For the last 15 years, the French start-up Kinomé has been protecting and enhancing forests both in France and abroad, placing human and economic development at the center of its biodiversity conservation strategy — a unique and innovative approach that integrates both local populations and companies.
Pollinating insects, fish stocks, forests capable of absorbing greenhouse gas emissions... Nearly one million animal and plant species —out of the eight million that live on the planet— could disappear in the next few decades, according to a UN report on biodiversity. Increasing at an unprecedented rate, according to scientists, the loss of species is already having alarming consequences on human populations around the world. The Amazon rainforest, home to nearly 34 million people and 10% of the world's biodiversity, has already lost more than 20% of its total surface area. The main reason: human activity, deforestation in particular, but also climate change.
While there has been widespread efforts to preserve these ecosystems for the past decades, one French start-up seems to stand out among all those trying to protect natural resources from decline through an innovative and systemic approach — Kinomé. Founded in 2005 by Nicolas Métro, an Essec Business School graduate and grandson of foresters, the social enterprise based in Nogent-sur-Marne (Paris region) protects and replenishes forests in France and abroad, placing human and economic development at the heart of its biodiversity conservation strategy. Its name, Kinomé or "the eye of the tree" in Japanese, highlights its ultimate goal — to enable human beings to reconnect with themselves and with nature through trees, and thus turn around deforestation trends.
"Our method is based on the will, with each one of our projects, to meet the seven essential needs of human beings — health, safety, respect, inclusion, access to knowledge, well-being and self-actualization," says Damien Kuhn, the company's Director of International Operations. This unique approach, based on the principles of ethical leadership developed by German humanist researcher Edel Gött in the 1990s, allows Kinomé to place the needs of local communities at the heart of its reforestation projects and to help them develop new profitable activities focused on forest conservation and reforestation, such as the collection of medicinal plants, beekeeping and the planting of fruit trees. As a result, these communities, the most affected by the disappearance of local ecosystems, can take back control of their environment while creating new sources of income.
"We apply this approach to all our missions and we share it with all our partners, which also helps to find a very constructive common ground between all parties involved in a project, it's our compass," says Damien Kuhn. Because the company does not just carry out reforestation projects on its own, it also helps, advises and gathers stakeholders capable of having a real impact from the entire social spectrum — governments, decision-makers, NGOs, companies, scientists, public and private institutions, schools in France and abroad, and citizens. It is thanks to this multilateral and collaborative approach that Kinomé's teams have been able to cooperate, for example, with partners such as Yves Rocher on the development of plant value chains for cosmetics in Madagascar, Danone for the promotion of acacia gum in the Sahel desert, and others like LVMH, the French Development Agency and the Good Planet Foundation.
Since its launch, the company has carried out nearly 100 initiatives in 30 countries and has planted more than seven million trees on five continents. Nearly 1.2 million people’s lives have been directly improved by its projects, resulting in higher income, access to water, better nutrition or employment, particularly in France, Africa and South America. Perhaps one of its most notable initiatives to date is the Forest & Life international educational program, created in 2010 in partnership with the French education agency Canopé and funded by privately-owned businesses. It aims to reconnect primary school children to nature and local forests, empowering them to take action at their own level to restore or preserve their ecosystems by planting trees, all while contributing to international cooperation — for every tree planted in France, two others are sponsored in an endangered forest in Africa or South America. More than 25,000 children have thus been able to plant nearly 100,000 trees in France, Senegal, Togo, Gabon and Peru.
Staying true to its DNA, Kinomé has also been coordinating since 2014 the activities in West Africa of the 5 Deltas collective, a network of 14 NGOs and social enterprises committed to the protection of mangroves, one of nature's richest and most interconnected ecosystems — and a huge reservoir of biodiversity. Its latest major project, funded by the European Union, aims to protect these threatened ecosystems from Senegal, to Benin to Guinea, and to strengthen their resilience to climate change. Like all Kinomé projects, it is a multi-stakeholder initiative led by the International Union for Conservation of Nature in association with Wetland International and the 5 Deltas collective. By 2023, 400 hectares of mangroves will be planted, benefiting nearly one million local inhabitants. Another way of proving that, if the challenges are huge, it is only by sticking together —and alongside the trees— that we will be able to meet them.
This article has been written as part as a series of stories produced for open_resource by Sparknews, a French social enterprise that aims to foster new narratives that can help accelerate a social and environmental transition to tackle our world’s most pressing issues.