest work because I think we’ve done some of our best, most analytical, most recognized work around the world in forests, number one. I think it’s a good example of showing how science put to the public good can be a transformative endeavor. Secondly, because it’s so important. The health and wellbeing of the world’s forests, I can’t really think of any subject which is more important now than looking at how we preserve, how we extend, how we protect the world’s forests. Yet, we do that while maintaining those forests as living, productive ecosystems. You’re going to hear a little bit about that, but first you’re going to hear about me.
I was asked to talk about yourself, which okay, I’ll give it a shot. Alabama, that’s where I’m from. As Shelly referenced, I’m originally from a little town … Woops, I got to use the laser … a little town about right there in Alabama. North Alabama, which let us not forget, in 1931, 1932, north Alabama was the Papua, New Guinea of the United States. It was as poor, if not poorer, than any other part of this country. A large majority of the residents in north Alabama had no electricity. Very few were connected to anything remotely like safe drinking water. A range of scourges from foot and mouth disease, to malaria, to diphtheria. The life expectancy was in the 40s. It was a development basket case. Then, something came along called the New Deal. The New Deal raised my family out of poverty. There’s no other way to say it. The New Deal was the most successful development project in the history of the United States, and one of the most successful in the world along with the Marshall Plan. Why do I bring that up? Because that’s one of the reasons I was attracted to come to Winrock, because I sort of look back at my own life. My grandfather was a farmer, he was a subsistence farmer. He lived crop to crop, there were no paychecks. A meager existence. And a development project lifted him, my extended family, out of poverty. To the point now that Huntsville, Alabama, which is about there, which is where I went to high school, is now one of the most prosperous cities in the United States.
In fact, a report came out just today, it has the fastest job growth rate in the United States for jobs over $75,000 a year. And in 1955 it had a population of 15,000 people and was known as the watercress capital of the world, and now it has, the metropolitan area, is 300,000 people. And Boeing, Northrop Grumman, NASA, the Marshall Space Flight Center, Samsung, LG, everybody is there. Maybe that’s why I decided to get into this career, I don’t know. But it’s been an extraordinarily rewarding opportunity for me.
So, what is Winrock? Winrock is a global, social enterprise. We seek to empower the disadvantaged, increase economic opportunity, and sustain natural resources in the United States and around the world. We work with some of the poorest people in the world to improve their agricultural practices and improve their access to markets on the Ag side. In our energy group we bring electricity and all the economic benefits that come along with that, to very poor people who live in many cases off the grid. We help fight human trafficking. And by the way we do most of this thanks to all of you, because most of our funding comes from the United States government, the USAID, and the United States Department of Agriculture. Ergo the US taxpayers. So, thank you. Thank you for my job. I appreciate it.
The four things that undergird Winrock, the things that we believe are central to what we do: We are results focused. We believe that our work must demonstrate impact, and those impacts must be measurable. And they must be measurable by peer-reviewed, or widely recognized standards to indicate that we are in fact doing what we say we’ll do. Locally owned, we believe in engaging local populations. We believe in finding out what people need on the ground, and then try and deliver that. A very important one, excuse me while I master this, is we are science-based. We believe the best available science technology should drive our decisions, and not the harder natural sciences, but also economics. We believe in sound science and good economics. And we’re market-driven. Winrock generally does not believe that the charitable model in development is the one that will be sustainable and long-lived. We believe that the best way to lift people out of poverty is to connect them to markets, local, regional or global, through our either agricultural work or our energy work or even in our anti-trafficking work. We believe that the best thing that we can do is to provide people who may be trafficked, through labor trafficking, with the information to make better decisions in their own employment decisions, and then work with their employers to demonstrate to them that it is incumbent on them to also be active and engaged in the effort to prevent trafficking.
So across almost all of our work we believe in markets, and we believe markets are the best way to keep people engaged, and keep people economically viable. So, from Alabama, now we’re in California. When I was asked to speak I started thinking about California, and it’s a state we know well. Winrock International owns something called the American Carbon Registry, which is the registry whereby people trade carbon credits under the California cap-and-trade program. And we develop methodologies that allow that trading regime to exist, but for tonight’s focus, California, it got me thinking about forests. And it got me thinking about what inspires me about forests, and also got me thinking about 200 miles north of here, the great sequoia and redwood forests that have come to so define part of the definition of northern California.
I did a little research, I came to understand that I didn’t know this, that the first national park ever designed to save a living organism was here in California. Sequoia national park was developed to save the sequoias. Previously it had been an effort to preserve land. It was not by Teddy Roosevelt, as I thought, but by Benjamin Harrison. So it predated Teddy Roosevelt by a full decade. John Steinbeck, one of your greatest writers, and my favorite author, said of the sequoia’s cousins, the redwood, “They are the ambassadors from another time.” And that’s the way I think about forests. They really are that thread, that sort of mythic thread that connects us to previous generations, and in very, very important ways connects us to the future.
Forests represent 50 percent of the entire land area of the world. Two billion people rely on forests for food and shelter. And forests house more than three-quarters of all flora and fauna on the planet. And that’s even before we get to the environmental benefits. They regulate temperature. They largely regulate precipitation. They contribute to water flows that sustain human and agricultural populations. And the contents of the air, what you breathe every day, you can thank a forest. This is a wonderful illustration of that.
One of my colleagues pointed out, when we put this slide in, the way to think about forests. Forests are the lungs of the world. This is a time-motion slide. This shows, it’s NASA technology, and this shows the carbon dioxide concentrations over the course of a year. It shows the … where carbon dioxide tends to congregate, and then if you go to the next slide, which is not coming up but it will, I promise, is the slide that demonstrates how the … you can see down at the bottom under Africa and South America, see that pulse that’s going on? That’s the rainforests breathing. It literally is the rainforest taking in carbon dioxide that’s being released in the northern hemisphere. This is the organic nature of forests, and it literally is a living ecosystem. The world’s forests together form a living ecosystem that all human life relies on. It’s just awe-inspiring.
However, the world is undergoing an unfortunate transformation. We are converting forest land to agricultural and settlement uses faster than any time in history. We’ve lost over half of the world’s original forests, most of that has been in the last 30 years. This is a picture from Brazil of clear cutting, as a colleague of mine described it, when you see this in satellite data or even when you see it in topical photos like this, it looks like an ugly brown gash in a beautiful green canvas. And unfortunately we’re seeing these ugly brown gashes all over the world.
However, I started this presentation by saying this was an optimist view of the forests. I believe that there’s hope, there’s great hope for us to disrupt this trajectory and change the course of the future of the planet. And the way we can do that is through the application of technology. Technology got us in this position. Nobody clear-cuts land like this with axes anymore. This was done with very sophisticated heavy-machinery. It was done with seagoing vessels to take the lumber to markets. It was done with computers to find buyers for this market. These products, it was the result of the perhaps misapplied application of technology, but by applying the appropriate technology we can reverse this trend.
But sometimes the best technology starts with the most simple. That’s why this presentation is called From the Tape Measure to the Satellite. I want to take you from that tape measure, which is one of the most rudimentary tools that foresters like my colleagues at Winrock use to help measure the health of forests. Here is a picture of a forester in Vietnam checking the girth of a tree in order to help determine that trees carbon sequestration. This is the way that we still do projects. We have to go into forests and use tape measures. But increasingly we are able to use much more sophisticated technologies, which you will hear much more about as we go forward. So we’re going from the tape measure to help forests, all the way to the satellite. So we’re about to talk about how we’ve been able to harness some of this technology for the better.
We’re going to start with a world tour. We started with Alabama, we went to California, now let’s go to Vietnam. Vietnam is a country, I was asked today at lunch, “Tell me a country,” my lunch mate said, “where development … you could make the case that development has been a success story. Where development at large, not just in forestry, but maybe focus on forestry for today, has succeeded, and the country has benefited from that intervention.” I said, “One, I can tell you is Vietnam.” I’m going to tell you the story about three dams in Vietnam. A hydro- powered dams in the Son La province in Vietnam. Son La is up here in Vietnam. It’s sort of right about there. The Da River runs from, it actually originates in China, and runs down into the ocean. And cuts a swath across the northern part of Vietnam.
There were three large hydro powered dams that were built in the Son La province. And something happened. It became almost immediately clear that the dams were in trouble. And they said, “What does this have to do with trees?” What it has to do with trees is, the dams were, the next slide will show the location of these dams. Here it is. This is Son La province. And Son La was one of the three dams. Not long after their construction it was determined that they were accumulating very large, and much faster than expected, silt deposits. Why were they developing silt deposits? This is why.
The red shows areas of high forest loss. And when forests are cut, particularly when they’re cut indiscriminately without any sort of land planning, silt. As you know one role trees play is they help compact dirt, they help keep healthy soil. But when you deforest or degrade forest the soil is more easily becomes runoff, and that runoff then runs into the Da River and becomes silt in the dams. It shortens the lifespan of the project, and it requires expensive dredging to counteract.
“Again,” you may ask, “so what does this have to do with trees and forests?” What we did is we were able to develop a program called The Payment for Forest Environmental Services. And the Payment for Forest Environmental Services, what it does is the hydropower operators in Son La and others, once they realized that their projects were going to go south, they lost their original investment. They were having to spend money on expensive dredging. The solution to that, why not pay the farmers and landowners not to cut their trees? Why not pay them directly? Or pay them through community trust banks, so that they would actually sequester that … keep those trees planted, both sequestering the carbon and limiting the silt runoff. So Winrock, my organization, went in and developed a program where we worked with both the hydropower operators as well as the farmers all around these dams, where you see all the red all the way up to the Chinese border, and we helped create financing institutions so that the hydropower operators created these funds to pay the farmers not to cut their trees, or not to let their trees be, the forest they may own, be degraded.
And so far, we’ve helped 25,000 landowners. These are small, largely disadvantaged, and we have through this program, $300 million has been redistributed to the farmers and landowners in the Son La province.* Everybody wins. It’s a win-win. It’s market-based, it focuses on a locally developed solution much as I talked about before. It has been an enormous success to the point that Vietnam is the first country in Asia to adopt Payment for Forest Environmental Services as a national policy. Now any time you engage in a water-based project, be it a dam, be it a … irrigation, large-scale irrigation, you have to do an assessment of the impact to the local community and the impact to the forest.
You may ask also, “Why does Vietnam care so much about forest?” If we go to a full map of Vietnam, I’ll go back quickly, the Mekong Delta some of you may have been to Vietnam, some of you may have served in the U.S. military in Vietnam. Everyone knows about the Mekong Delta. The Mekong Delta here in the southern part of the country. I’m sorry, when I said Son La, this is Son La, that’s Laos. This is Son La. The Mekong Delta here on the southern part of Vietnam is one of the largest vulnerable watersheds in the world to climate change. Every foot of increase in the level of sea rise is going to have a devastating effect on the Mekong Delta, and the Mekong Delta goes all the way up through Laos and Cambodia. All the way to the Thai border, and this is going to be a disaster.
Not just for Southeast Asia, but for the entire world. So Vietnam has a huge interest in both protecting forests and protecting the climate and battling climate change, working on energy efficiency. As a result, this is an example of where local solutions to helping save forests has been a tremendous success. The next part of our world tour we will … this is a picture of, that is the Son La river.
We’re going to switch gears a little bit and talk about another type of program that we’ve been successful in implementing. This is how it works. If developing countries, we’re going to represent those over here, the developing countries of the world demonstrate that they are reducing forest loss at a national level, the global community should make investments with these countries to retain their forests and retain CO2 and not release it into the atmosphere.
This is an opportunity for the wealthier countries in the world, recognizing the deleterious effects of not mitigating carbon, can play a positive role in helping countries like Guyana, where Winrock has been engaged for almost a decade, preserve their forests. Guyana is a country about the size of Washington State. It has a dense tropical forest that covers 80 percent of the country. How Guyana decides to use that land will have a demonstrable impact on climate change for all of us. It is one of the most important parts of the lungs, from our previous slide, in the world. In 2009 Guyana started working with the government of Norway. Why? The government of Norway, like Vietnam, has a very keen interest in climate change. Why?
Look at a map of Norway. It sits on the north sea. It has an enormous coastline. Very susceptible to rising sea levels. They desperately want the rest of the world to understand that for many of us we are very interested, very concerned about climate change. For Norway, it’s existential. Norway is also a very wealthy country. It has an enormous sovereign wealth fund that’s been developed largely through the development of its oil resources, so now the country has decided that they have to put those oil resources, and oil assets, to work. How are they doing it? They want to work with other countries to help those countries sequester carbon, to prevent contribution of CO2 to the atmosphere, and thus hastening climate change. So Guyana has, with Winrock and Esri’s help, developed a satellite detection-based approach to rapidly identify and characterize disturbances to forest cover. Let me show you an example. This is 2010. They’ve been able to develop a program so that they can, with pinpoint accuracy, show where deforestation is happening in agriculture in yellow, logging in brown, and in settlement development in orange. And so what Guyana has asked Winrock to do, in order to be able to participate in these sort of schemes with other countries, to receive money for sequestering their forests, you have to know how much forest there is. And within those forests you have to know how much carbon exists in those forests.
So Guyana worked with Winrock, again using Esri technology, to help create a census, a forest census on a national basis. So we can tell you, with a very high degree of certainty, the number of tons of carbon that are sequestered in the forests of Guyana. But we can also tell you with regional and sub-regional accuracy what’s happening to different parts of that forest, either legally or illegally. And here’s one of my colleagues, Felipe, who is working with foresters in Guyana to teach them different methods to help measure forest cover, and thus be able to measure the carbon footprint.
This work was pioneered by one of my late colleagues, Dr. Sandra Brown, who was truly a pioneer in this work of carbon-forest accounting, which is what this work largely falls under. She was a pioneer, she was part of a Nobel Prize winning team in 2007, she was the articles’ editor for the intergovernmental panel on climate change, which won the Nobel. Most people think about Al Gore winning that Nobel. Well Sandra Brown won part of it, too. And we’re very, very, very proud of her. The other interesting thing that I found about our work in forestry, this is fascinating. It’s socio, it’s anthropological, it’s something fascinating to me.
You go to any country, they have a disproportionate number of women who work in the forestry commissions, and I’ve thought about that a lot. Why is that? And I’m not sure, but I think it’s something to do with these women, they feel something primordial about protecting a natural resource. These are all women, members of the Guyana Forest Commission that we train to help participate in the forest census work. And it’s just really inspiring when you go and meet these folks. It really gives you hope for the planet.
Moving on from Guyana, this I’m going to talk about another breakthrough that Winrock has been involved with, also with the help of Esri Technology. Degradation versus deforestation. We talk a lot about deforestation. I’ve talked a lot about it tonight. We talk about the degradation less than deforestation. What is degradation? Deforestation, the brown gash, right? Remember that? Come in, take out large swaths of forest. Degradation, harder to see, but when you take out most often illegally parts of a forest. Forest fires contribute to degradation. Wood-fuel collection in areas that don’t have reliable electricity. You combine all this, and what you get is degradation. I like to call degradation sort of the comb-over of forests, right? It looks fine from a distance, but when you get really up close you see, “Ah! That’s not very attractive.”
But in the case of forests, it’s not very healthy. And most importantly it has enormous negative impact. So what Winrock … we took upon ourselves, and we got some grant money to look at the issue of degradation. No one had ever measured degradation as a contributor to carbon emission. And so we developed a technique, using remote sensing and algorithms, to come up with a global estimate of degradation. And the number we came up with was 2.1 billion tons. By way of example, some of these … here are the amount of tons per year that different endeavors around the world are said to contribute to the emission of carbon. One that gets a lot of attention is international aviation.
420 million tons. Look at this number. Degradation contributes 2.1 billion tons a year: Five times the amount of aviation. 3.5 times of global shipping. And about 70 percent of waste management exercises around the world. So degradation is an enormous problem. Here, our technology we developed, or analysis we did with the technology, largely Esri technology, we were able to also do this on sub-national levels. So not only can we talk about degradation globally, but we can go to Brazil and we can look at the relative rate of degradation in Brazil, or this is Central Africa. Sort of the wooded breadbasket of Central Africa. And this is Southeast Asia. And you can see the red, not good.
The Democratic Republic of Congo, Indonesia, these are areas where degradation … forests are being destroyed tree by tree, and the information now allows us to help countries help international bodies like the UN come up with better policies to help prevent degradation, as well as deforestation. And selective logging causes impacts that are not always apparent with traditional areal imagery. And the LiDAR technology allows us to see the canopy in three dimensions, which is what I was talking about with remote sensing. So we get to this dimension, and this is a fascinating … it color-codes degradation in a forested area, so that we can tell authorities down to almost the hectare where the worst cases of degradation are occurring.
Last in our world tour, this is some attention we got for our degradation, and the logging work that I just talked about which has gotten wide-spread attention from the global scientific and advocacy community. The last part of our world tour is Cambodia. Cambodia has the largest amount of what we call ground-level forest cover left in Southeast Asia. It is a beautiful, vastly forested country, but it’s the fastest … it has the fastest deforestation and degradation of any country in the world. We were asked by USAID and invited in by the Cambodian government to help them figure out, “What’s going on in our forests?”
Winrock worked to develop something called WESTool, the Watershed Ecosystem Service Tool. What is WESTool? WESTool is a very sophisticated tool that allows you to look at multi-variable, I’m not a scientist by the way, I’m a social scientist but I’m not a forester, so this is a multi-variant analysis that allows you to look at multiple variables that are affected by forest loss. And the Cambodian government said, “What does all this mean? That we’re losing this forest?” Well, the WESTool allows us, it shows land cover and land cover changes for the entire country every year since 2000. It interprets the changes on issues like water availability, and it looks at sediment and nutrient loss in two rivers, among other variables.
And as a result it allows you to have one of the most sophisticated analysis of the effects of deforestation. Why … okay, you would think everyone knows it’s bad. Poor countries have to prioritize, right? They can’t just say, “We’re stopping all deforestation.” They need to know where are the effects of deforestation and degradation the worst? This, for example, shows you the changes. This is a watershed change over the course of the last 18 years. This is sediment loss over those years. And this was predicted change in water tables over those years. So the Cambodian government now has the ability to look at all of our data and they can say, “Well, we know that water loss here is particularly severe.” And also it’s severe because not only are you losing groundwater, you’re gaining salinization because of sea level rise, and coastal erosion. So this is an area in absolute crisis. So, the Cambodian government can now say, “We know that whatever we do, we cannot ignore deforestation and degradation in the southwestern part of Cambodia.” Because, otherwise this is going to become a denuded wasteland. And here, it allows us to say, “Yup, and overall the area around Tonle Lake is in a lot of trouble because of a multi-varied overall vulnerability to climate change because of deforestation is particularly bad in the Tonle Sap area.” This is an example of where we’re able to show time lapse on these different variables, from left to right, between 2000 and 2015. And you can see how the colors change, and they intensify. Look at this. 2000 on nitrate loss? No nitrate loss. 2015, look at that. That is a disaster for freshwater when you lose that much nitrate in that relatively short period of time.
Fish die. Waterside foliage dies. The rivers choke to death. A dangerous situation. So now the Cambodian government is able to have real-time information that allows them to make decisions on where to put their scarce resources to save ecosystems in Cambodia. And we’ve done training with … these are students at the university. We now use the WESTool to do training. The WESTool is a web-based software. And it’s available to anyone who would like to use it, so we do training. These are young environmental scientists in Cambodia that we’re training to know how to use the tool.
I was going to wear this, but I couldn’t get it out of the display case, but this is a medal that was given to Winrock by the government of Cambodia. It’s the Royal Order of Sahametrei, which is the highest civilian honor that can be given to a foreigner in Cambodia. We were given the Royal Order of Sahametrei for our work helping the Cambodian government, the Cambodian people, understand their environment. Understand deforestation, degradation, so that they can manage it better. We’re very proud of that. The next time I come I’ll wear it, I promise. The scientific and technological advances of the last 30 years have really accelerated, and allowed us to understand this world so much better than we ever could.
And we’re able to use technology, as I’ve mentioned. Every project we talked about tonight uses Esri technology. I’m not just saying that because I’m in an Esri forum either. It is an invaluable part of the toolkit that Winrock uses. Our climate and forestry specialists use every day to help our clients, and help people better understand the impacts. But to recap, forests are the barometer of the health of the world. And in an age of technology-driven knowledge, the other thing that modern technology, geospatial remote sensing, does is it allows for transparency and the transferability of information. Which is really the way we’re going to save the planet.
And we can develop the science and technology, we can build the tools, we can merge development activities with technology. We can take this from the field, and the forest, to the cloud and back. And in the course of doing that we can harness and revolutionize the way that way honor the planet. And it’s …
I’ll say one other, in closing, this is a photo from the early 1960s. To talk about why I’m an optimist, that’s why I started. We had another big problem in 1960, 1961. India was on the verge of mass famine, as was Bangladesh, or in Pakistan at that time, both east and west. Nepal. Large part of South Asia was on the verge of a historic famine, and the world was … remember the formula, the world was doomed, right?
We were growing, there was no way we were going to feed the world. It was a very dire situation. Here’s a picture of some of our scientists back in the early 1960s working with their colleagues and I think this is Indonesia, which was also threatened with a famine at the time. And to show you that Winrock’s been around a while, I don’t know anybody that wears those hats anymore, and then this gentleman came along. Norman Borlaug, I don’t know how many of you know Norman Borlaug. He is one of the most unheralded heroes of the 20th century in the United States. Not completely unheralded, he did win a Nobel Prize for his work in helping stave off that famine. Norman Borlaug, Dr. Borlaug is generally thought of as the father of the Green Revolution.
The Green Revolution transformed our world, along with the polio vaccine, along with the introduction of modern sanitary techniques in hospitals. It is estimated that the Green Revolution saved one billion people in the 60s and 70s. Dr. Borlaug did this along with colleagues all over the world by developing better strains of wheat and rice. And introducing those in India, and Indonesia, in Mexico. And because of that work farmers in these countries were able to dramatically raise the level of production. Dr. Borlaug in the Green Revolution is not without some controversy. There are people that believe that it ushered in an age of various plagues, like mono culturing, et cetera. That’s a subject for another day.
He is a founding board member of Winrock, so as far as I’m concerned he’s my hero. He really has been an inspiration for us for all these years. I’m going to skip ahead past the thank you, I can’t go that fast. I did want to mention, too, that Dr. Borlaug was very close with the Rockefeller family, some of you may know Winrock is short for Winthrop Rockefeller, one of the brothers in the third generation of the family who was, along with John D. Rockefeller III, his brother, are really the founders of Winrock. And we came out of this sort of determination by the family to do something to, with their families great wealth, on scale to help the world. Winthrop and John D. used parts of their fortune, but more importantly, as importantly, their networks, to really help establish Winrock International, for which we are eternally grateful.
I can assure you that we don’t get any more money from the Rockefeller family, but we are happy for the … they helped set up a small endowment for us, and were instrumental in the early beginnings of Winrock. So we are nothing but eternally grateful for their support. And we’re also grateful for the support of great, great partners like Esri that we are constantly looking for other ways that we can work together, because there aren’t many organizations where every day you wake up and say, “I’m going to make this world a better, safer, more prosperous, healthier, more economically sustainable world.” I’m very, very fortunate to be a member, and part of an organization that does that, as does Esri.
Again, to all of you, to the host. Thank you. Forgive my mistakes that undoubtedly I made. So if you’re a forester in the audience you can leave now, just go out the back. There’s a little place for you to escape. As I said, I’m an enthusiastic social scientist, and tonight in foresters clothing. But I just really want to thank all of you for coming, for your interest, and if I can answer any questions I’d be happy to try to do so. Thank you.
Okay, ladies and gentlemen. We’re serious tonight, because we’re recording this program. So, we definitely want you to raise your hand and wait until you have a microphone, or otherwise we won’t be able to get your question on the recording. So, we have the beautiful and talented Charlotte Burgess and Christopher Walker. And we have our first question right here. Ma’am, if you would introduce yourself and then ask your question.
My name is Heidi, and my question is I was interested in hearing about paying the farmers to sustain their forests in Vietnam. Has anyone thought about growing coffee under the canopy? That’s a pretty common thing nowadays. Do they do that?
Well, it’s funny you mention that. They’re in fact, Vietnam also has one of the fastest growing coffee production increases in the world. And they’ve discovered that they can grow specialty coffee in Vietnam, and there’s a, as many of you know, there’s a little local restaurant called Starbucks that’ll buy as much specialty coffee as you can grow. So Vietnam is actually growing. I must confess, I don’t know if they’re growing it in the Son La province along the Da River. If they’re not, maybe we’ll recommend they do so. But it is a fast growing crop, and as you also know Vietnam has a very hilly terrain in the central highlands. That’s a perfect area to grow coffee, that’s one of the reasons they’re increasing their coffee production.
Coffee is a very interesting subject. That’ll be the subject of my talk next week, because coffee is a great crop to be able to substitute for lower value crops to raise peoples incomes. The small holder farmers particularly. Coffee is another crop that can be grown by small holders, it doesn’t require plantation level farms. So you can scale it based on whatever land holdings you may own, and we’ve been, my organization, Winrock’s been very involved in helping start the coffee industry in Myanmar. The specialty coffee industry there. And we’ve seen great success in raising incomes of disadvantaged farmers there. So, thank you.
All right, over here Chris.
Hello, I’m Jane. Two questions, really quick. With the Trump administration not too enthusiastic about climate change, have you had your funding remain at an acceptable level? And number two, do you ever take into account that there are 14 billion new people … I’m sorry, one billion new people every 14 years on this planet?
Okay, how am I going to answer those two questions. Thank you for the question, and I promised I would not get political tonight. I’m sure we have people here who support all different manner of political candidates. But I’ll just answer your question factually, that yes foreign aid is under quite a bit of duress in this administration. The last two budgets that have been proposed cut the State Department budget, which includes the USAID budget for foreign aid. But under the State Department and general appropriation, both years, by 30 percent. Recommended that they cut the … that includes the diplomatic core, consulates, foreign aid, you name it. And both times those efforts were beaten back by, and to show that I am, Winrock is rabidly non-partisan, the biggest defenders to beat back those cuts have been the Senate Republicans. People like Bob Corker in the senate, Lindsey Graham, Ben Sasse. There have been a … we have tremendous support by Republicans in congress, because I think we take whatever support we can get because we believe in our work, but I think particularly Republicans believe that building healthy economies and stable populations is a way to promote peace and stability in the world as well. And most recently, three weeks ago, the administration tried something called rescission, I don’t know if many of you heard of this, to freeze spending at the State Department and under some justification under a previous budget act. Then at the end of September, this month, any money that had been frozen would revert back to the treasury. And that was $3 billion development money.
That effort was also beaten back, also by the Republicans in congress. So yes it is, and again not a political statement, it’s just a fact, we remember what Donald Trump … it’s a family audience, so I won’t use the world, but a certain name he called the countries we work in, mostly, and I spend a lot of time in those countries. And I know a lot of people in those countries, so you take it a little personally. So yes, we’re under quite a bit of duress, but I must say that it’s been very heartening to see the support across the aisle from people who understand that peace and prosperity is important to the United States, we all know that. But it’s not a zero-sum game. That’s the reality.
We were able, and in fact there’s a lot of evidence that successful development projects around the world save us a lot of money over time. General Mattis, the current Secretary of Defense, before he became Secretary of Defense was the chairman of an organization to which I belonged to called the United States Global Leadership Council, and he said something at congressional hearing which now we talk about all the time. In a hearing, he said when questioned about the need for foreign aid said, “If you cut aid, you need to buy me more bullets.” And I don’t like necessarily the militarization of these issues, but nonetheless there is a certain poignancy to that comment. And particularly coming from someone who now runs our Defense Department.
The second question about the billion people added. It continues to be an issue. I’ve got a little anecdote about that. Every day, every day, five thousand people move from the countryside of Bangladesh into Dhaka. Every day. Into the metropolitan area of Dhaka. This population explosion is happening in two ways. The rural areas, a lot of rural areas around the world are depopulating, and they’re moving to the cities at the same time that we’re still adding people in those cities. So you can do the math, right? There are 365 … Dhaka’s adding a million and a half people to its metropolitan area every year. So it’s already at 25 million people. That also has to be part of macro level development, is we’ve got to look at ways to both encourage healthy population growth, and again our organization does not do … we’re not in the family planning business, but I think it’s imperative for countries to look at multiple ways they can control the population. Particularly as these people are poor. Cities cannot support, in the developing world, cannot support for 30 and 40 million people. They’re a disaster waiting to happen.
We have another question? any other? … there’s one in the back there, Char. Looks like you’ve got one in the middle there, Chris. Let’s see who gets there first. I think it’s going to be Char. Okay.
My name is Andy, and I’ve witnessed first-hand large sections of forests, here in the United States, that have been devastated by infestations of the bark beetle over the last 20 years or so. When these areas are afflicted by the bark beetle the only way to salvage the damage is basically to cut the tree and turn it into lumber. Of course, what you end up with is something that looks like what you call a clear cut. What can Winrock do to mitigate that particular problem?
Oh, boy! The … I’ll tell you what, when Winrock, I’ll be very blunt, what Winrock can do is support the U.S. Forest Service, and the United States Department of Agriculture in their research efforts to come up with antidotes, or responses to the bark beetle challenge. That’s not … we are not experts on … in agriculture there are some areas we know quite a bit about infestation problems. That is not our primary area of expertise, however we do very, very strongly, we work with USDA and Forest Service professionals around the world who are trying to tackle, and not just around the world but also in the United States, we’re trying to tackle this problem. We’re smart enough to know that we don’t know. That’s not our area of expertise, so we typically will bring in tree professionals, forensic specialists on tree health to help us. We run into these similar problems all over the world. Other parts of the world they’re not bark beetle, they may be something else. Fungus often is a culprit, and we’re smart enough to know what we don’t know, honestly. So we often bring in folks from the Forest Service, for example, on our projects when we run into these problems. My advice would be, strongly, strongly support the U.S. Forest Service and the USDA R&D labs around forest health, because they’re the ones doing the yeomen’s work around this.
Someone over there. Oh, yeah.
Hi, I’m Kathy and I’m going to ask a question similar to his. We have a variety of small conservancies in this area, and we realize that there are a number of our forests that have diminished considerably due to bark beetle, climate change, all of that. And I was wondering whether your organization actually does fund some of these smaller community conservancies that really do need that access to funding, so that we can get projects going.
Well, I should have mentioned this at the beginning. Winrock, we are an implementer in that we’re not a grant maker. We don’t fund organizations. We are the organization that gets funding to do implementation for … we do the work, right? We’re not the grant maker, or the philanthropist. We get revenue from the, as I mentioned, the USAID, from other foreign governments, from the Germans, the Norwegians, the Swiss. Foundations like Hewlett and Packard, and Kresge, and the Walmart Foundation. They help pay for our projects, so we’re not the ones that actually make the small grants, with some exceptions where we are actually asked to re-grant money on behalf of a funder who wants to go out and do projects, and we would do grants mostly for other community-based organizations.
And most of our work, also, is in forests. Most of it is international with the exception of some of the work we do around what’s called REDD, the deforestation and degradation work here in the United States through the American Carbon Registry. That’s really where we’ve done most of our forest work here in the United States. We’re not a grant making organization, we’re a grant seeking organization actually. So we’ll pass the hat lighter.
Do we have one more question?
My name’s Cliff, and I was just wondering do you see any way to utilize timber as a resource without having unacceptable consequences for the environment?
Okay, that’s a great question and I forgot one of my little taglines in the presentation, and that is my staff often say, “You can’t put fence around forests.” And what that means is a lot, and I hope this came through, a lot of Winrock’s work is we believe in some cases conservation, prima facie is a good idea, but in the developing world again in a world of constrained resources, the forest had to be productive, right? People use the forest. Sometimes they use the forest for foraging, they may have wood-based businesses, maybe they do small scale construction. Forests do produce assets, which if properly managed can help the disadvantaged, and those people that live in those forests.
People live in these forests, and we believe that in the developing world particularly, the key is not to ring-fence forests and say, “You can’t use this forest.” How do you create opportunity … there’s a great picture, and I wish I put it in this, of a … when I was in Bangladesh I was in the northern province of Bangladesh, and there’s the largest forest that’s still intact in Bangladesh, it’s there. But it’s been degraded. And it’s been degraded by poachers. Illegal logging and animal poachers who are slowly degrading the economic value. One of the things we did, we created a volunteer as part of a very large project on biodiversity, we created a very large forest protector program. Every volunteer … actually, these weren’t volunteers. We actually managed to get the local province to pay them a salary, a small salary.
Every one of the protectors was a woman, and I’ve got this great picture of me standing around 40 women in these green outfits and there’s not a woman taller than 4’11” in the picture, which is unfortunate in that there’s a lot of stunting in Bangladesh, and these women were mostly in their forties and fifties. They’d grown up in an era with malnutrition. But I love about the picture, so I’m here, I’m not a small guy. And these women, not a one above five feet, and half of them are carrying big sticks. And what they do is when they see a poacher they blow a whistle and like three of them will collapse on this guy, and just start beating the …
And the reason, the premise of that, is that to these women this forest is their workplace. This is where they make their livelihoods. A lot of them they pick berries, they do canning, they have vegetable patches in the forest. They use the forest as an economic lifeline. To them this is not a nice thing, this is essential, this is existential. And so the next time I come I’ll bring it. It’s such a fabulous picture. And every one of them, the stick is taller than they are. So you can imagine. I said, “God, I’d hate to be the guy that got caught poaching something in that forest.” So, yes. Winrock strongly believes that you have to create economically viable activities in order to preserve and sustain forests very often. It’s the only way that you’re going to get public-private-government cooperation around the effort.
Thank you again very much, Rodney, for being here.
Thank you very much.
*The $300 million has been distributed countrywide, not just in Son La province.
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