An assessment of tropical forest resources, carried out by FAO and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), estimated the total area of closed forest in tropical Africa to be a little more than 216 million ha in 1980. Productive forest was estimated at 163 million ha and 53 million ha were considered protective as they were located in swampy areas, mountainous regions, national parks, and other conservation areas. Open forest, commonly known as woodland savannah, was estimated at 486 million ha, of which 169 million ha were considered productive in terms of timber potential. However, to make use of other non-productive land, like the arid, semi-arid land (ASAL) for growing higher quality wood, Better Globe Forestry came into picture. After 14 years pioneering tree planting in ASAL, as the first forestry company in Africa doing this, the company then started its subsidiaries to tap the potential of other facets of the market.
Better Globe, Making The Africa Green Again
Better Globe Forestry Ltd in Kenya is the mother company of their forestry companies in Africa and some of the sales companies. The company is responsible for the planning, hiring of people, planting the trees, and conducting Environmental Impact Assessment and Feasibility studies. Better Globe Forestry has approximately 100,000 ha of land available with 3 tree plantations in Kiambere, Nyongoro, and Sosoma in Kenya so far, and runs a 45 acre test and training farm in Kibwesi for trees and agriculture projects. In addition to their own plantations, BGF is working with to date, 12,500 “Partner Farmers” in Kenya and Uganda and help them plant trees in addition to their regular cash crop, so they can become self-sustained long term. The company has also implemented a quality management system for the environment in accordance with the ISO 14001 standard.
Leader with a Green Heart
Rino Solberg, Chairman of BGF, when asked about the company’s origin story, says, in 2004, when he was 60 years old, decided to do something more than just building businesses, which he at that time had done for 40 years. He had also been running a business in Africa for some years and seen the huge problem poverty inflicted on its people and made their lives hopeless. He, therefore, took it upon himself to spend the rest of his life, on the biggest goal he could think of, to “Eradicate Poverty and Corruption in Africa”, which he could never finish in his lifetime. He does not believe in charity and free handouts, except in catastrophic situations. He believes that in order to eradicate poverty, people must be self-sustained which promote their dignity and their pride and work must be based on sustainability.
As approximately 70% of the people living in Africa are small hold farmers, they live from what their little land can produce. Moreover, there is no sustainability in small farming as the farmers live from season to season and depend on the weather to be successful. He spent two years on a feasibility study (2004-2006) in order to find the right tropical tree that could grow in dry-land and give enough profit within 15-20 years, which was the time limit he had for the venture to major. Rino then found a tree called “Mukau”, a tropical mahogany tree, which grows in dry-land in Kenya, and had the required quality wood to make it all happen.
Multitude of Services Covered by BGF
Tree planting has now become the business engine behind the whole concept of the company, where everybody can make money, from the ones who planted the trees to the ones who financed it. The Company, Better Globe Forestry Ltd, which has won several awards for their work in East Africa, has now become the main business operation and is already the most respected forestry company in Kenya.
In order to finance this work, the company needs to “sell trees” by a “Crowd-funding system” and that is done completely online through several different sales companies. However, without being able to track every sale and the ROI (15-20 years) for each customer, it could not have been done. The company therefore developed their own “Back office” from scratch, where they have total control and can follow-up everything their companies and customers do, right from number of trees planted and the value of them to having GPS coordinates of all their partner farmers’ locations.
Independent, Completely Transparent and Result-Oriented Charity
The BGF Group is the only company throughout the globe, which after 14 years of running a “pilot project”, assuringly guarantees of delivering its committed promises when it comes to getting results for poverty stricken people of Africa, and to prove that money is not wasted rather utilized for a noble cause. The Chairman of BGF, who holds vast years of experience in passionately working on humanitarian activities, says that if given a humble chance, he would provide honest and transparent avenues and roadmaps to help eradicate poverty and corruption in Africa.
Furthermore, Rino cites following two examples of government’s investment results in forest conservation if proceeded through their own initiatives or if chosen the BGF’s route. In the first case, if the government spends Euro 100 million for preventing the rain forest from being cut in Brazil, Indonesia or Africa, there exists no guarantees to control and has very little effect on the climate as well as it gives no money back to the government ever. Even if the trees are cut-down and used for building houses and furniture, the carbon remains intact in the wood, so the impact of capturing CO2 is therefore, missed. Hence, it is better for the environment to plant new trees, if one wants to capture CO2, even though there are other environmental benefits to save rain forests in general.
In the second case, if the government uses Euro 100 million for buying 1,886,792 “Donation Packages” from BGF, then 3,773,585 mahogany trees will be given to poor farmers as a relief to eradicate their poverty. Moreover, Euro 2,830,188 will be allotted as microfinance loans to poor families, helping to eradicate poverty of up to 50 thousand families in Africa. Euro 2,830,188 will also be given to Child Africa for their education and eradication of corruption. Lastly, 943,397,500 liters water will be given to poor families of farmers in the drylands of Africa.
And, here is the best part; In addition and also included is 3,773,585 mahogany trees, which the Government owns for 15 years, that gives Euro 377,358,500 in a buyback agreement the 15th year, which is 3.7 times the whole investment back to start all over, and at the same time countless thousands of families and children will have been supported over the 15 years. To plant all these new trees, also gives full impact on capturing CO2 during the whole growth period of the trees, (approx. 377,358,500 ton CO2).
Overall, this possess as a winning deal for the Government, the supported poor farmers and children in Africa, along with a huge win for the environment.
Philanthropist for the Clients
First and foremost, the Company believes that, as long as BGF is able to plant enough trees to fulfill what the customers have bought, it will always be on top of their client’s requirements. Their clients however, often have a two ways interest, one is to make money on their long term “crowdfunding” and the other is to do good, which is both captured in BGF’s social entrepreneurship way.
When Rino and his team inform investor clients with newsletters and videos with what BGF is accomplishing and what kind of problems it is facing, the clients are happy to help. Hence, the difficulties they have had, and what holds the company together in difficult periods, is definitely the clear vision for BGF. As a “Social Entrepreneurship”, the company focuses on doing well for poor people in Africa and that in itself motivates the people on all levels.
Client Loyalty Savings Program
If one considers a system where both the buyer and the seller of a house or a car gets a fixed 15-year “savings account,” with an amount equal to 20 % of the whole buying price each, wouldn’t it be great?
Better Globe Forestry has developed a unique concept that does exactly that. Here is how it works: When one buys a house or a car, he/she can log on to their related website, register the sale, and follow the mentioned steps. Then, 15 years later, that person will receive 20% of the buying price of the house or the car in cash, without any cost for him/her as a buyer. The Buyer and the Seller each get a “certificate of ownership” for the total number of Mahogany trees they own, until all trees have been purchased back from them. The number of trees for each Buyer and Seller, their value, and the buyback day is displayed on their related websites.
BGF’s another subsidiary, Trees4Shopping is an online company and works in a little different way. In this case, the company makes agreements with different brands of products, like food, clothes, shoes, and many others, which are sold online on different websites. This is probably the first and only loyalty program ever created, that will give lifetime loyalty from the customers. All the customers of the above online products will get 15 years “savings account” equal to 25% of all that they have been shopping for the whole year for free. In this case, the companies Trees4Shopping collaborating with, will instead of giving a multitude of “various confusing discounts,” on different product groups and time frames, give their customers a better and simpler deal; “Save 25% On Everything – Always.” This also means that customers, because of the simplicity and all the benefits of this concept, will become more loyal over time.
Vision and Mission of the Company
With the company’s vision, they do not have any competitors. Like Rino Solberg always says, “The one who attempts the impossible has very little competition.” Over the next decade, the company aims to be able to plant one million trees per day, so they can fulfill their goal written in the Mission by 2044.