India-based startup Afforestt is helping build natural urban forests that grow in a short period of time and are maintenance-free, using a technique that could accelerate reforestation around the world.
Afforest uses the Japanese Miyawaki Technique to create forests that grow 10 times faster than traditional ones, are 30 times as dense and 100 times more biodiverse. The concept is to create a “tiny forest” with a large variety of very densely planted indigenous trees using a multi-layered plantation approach. The forest grows in a matter of years rather than decades and soon becomes maintenance-free, just like trees do in the wild.
Tiny forests can be easily planted in all sorts of places and surroundings, whether it is near residential neighborhoods, on wastelands, or at school yards.
Afforestt was founded in 2011 by eco-entrepreneur and engineer Shubhendu Sharma as a for profit social enterprise on a mission to bring back native forests. Afforestt have created forests in Hyderabad, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Bangalore, as well as Malaysia, Lebanon, Singapore and the Netherlands.
Shubhendu Sharma based his approach on planting these tiny forests on the Miyawaki method of Aforestation, started by Akira Miyawaki, a Japanese botanist and expert in plant ecology. The Miyawaki method involves the planting of a number of different types of trees close together in a small pit. By closely planting many random trees close together in a small area enriches the green cover and reinforces the richness of the land. This will lead to co-existence of plants, each plant drawing from the other vital nutrients.
The Miyawaki Technique is a unique procedure and is proven to work efficiently globally irrespective of soil and climate conditions. A minimum of 50-100 different species are planted in the same area which lowered noise and dust pollution. More carbon dioxide absorption is observed than the convention techniques. Entirely maintenance and chemical fertiliser free forests and at least 1 metre growth per tree is observed each year.
Previously an engineer for Toyota in Bengaluru, Shubhendu Sharma had the opportunity to meet Akira Miyawaki in 2010 when the forestry expert came to help Toyota build a forest as a part of its CSR initiative. Fascinated by Akira Miyawaki’s approach, Shubhendu Sharma volunteered to help in the creation of the workplace forest.
Shubhendu Sharma soon quit his job at Toyota, and began adapting the Miyawaki technique to his home city, Bangalore, triggering a movement in urban forestry. Now he and his team works with partners around the world on reforestation projects, planting forests in corporate settings, farms and cities and aims to convert empty urban spaces into natural forests. To date, Afforestt has created 138 forests in 44 cities in 10 countries, and planted more than 45,000 trees.
According to Shubhendu Sharma, the forests created by this technique “cost the same as an iPhone does”, compared to a conventional plantation. Also being cost-effective makes it easier to implement it even in the remotest of areas.
To raise awareness of the importance of forests, Afforrest offers its methodology as an open source via its website to anyone in the world who wants to plant their own tiny forest.
Rosa Medea is Life & Soul Magazine’s Chief. She writes about lifestyle including sustainable and green living. She also offers content services to businesses and individuals at Rosamedea.com