On Trees That Feed…and What Feeds Them

The Prime Minister made an announcement about a major tree-planting programme on September 27, 2019 at the United Nations General Assembly. We are waiting to hear details, although I hear that the programme is still in its planning stages. Still planning? Was the announcement a little premature?

In recent years, the Government’s tree-planting programmes have not quite resonated. I am not sure what happened to the National Environment and Planning Agency’s (NEPA) “Trees for Life” campaign, launched in October 2016. Then there was the “Million Tree Challenge, launched by the Ministry of Culture, Gender Entertainment and Sport, in which the goal was to plant one million trees by this year. Several funders were involved. I wonder how many trees were actually planted in the past three years or so.


Be that as it may, some Jamaican citizens are making their own efforts to “give back.” Some are impatient and want to get on with things. The time for talk is really done. Recently, I met with the St. Ann-based Marvin Campbell, who has just set up his own non-profit foundation. It’s a work in progress, but he has started something. The Making an Impact All-Together (MAIA) Foundation aims to support the planting of fruit trees by providing the nourishment that they need…and more.

“The Earth’s skin is mulch, compost,” says Marvin, who grew up on a farm. And this is where he starts. He is creating compost out of food waste to feed the “trees that feed” – breadfruit, mango, banana, orange trees, and so on. He is collecting compostable material from local businesses, Marvin was introduced to me through the Trees That Feed Foundation, which is focused on agroforestry, planting 180,000 trees in Jamaica and several other countries in the Caribbean and Africa. Marvin shares his fledgling foundation’s emphasis on sustainability and self-help.

The National Environment & Planning Agency mentioned in passing last week that the Riverton City dump in Kingston is operating without a license. (Photo: Gleaner)

Now, let us consider this: 872,044 tons of waste are generated per year in Jamaica – which is almost one ton of waste per person.

Approximately 68% of the waste produced is biodegradable waste, food waste, cardboard and paper. With eight dumpsites managed by the National Solid Waste Management Authority (NSWMA), none are in compliance with international standards for sanitary landfills and all are rapidly running out of space.

Marvin Campbell with his fantastic compost. (Photo courtesy of M. Campbell)

Marvin has planned suitable and doable solutions for the recycling and repurposing of these items. He researched widely. He spoke to experts in these fields and has devised a system that will work for Jamaica. The biodegradable waste, i.e., food waste, cardboard and paper will join his compost heaps, where he plans to hasten the breakdown of these items with his proprietary nutrient formula. The compost will become available to farmers, thereby encouraging and sustainably increasing the yield and standard of what we grow.

He calls it “Turning Trash into Treasure.” Clever. Doable, too. And there is more to come, so stay tuned.

Trees that feed us…

So, whom will be MAIA Foundation benefit? We are giving all the generations of humans labels nowadays, and Marvin is aiming for the upcoming “Generation Alpha” – five to sixteen year-olds. In particular, he is donating trees that he has already nurtured through his composting system to orphanages, children’s homes  – wherever children live who are not part of the mainstream school system. At least, this is where he wants to start: with the young ones who know very little about where food comes from (this would apply to many inner city children, too).

It seems to me, after talking to Marvin in a rather noisy café (and subsequently losing my recording!) that his Foundation will address more than one issue at the same time: firstly, deforestation and the need to plant more trees; secondly, hunger – yes, hunger; thirdly, food waste; fourthly, solid waste management; besides the environmental education that the children will receive and the improvement in agricultural productivity.

That’s sustainability written big and bold.

Marvin Campbell (right) planting a tree at one of the children’s home. (Photo courtesy of M. Campbell)

P.S. I wrote about agroforestry – it’s nothing new – after another insightful conversation, several years ago, with Dr. Frank E. Lawrence. As he said at the time, “Our islands are very brittle.”

There are some big issues looming in the near future, Marvin believes – and so do I. Apart from the overarching concern of climate change, we are likely to see everything on this planet coming down to 1) water and 2) food. If we don’t take this seriously, we simply won’t be around much longer.

On that cheerful note…If you would like to get in touch with Marvin, his contact details are hereWhether you are a business, an environmental group, school – or a potential donor – do give him a call today.

“All-Together” is, after all, the best way…

Marvin Campbell (left) discussing tree planting plans at a local children’s home. (Photo courtesy of M. Campbell)



3 thoughts on “On Trees That Feed…and What Feeds Them

  1. What I find fascinating is that Jamaica has made a terrific investment in educating all of us including each person mentioned in the feature and the results are mediocre and lots of hype. That is a very poor return on that investment. Let’s do better. Even C plus is better than C minus


    1. Hi Cathy: I am not sure which people you are referring to. Marvin has only just started his project, so one cannot talk about his results yet. What puzzled me is the announcement of these Government projects and we don’t hear what the results are of those. I agree though, we really must do better!


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