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Across the world, companies with a wide range of business models are making money from planting trees. These restoration enterprises are proving that restoring degraded forests and agricultural lands is not only good for the planet, but a good business opportunity as well. Population growth and expanding consumer
demand are placing immense pressure on the earth’s natural resources. The human population has more than doubled over the past 50 years and is projected to rise further, from 7.3 billion in 2015 to 9.8 billion by 2050 (UN 2017).
Demand for food is likely to increase by 46 percent between 2017 and 2050 (Ranganathan et al. 2016), while global demand for industrial roundwood will rise by 49 percent from 2013 to 2020 (FIM 2015).
Signs of degradation can be found in almost every ecosystem in the world. One-third of agricultural landscapes were degraded in 2010, temporarily or permanently lowering the productive capacity of land (FAO 2011). Also, the world loses 7.6 million hectares (ha) (18.8 million acres) of forest every year—an area about the size of Panama.
It also gains 4.3 million ha (10.6 million acres) of forest annually, as a result of planted or naturally regenerated forests, but there is a net loss of 3.3 million ha (8.1 million acres), or an area the size of Taiwan (FAO 2015). This loss has a direct impact on local communities that depend on the land, and it also exacerbates other environmental issues. For example, deforestation accelerates climate change as the carbon stored in soil and trees is released into the atmosphere. The dual issues of resource demand and environmental degradation— coupled with land’s inherently limited availability— make clear that the way we currently use land is unsustainable. This challenge offers an opportunity for businesses and entrepreneurs.