The Eden concept began in Ethiopia in 2004 under the leadership of Dr. Steve Fitch. The product of an aid worker upbringing, Dr. Fitch had grown up in a “third world culture” in the Philippines and understood the dynamics of poverty that can easily overtake and destroy peoples’ lives. While in Ethiopia, Dr. Fitch witnessed villages that had been decimated by deforestation. Many of the villagers, who had been raised over many generations in these areas, were now being threatened with relocation to refugee camps. “Eden Reforestation Projects” was launched in order to attempt to reverse environmental devastation that negatively impacted families and local culture.
Now, as a non-profit in the US, and functioning with I-NGO status within our project nations, Eden Reforestation Projects is now successfully reducing extreme poverty and restoring healthy forests. As noted above, Eden first began in Ethiopia, expanded into Madagascar in 2007, Haiti in 2010, and Nepal in 2015. Eden remains committed to employing thousands of local villagers who plant healthy forests systems for as little as 10¢ per tree. Since 2005, Eden has successfully employed over 3,500 full and partial season village workers, and by our tenth year (2015) we had planted over 100,000,000 trees! Our Objective, which we hope to achieve by the year 2020, is to plant a minimum of 100 million trees each year and to offer hope through the employment of tens of thousands of people in countries where poverty is rampant.
THE FIRST PROJECT – ETHIOPIA
The Eden Projects began its work in Ethiopia in 2005, and its phase-one project at the Udo 3 Hills Project site was completed in 2014 with 15,848,000 trees planted. Villagers who cut down the forests in order to cultivate crops on the land, and produce charcoal for cooking and heating drove much of the destruction in this area. These destructive practices had quickly turned productive land into desert.
The solution emerged to plant trees as a way to give local villagers jobs. Thousands of full and partial season workers were hired during the first decade of Eden’s existence, and the entire Udo Hills area was replanted, representing 158,480 days of work created.
The lessons learned from this initial project are now being used to expand Eden Projects around the world. Our focus is still on reducing extreme poverty, but it is also matched in its objectives by the ability to provide a cost-effective process for the reforestation of huge parts of these countries that have experienced horrific environmental disasters.
The Eden Projects began planting in Madagascar in 2007. The mangrove projects are replenishing the enormous Malagasy mangrove forests at a rate of over 2.7 million trees per month. Under the direction of Jamie Shattenberg, the Madagascar reforestation work has emerged as our largest project and according to World Bank officials is reportedly larger than all of the other reforestation projects on the island nation combined.