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Tree Tracker - Money App

An app that allows displaced persons to create and sell environmentally backed digital token created by the act of growing a tree.

Photo of David Ezra Jay
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What problem does the idea help to solve and how does your solution work? (2,000 characters maximum)

Mary is forced to relocate to a place she has never been before. Carrying all she has on her back, she arrives hungry and entirely dependent on people she doesn’t know for her basic needs: food, water, and wood to cook and build a shelter. Trees are her primary resource and harvesting wood is one of her few options for an income. It’s not sustainable. Within a short space of time, the refugee settlement becomes devoid of trees. Resentment by the locals builds as they see their natural resources disappearing and their land degraded. As the newcomers become increasingly desperate, relations break down and cycles of violence become common. Without work, Mary struggles to maintain a sense of purpose or dignity, she cannot get rooted in the new life that has been forced upon her and she cannot gain financial independence. She is one of the millions of refugees in camps or transitioning to a new life somewhere far from home where extreme poverty, unemployment, environmental degradation, and a disconnect from their communities are the reality. Economic opportunities are extremely limited. Without work, people cannot develop a sense of purpose or dignity, get rooted in their new lives, or gain financial independence. Meanwhile, in another part of the world, people are pouring money and resources into reforestation; green marketing is growing as trees are being touted as a major part of our solution to climate change. But tree planting often lacks transparency and follow up. Large organizations are paying to have trees planted but lack transparency, funding, and systems to measure the actual long and short term effects. GreenStand is creating a cloud and mobile-based open software suite that allows tree planters in environmentally critical places to track their efforts and get paid based on the actual results and long term impact of their work, and corporate and individual donors to monitor and display their trees. This is Mary's solution.

Geography of focus (500 characters)

We are targeting areas experiencing extreme poverty, environmental degradation, and community disconnect. Starting with Africa, we are focusing on populations in the global south. Our pilot is working closely with villages and organization in the Northern Tanzanian Rift Valley, Nigeria, and Old Fangak in South Sudan. This is a scalable project and will create widespread employment for refugees, and IDP. Find more on our target users here

Building Bridges: What bridge does your idea build between people on the move and neighbors towards a shared future of stability and promise? (500 characters)

Imagine Mary arriving at a village and immediately being able to work. Instead of begging, she can help restore the environment and bring outside money into the local economy. With GreenStand technology, huge numbers of refugees can create a future of economic and environmental prosperity. Environmental and economic sustainability improves the community and improves individual well-being. Adding money allows commerce to exist and expand, which can strengthen community connections.

What human need is your idea solving for? (1,000 characters)

Along with other refugees, Mary has been planting trees for three months. She works hard, and tends to her trees, being paid on a monthly per tree survival basis - it is not much money but she takes pride in knowing that she’s giving her tree's roots, growing them. Some die but she plants new ones and as her forest grows, so does her monthly income. With the money from her efforts, she can start to get ahead. It is no longer a struggle for her basic needs. She is employed. Green jobs bring joy, hope, and dignity to people. Meanwhile, as both the environmental and refugee crises worsen, those of us privileged enough not to bear the brunt of either feel an increasing need to help -- our fellow humans and our planet. This project puts the solution firmly in the hands of displaced people while allowing the rest of us to positively contribute.

What will be different within the community of focus as a result of implementing your idea? (1,000 characters)

The community will experience environmental restoration and economic growth and job opportunities; leading to increased well-being, opportunity, and connections. Understanding the impact of individual action is what we are set up to do. Our data-driven approach lets us and our founders know what our environmental and economic impact is. We track who planted what tree where, how many trees have been planted, what trees have been planted, how long each tree is surviving, how many users there are, how active they are, and how much they are paid. Additionally, we will be able to give feedback to our users on their impact. We do all this in a way that you can see, understand and take part in this positive change and positive impact! 

What is the inspiration behind your idea? (1,000 characters)

We are building this as a global community and each of us has her or his own inspiration. For most, it is climate change or the issue of poverty. Our team has many years of experience working directly with people struggling to survive in these environments and our main drive comes from the prospect of creating part of a solution to both climate change and extreme poverty. We can employ people out of extreme poverty by paying them to work on part of a solution to climate change. The world is ready, funds — in the shape of government, international, and green business initiatives — are already there. All we are doing is creating a tool that allows individuals anywhere in the world to take credit for their efforts. By allowing them to earn an income from the environmental services they provide we lay an opensource framework to employ people by linking them to existing funds.

Describe the dynamics of the community in which the idea is to be implemented. (1,000 characters)

Mary lives in a community where the formal economy is virtually nil. Inflation is rampant. Local people are hardly even using money at all. Food aid is the norm. Drought is the norm. Wood is scarce. Hunger is common. And there is a lot of space for growing carbon-trapping trees. Wood is disappearing. Everyone cooks on wood. Charcoal is one of the only exports. As a once fertile land is deprived of the trees, the ground becomes hard-packed. Wind and rain erosion increase and exacerbate the situation. Starting a forest here is not an easy task! People here have never used technology. Giving someone a smartphone and it might as well be a rock. Digital literacy is extremely low. Yet people here are extremely hard working. They have survived by growing things in some of the harshest environments on the planet - if anyone can keep a tree alive, they can. This is the reality we are facing and a set of challenges we are in an amazing position to solve.

How does your idea leverage and empower community strengths and assets to help create an environment for success? (1,000 characters)

Digital literacy is not a strength and smartphones are not easy to find, but people have time and a willingness to work. If they are provided with the opportunity for green employment, we have a recipe that can change not only the landscapes of refugee camps but scale to change the face of our planet. People know how to grow things. Given the opportunity to earn an income from growing trees opens up an opportunity for people to invest in building new forests. With the ability to incentivize the survival of individual plants, we have the ability to foster biodiversity. Imagine someone like Mary learning where she can plant the most diverse set of local species of trees, building forests on every unused piece of land, while getting paid to feed a rich global data set for tree survival, growth, and eco-benefits. GreenStand is an open global community of collaborates that can make this a reality this year.

What other partners or stakeholders will work alongside you in implementing the idea, if any? (1,000 characters)

Our primary stakeholders are refugees and consumers who are offsetting their carbon. To implement this quickly and to scale in refugee camps and in villages of displaced people we are closely collaborating with the organizations that are already on the ground. For example, we have been working with the Alaska Sudan Medical Project and have been reaching out to many others. Our target on the ground organizational partners are those dealing with extreme poverty, refugees, and depleted landscapes, for example, we have received counsel from many amazing people like Hindou Oumarou Ibrahim from Chad, who is intimately connected to our target refugee users. We are not doing this alone. However, we must secure more funding before we can fully implement the required technology to deploy this on a broader scale and support larger planting initiatives driven by global organizations like the UN, UNEP, WFP; we are currently working on building such relationships

What part of the displacement journey is your solution addressing

  • Being on the move, crossing borders, and/or temporarily settled

Tell us how you'd describe the type of innovation you are proposing

  • Service: A new or enhanced service that creates value for end beneficiaries

Idea Proposal Stage

  • Prototype: We have done some small tests or experiments with prospective users to continue developing the idea.

Group or Organization Name


Tell us more about your group or organization [or lived experience as a displaced person?] (1000 characters)

GreenStand is an open-source, volunteer-driven organization building a market-driven framework that already employs people to reforest destroyed landscapes, and allows donors worldwide to verify their impact. We are developing and deploying a mobile and cloud-based app that low-tech planters use to photograph individual trees they plant and tend. We verify planters’ geotagged work and, through funders, pay them for ecosystem services. Aided by machine learning, researchers analyze data and translate it into actionable feedback. Used with agroforestry and informed by local efforts, this is also a powerful tool against hunger. During our pilot phase in 2018, our partner organizations planted over 45,000 trees in Tanzania and Kenya. We are on a trajectory to track over a million trees in Africa in 2019. To maximize our economic and environmental impact, we are looking forward to launching on Tree Tracker Money App and integrating our technology and process into refugee camps.

Website URL:

Type of submitter

  • We are a registered Non-Profit Organization

Organization Headquarters: Country

Unites States

Organization Headquarters: City / State

Anchorage, AK


Join the conversation:

Photo of Paul Tombe

Hi Ezra,
One thing we have learned from Mary's story is commitment. when everything that is done is out of commitment, always there is success. But more is about beginning from a small then gradually growing, as long as there is a point of focus.

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