Micro-forests are just like regular forests but grow much more rapidly and occupy much smaller areas of land. In fact, micro-forests can be as small as 100 metres². We planted this micro-forest six months ago at our office in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, in collaboration with Ismaili Civic volunteers and students from local Aga Khan Schools.
Indigenous plant species – or locally and culturally relevant species – are planted densely in a small area of land. Within just a few months, the micro-forest begins to take shape. Within this micro-forest in Dar es Salaam, you’ll find more than 25 species of plants including fig trees, banana trees, and hibiscus flowers. This is the minimum number of species for a micro-forest, but the limits are endless – some are home to more than 100 different types of plants!
After one to two years, micro-forests reach their optimum height and density, functioning much like regular forests, which can take five, ten or even twenty years to grow fully. This micro-forest in Madhya Pradesh, India – planted by the Aga Khan Rural Support Programme – is four years old.
As a nature-based solution, the environmental benefits of micro-forests are vast; they revitalise ecosystems and stimulate biodiversity, from soil microorganisms and insects to large vertebrates like reptiles, amphibians, and birds. Micro-forests also regenerate natural resources including water and soil, and create micro-climates – if you spend time under a micro-forest’s canopy or in its close vicinity, you’ll feel the average temperature drop by seven to 10°C, and breathe in purified air.
“[In India] we have seen honeybees coming back to farms, and butterflies and birds coming back to villages because of the micro-forests we’ve planted.”
Naveen Patidar, CEO of the Aga Khan Rural Support Programme, India
Crucially, micro-forests also act as carbon sinks, absorbing carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere which slows down global warming. Their rich density and biodiversity means that micro-forests do this five times more effectively than traditional reforestation efforts, which usually involve planting only one type of tree. A micro-forest can sequester anywhere between one to two kilograms of CO2 per square meter per year, representing 10,000 to 20,000kg of CO2 per hectare per year.
For communities, micro-forests provide food, medicine, fodder, timber, and natural dyes, at the same time improving livelihoods and boosting local economies. In this one-year-old micro-forest in India, local communities are harvesting papaya to eat and sell.
Over the last few years, AKF has been working with communities across the world to plant these small but mighty forests in both urban and rural settings, from Tanzania to Tajikistan. This micro-forest planted by local communities living in the remote and mountainous Rasht Valley of central Tajikistan, lies 1,800 metres above sea level.
In Afghanistan’s dry mountain climate, droughts have been increasing in intensity year on year as a result of climate change, exacerbating existing socioeconomic insecurity. In this challenging context, we’re partnering with communities – and particularly women – to plant micro-forests. Worldwide, women are being disproportionately affected by the climate crisis, so it’s critical that they are involved in the ways to tackle it.
“We need to support marginalised women with limited natural and financial assets, to grow micro-forests. That is where the power of micro-forests comes in; they can target gender inequality as well as environmental breakdown.”
Humaira Daniel – Climate Change Science Specialist, AKF
At Nzasa Secondary School in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, teacher Madam Lusajo Chanya has been teaching biology and geography lessons in the one-year-old micro-forest planted in the school grounds with AKF’s support. This is just one of nearly 400 micro-forests we’ve planted across eight countries using more than 120,000 plants, responding to the climate crisis in collaboration with the communities who are most affected by it.
Go to The Learning Hub to learn how to plant your own micro-forest in 10 simple steps and watch our webinar about the power of micro-forests.