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Water Today Title June 29, 2022

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Update 2017/7/19
Growing trees in the desert -Sustainable solutions


By Cori Marshall

This story is brought to you in part by Lawson Mills Biomass Solutions Ltd

Arid areas represent about a third of the Earth’s surface. These climates receive very little rainfall; therefore, water is scarce. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) describes "the vegetation cover in arid zones [as] scarce."

We live on a planet where water makes up 71% of the surface, yet a large portion of what we call land is almost void of all precipitation. The climate in these areas was not always this way. The Land Life Company is working to restore vegetation in these places.

Founded by Jurriaan Ruys and Eduard Zanen, Land Life is a company built on core values of community involvement, ecosystem revitalization and innovation. Charlotte Jongejan, Head of Marketing and Communications, described this as a "social enterprise, [companies] that are based on a strong belief that we need to fix the planet." Jongejan added their company is "formed in a profit making model, no one will become a become a multi-millionaire," off of them nor is that the goal.

Like any company, they strive for growth and success, that coupled with the social enterprise can at times be confusing. Jongejan explained that they are "something new and planting trees," public perception confuses them with a Non-Governmental Organization or a charity. Land Life "is just striving to be a healthy company, plant as many trees, and restore as much land as possible."

There is "over 2-billion hectares of degraded land in the world," replanting and restoring it is a daunting task. In order to help trees take root and thrive in areas with little rainfall, the company has developed a unique technology that allows trees to grow in dry conditions called the "Cocoon".

Jongejan described the Cocoon as "a tree incubator," that looks like "a biodegradable paper donut," with a lid. The system is "filled with 25 litres of water [which is] buried sub surface," the seedling is in the centre of the Cocoon. What is interesting is the water is slowly "drip-fed to the seedling over a period of three to six months," depending on the condition of the soil or weather.

At the end of that period "the Cocoon is completely gone, the water has slowly been passed on to the seedling roots, and the roots have been coerced to grow as deep and wide as possible in search of the subsurface soil moisture." The system "helps nature bridge [a] gap of degradation so the trees can have an independent healthy life." The company aims to help the trees re-establish healthy ecosystems.

Presently the device is only used exclusively for planting trees, though there have been experiments with grapes. Jongejan said that the trials "went really well in Mexico and South Africa," though for the time being trees are at the core of the business. The belief at Land Life remains that "trees are the most efficient tool to take carbon out of the air."

The planting is the last stage of the process, and "most of the work is done before the Cocoon goes in the ground." The work of establishing client relationships is coordinated out of Amsterdam and other local offices. A lot of work is done on the road.

Land Life works with partners who want to plant trees for a number of reasons. Jongejan said they "work with companies who want to become neutral in different ways, whether it be water use or their carbon output." The team also works with NGOs, governments and the United Nations.

Planting with this system has been ongoing for three years. Depending on the region trees have grown between 2-3 metres. The average rate of survival for trees planted with the Cocoon system "is between 75-95%," Jongejan said.

Business has been combined with a social responsibility. The Cocoon is a result of a company being formed around a strong set of values. The product not only aids vegetation to grow with virtually no water, it also respects the environment.

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