The Next Chapter - Tuko Pamoja (We are Together)

by Daimen Hardie on March 2, 2017

Mbarouk, Daimen and Jeff during a planning session


One of the things that defines our organization is our ability to convert challenges into opportunities. It’s baked into our organizational DNA. 8 years ago - as young, idealistic Maritimers - the options presented to us didn’t match our ambitions. So we created our own opportunity, called it Community Forests International (Forests Intl.), and poured our collective dreams into it.

If you’re reading this, you are likely part of Forests Intl.’s story. You’ve helped us empower people around the world to protect land, restore forests, and overcome poverty in ways that heal the planet. Some of you are even accomplishing these things personally. We can’t thank you enough for believing in us and for believing in positive change. In these challenging times optimism is almost radical, but the results of our efforts speak for themselves - and we’re just getting started.


Community members in their planted forest - Pujini, Pemba, Tanzania


This year, two founding members - Estelle Drisdelle and Jeff Schnurr - moved out of their day-to-day roles at Forests Intl. Undeniably this transition is a new test for us all. Thankfully though, our muscle memory is strong and in classic Forests Intl. style we’ve already begun mining this new challenge for new opportunity.

Jeff now chairs our Board of Directors and Estelle was in the office just yesterday planning the next phase of our Whaelghinbran Farm project. They will always be behind our mission, and their ambitions are indelibly shaped by their experiences here. But Estelle and Jeff both came to the same simple, if difficult, realization - their new projects need to grow beyond Forests Intl. to reach their full potential.

With this in mind, when we look to the horizon, we have new guiding questions for our organization. Rather than growing to 100 employees, could we grow our impact by helping to create 100 other organizations, companies, and cooperatives like our own? This is the vision behind a new project that we’ll be rolling out later this year, one that holds a place for the many social enterprise opportunities realized through our work.


Tuko Pamoja (We are Together). From left to right: Mbarouk Mussa Omar, Estelle Drisdelle, Daimen Hardie, Madeleine Smith, Jeff Schnurr, Zach Melanson, Michael Tritchler


In Pemba the potential for this type of approach is almost limitless. Just last month I sat down with farmers there to discuss the idea of a fair trade spice cooperative. For the last 5 years we’ve been supporting these farmers with technical training in regenerative agriculture and helping them gain legal ownership to their land. Many farmers are now thriving  and their new challenges are mostly market-related. Establishing a farmer owned and operated cooperative would give this whole effort it’s own legs. It’s the natural next step to growing our impact.


Farmer Salama Hamad with a sprawling black pepper vine in her budding Spice Forest - Gando, Pemba, Tanzania


This is just one example of how our frontline work can eventually be rolled into self-sustaining businesses, new engines that drive our mission: to fight climate change by empowering rural communities to thrive with nature.

As Executive Director of Community Forests International, stewarding these and so many other humbling opportunities gives me purpose. I’m honored to share this mission with you all and to continue pushing myself and the people around me to create positive change through our shared challenges.

Looking forward,

Daimen Hardie

Co-Founder & Executive Director

Community Forests International

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