The Zone’s Michael Short recently spoke to Andrew Mahar, co-founder of WithOneSeed, about the social enterprise focused on rehabilitating the forests of East Timor. Below Andrew answers to some of the 53 public questions and comments submitted to The Zone.
A thoroughly good chap.
Commenter: Barry February 10, 2014, 7:58AM
Such a good story. A positive contribution to global quality of life that is not fouled up by politics or distorting vested interests. Rare, and possibly only temporary, since the threat from overwhelming commercial interests will only increase as the size and success of the project increase.
Commenter: JR February 10, 2014, 8:20AM
Thanks for you positive feedback. I certainly hope that this will not be temporary. One way to make it more permanent is through an education system that encourages discussion and awareness raising so the next generation have the strategies to deal with the mess we are leaving in our wake. We are building an education resource called WithOnePlanet that addresses the issues of carbon, culture and citizenship. This program will be available to all schools in Australia and linked into schools is Timor Leste.
Commenter: Andrew Mahar February 10, 2014, 11:59AM
Lets hope monsanto has nothing to do with it as they spread across the globe with their GM dependency creations, otherwise known as OneSeed. preservation of indigineous culture and promotion of heirloom seed banks would go along way to making the world better , and also for ourselves.
question : if carbon is the issue, how much carbon to cut down said trees and transport them to the first world to make furniture for elites.
question: if carbon credits are given along the way as the trees grow and the trees end up dying (eg climate change and bushfires), do they have to be given back?
Commenter: peterg NSW February 10, 2014, 8:22AM
G’day, In answer to question 1 sustainability requires that the carbon emissions from all of out activities needs to be offset. So ensuring that more trees are planted to replace those that are harvested, preferably on a two for one basis, is one measure, Putting a ‘carbon premium’ on the timber that is harvested and sold is another which would provide funds to offset the emissions from harvesting activities is another.
Question 2 – WithOneSeed follows a certified reforestation standard that ensures a ‘buffer zone’ which provides an insurance against loss of trees.
Commenter: Andrew Mahar February 10, 2014, 11:42AM
Thanks for your serious answers to my borderline ‘having a dig’ questions . I dont buy into carbon credits from trees though, as the wood will have to be sequestered indefinately, antique furntiture perhaps. also, you might like to contact former Page member Janelle Saffin (I would guess you’d know of her), who was up that way before coming back to rule for a couple of terms. shes no longer the member, though I dont know of her wherewithalls. I’d also suggest keeping an eye on Fukushima (apocalytpic potential is up in the air) and think about teaching people about that and what could be done if the SHTF. (water filters, glass houses, sewerage recycling in a closed system). The independent Radiation Network might assist with info and updates. this would be a start…
Commenter: peterg NSW February 10, 2014, 12:45PM
Great article, and inspiring to hear how technology awareness is being interwoven into the approach to make a real difference in this part of the world.
I have been lucky enough to work with the founders of WithOneSeed via an initiative called Random Hacks of Kindness, where volunteer technologists donate their time to help solve humanitarian and social problems. I can personally attest to their passion and inspiring vision.
I’m looking forward to hearing more about what else they have in store.
Commenter: Pete Cohen Melbourne February 10, 2014, 9:18AM
A simple yet thoughtful and planned way for well off folk to contribute to a better future for some not so fortunate and the environment we all live in
Commenter: Dan Seddon February 10, 2014, 9:24AM
What an inspiring story! What has the response been from the Timorese – both children and adults – to this project?
Social enterprise…what is the benefit of this compared to if it was a charity?
Commenter: AR2013 February 10, 2014, 9:43AM
Social enterprise has the potential to ‘put a dollar i a persons pocket’ thereby empowering them to make decisions for their future though building a business with an ongoing income stream. Charity on the other hand can lead to dependancy and is often reliant on the goodwill of the donor. Don’t get me wrong, charity is vital to a civil and democratic society, helping others is a great thing do to. But if we are to build for the future it is about giving people control over their livelihood.
Commenter: Andrew Mahar February 10, 2014, 11:47AM
The response from the Timorese has been impressive, Adults and children alike are witnessing first hand the devastation that climate change is delivering to them. Weather changes, environmental degradation through erosion, poor crop yields through poor soil quality, loss of natural springs for water. They are living this everyday. So when a program comes that provides education and resources to rebuild the forests they are very welcoming.
Commenter: Andrew Mahar February 10, 2014, 12:06PM
The anecdotal evidence we have is that farmers are using the money they are earning through WithOneSeed reforestation initiatives to pay the fees necessary to keep their children at school.The Timorese people overwhelmingly see education as the way out of subsistence living. One woman we recently interviewed, when asked about how she felt about her family being members of the WithOneSeed community tree cooperatives said, she was happy to know that the trees will continue to support her children and her children’s children. The Timorese see this as an opportunity for their future generations.
Commenter: Andrew Mahar February 10, 2014, 1:12PM
A fantastic program that tackles the root of the problems and educates students – the future generations.
Commenter: Gaby February 10, 2014, 10:55AM
The most inspiring point: A community can both do well economically and in terms of the environment. No Government hand-outs or bureaucracy needed. Call this Direct Action! What a model foster employment and carbon reduction.
Commenter: BlackRocker Melbourne February 10, 2014, 11:21AM
Also – beyond carbon offsets for mobile phones and computers – why not trade carbon credits based on mahogany plantations? There is a decent market for voluntary carbon credits, surely an initiative such as this one would attract buyers?
Commenter: BlackRocker Melbourne February 10, 2014, 11:46AM
Andrew Mahar is a visionary and a great friend of Timor-Leste. Please support WithOneSeed
Commenter: Rbrown Melbourne February 10, 2014, 11:47AM
Andrew, this came via email:
What struck a chord with me is that as Andrew points out Australia is well off but so many of us fail to understand just how well off we are living in flash housing and driving around in luxury cars etc. If Andrew as one person can be responsible for doing such an extraordinary amount to help reduce poverty and hunger, educate children and create jobs, just imagine what could be achieved if more of us in the community got behind WithOneSeed to spread the message of “my carbon is your carbon”. Downloading the app would be a great place to start to participate. By the way Andrew, congratulations on Order of Australia last year for your work with Infoxchange using technology to provide community services in East Timor and your current work with “WithOne Seed”. Christine Cutting, Kensington, Victoria.
Commenter Michael Short February 10, 2014, 11:53AM
A fabulous initiative! Providing education resources around carbon and the carbon cycle is essential for students to learn how to make good decisions about how they live. How do you see remote communities in the Asia Pacific region being able to access the online education resources?
Commenter: LJ Melbourne February 10, 2014, 11:54AM
Using technology is going to be a great leveller I believe. I have witnessed this first hand in the high-rises of inner Melbourne and remote villages of Timor Leste. We have established a technology hub in the main village of Baguia and provide internet access via satellite to this hub. Schhol children and adults alike can then use he Hub for their learning. The education resources that are being built through WithOnePlanet will then deliver quality education resources to build local knowledge.
Commenter: Andrew Mahar February 10, 2014, 12:19PM
What schools have got involved in Melbourne? Is there evidence that Australian kids are embracing them project?
Commenter: bbtn February 10, 2014, 11:55AM
We are working a small number of schools in Melbourne, who are piloting the WithOnePlanet education portal and resources. To date we have had over 250 Victorian students and 350 Timorese students through the Carbon Futures program. Schools in Melbourne we are linked with include St Michaels Grammar School, Melbourne Girls College and St Agatha’s Primary school. We are also working the various like-minded organisations such as the Royal Botanic Gardens, Melbourne, CERES and Sustainability Victoria’s ResourceSmart AuSSI Vic programs all of whom have school programs that engage with schools.
Commenter: Andrew Mahar February 10, 2014, 12:43PM
What other countries would you look to expanding into? Also in that region, Indonesia doesn’t have the best record when it comes to deforestation…
Commenter: AtWork February 10, 2014, 12:05PM
We are using his project in Baguia as a pilot with the intention of putting a ‘how too’ manual that will allow others t be able to replicate the activities. We are at this ponti however very focused on this particular project as we want o get it right. The last thing I want to do is to set others up to fail.
Commenter: Andrew Mahar February 10, 2014, 12:22PM
Refreshing to hear someone talking about the need for us to strike a balance between our rights and our responsibilities as citizens of the Asia Pacific region. Developing educational resources that enable the next generation to understand their role, rights and responsibilities in our region will ensure healthy citizenship.
Commenter: Nez Melb February 10, 2014, 12:06PM
The responsibility question is pretty ‘hot’ around town at present. WithOneSeed and in particular the regional partnerships commitment is working to get people in particular young people to understand that whilst they have rights these come with consequential responsibilities. Technology today is contributing nearly as much carbon emissions globally as the airline industry is. Those who are on their devices 24/7 have the responsibility to offset the emissions they are generating. This is why we have developed an app ( I know it also generates emissions) that will allow people to take the responsibility and offset accordingly.
Commenter: Andrew Mahar February 10, 2014, 12:29PM
What I really like about the WithOneSeed initiative is the holistic approach: improving the environment, healthier communities, financial sustainability, and funding of education for the local kids. I’ve met Andrew and have been impressed by his energy and passion to solve these problems.
Commenter: DarylWM Melbourne February 10, 2014, 12:08PM
An interesting model. How do you see business contributing to projects like WithOneSeed?
Commenter: Will Melb February 10, 2014, 12:09PM
There are many ways that individuals and businesses can get involved. One way is by offsetting their technology. We are increasingly using technology to do our business yet global emissions from technology (approx.. 3.5%) are almost as high as emissions from the global aviation industry (approx. 4.2%). Business needs to embed the offsetting of their technology into their business model to be truly carbon responsible. WithOneSeed provides the opportunity for business to not only offset their technology, but in doing so support our subsistence neighbours in the Asia Pacific region. There is a strong case for business to see the idea of ‘Social carbon’ as a clever way to deliver their corporate social responsibility objectives.
Commenter: Andrew Mahar February 10, 2014, 12:47PM
Following on from my previous question about other countries, can this program be replicated in other communities in both East Timor and elsewhere?
Commenter: AtWork February 10, 2014, 12:10PM
That is our intention to have replaceable model through which local communities will be able to rework, tweak, add too and make the model their own. There will however be economies of scale opportunities if these projects all link together, share learnings and experiences.
Commenter: Andrew Mahar February 10, 2014, 12:34PM
Congratulations, Andrew, this is excellent work. You mention a goal of 30% coverage of forests in East Timor. Will this all be mahogany or will you also try to reestablish diverse ‘natural’ forests? If so, would this require a different approach?
Commenter: JM Abbotsford February 10, 2014, 12:20PM
At the present time we are planting mahogany trees, we wanted to keep things as simple as possible. We have established three village based nurseries and one of the activities that the nursery staff are undertaking is propagation of a variety of other tree types including food trees. Once the skills in this area of work have been learned there will be the opportunity to increase the income for the social enterprise through selling the different tree varieties. farmers will be able o pay for these with some f the income earned from carbon credits. This is when we will really see the local economy pick up. This is social enterprise not charity.
Commenter: Andrew Mahar February 10, 2014, 12:53PM
This answered my question as well and makes a lot of sense. Great work !!
Commenter: DIDI February 15, 2014, 1:51PM
What a fantastic and positive concept about people helping people and communities helping communities – the most basic and fundamental of all human interactions that sometimes gets a bit lost. Just wondering if you could expand a bit Andrew on how day to day life is for the farmers and people of East Timor – you talk about how well off Australia is without really realizing it, what is life currently like in East Timor? Keep up the great work Andrew – the world needs more activists/innovators like you.
Commenter: CedricT February 10, 2014, 12:23PM
Day to day life in Timor Leste is very tough particularly for subsistence farming communities who are individually living on less that 80 cents a day. I spend a lot of time (4 months in the last 12) in remote villages. The day starts before dawn as people head to their small land holdings where they spend the day gathering food and tending crops. They head home late where the children fetch water in plastic bottles and collect fire wood. Interestingly every one contributes. They have little in terms of material possessions but that could be one of their secrets to the outward happiness. This lifestyle makes it hard to get momentum behind projects like WithOneSeed as people don’t have much ‘down’ time. I love it.
Commenter: Andrew Mahar February 10, 2014, 1:09PM
Great story, an example of how vision and passsion can combine to deliver, benefits to a community. Although unlike some other commentators – I’d like to see commercial competitors enter the space, a sure sign you’re on to a winner Andrew.
Commenter: Lee Melbourne February 10, 2014, 12:29PM
I am not sure why you would think that having a commercial competitor who be a sign of success. A commercial competitor would be on about making (taking) a financial gain. I think success is about increasing community wealth and making a social gain. Sadly not many commercial operators have this as an objective. But if you are a commercial operator who would like to get in and help, welcome.
Commenter: Andrew Mahar February 10, 2014, 1:01PM
You are all doing a fantastic job! Thank you for your vision – FANTASTIC!
Commenter: C Mc February 10, 2014, 12:32PM
A truly inspiring program. It proves that intergenerational poverty, unemployment, lack of education and self-worth can be overcome with a good idea. The economic participation side of this enterprise provides another real-world example on how, with a little help can transform a community. I happen to know the amount of hard work that Andrew and a small group of people have put into WithOneSeed. I wish it continued success.. Are there plans to engage other corporates?
Commenter: Natalie Sydney February 10, 2014, 12:55PM
The future of the planet depends on engagement with corporations as sadly while governments are telling us the take individual responsibility they are failing to ensure our collective responsibility is being addressed. And the corporations are there for the long haul as opposed to the short political cycle of three or four years. There are a number of enlightened corporations, Computershare who is supporting WithOneSeed is one. Microsoft is an example of having corporate social responsibility embedded in their business model. They have struck and internal price on carbon and every division has to pay real dollars to offset the companies emissions. They then use these funds to improve the efficiency of the company, invest in renewables and support reforestation. Many other corporations are taking this issue very seriously and I hope that some will coe and talk with us about how to work together to ensure a good future for the people of the region.
Commenter: Andrew Mahar February 10, 2014, 1:27PM
Andrew, so refreshing to hear you talk about the power of ‘social enterprise.’ A model with such a clear and specific purpose and the potential to generate multiple outcomes. Be good to hear you talk more about it, to ensure it is well defined in Australia. Thank you.
Commenter: Ben Melbourne February 10, 2014, 1:04PM
Thanks, I think there is a need to clearly decline social enterprise. Having spent 30 years working in the social enterprise area (I must admit I did not know it as social enterprise in the early days) I see the idea sweeping across the not for profit sector as people try to get on the bus. For me social enterprise is pretty straight forward in definition although very difficult in practice. A social enterprise needs to generate at least 80% of its revenue from income generating activities, no individual can make/take a personal financial stake in the enterprise and all surpluses need to reinvested in the business or in the creation of other social enterprises.
Commenter: Andrew Mahar February 10, 2014, 1:42PM
“The atmosphere knows no boarders.” Wow, I have never thought about it in this way before. What is the carbon footprint of Timor Leste compared to Australia?
Commenter: Kate Melbourne February 10, 2014, 1:37PM
A great question. Timor Leste has one of the worlds lowest per capita emissions rate while Australia has one of the worlds highest. CO2 emissions (metric tons per capita) Timor Leste 0.2pa and CO2 emissions (metric tons per capita) Australia 16.9pa.
Commenter: Andrew Mahar February 11, 2014, 9:25AM
A fantastic initiative, congratulations! It’s so great to hear about a sustainable project that empowers local communities. It sounds like the WithOneSeed team have really thought about a project that involves the whole community (from school children through to farmers) and have developed a model that can easily be replicated in other villages. All the while improving the environment for everyone!
Commenter: EM February 10, 2014, 1:42PM
Brilliant program, combining social justice and education in an environmental package that empowers people on both sides of the Timor Sea. Can’t wait to hear more about the project!
Commenter: Andrew Northcote February 10, 2014, 2:33PM
Congratulations on a great initiative!
Commenter: Cecile Melbourne February 10, 2014, 4:27PM
I have been a huge fan of Andrew Mahar’s work for years. He is indeed a National Treasure. Keep up the great work, Andrew!
Commenter: Dr David Morawetz Melbourne February 10, 2014, 4:28PM
Great initiative from an inspirational man leading a talented bunch of people towards a brighter future. Thank you.
Commenter: kelly knonex February 10, 2014, 6:16PM
Interesting response, Andrew, to an earlier comment: “I am not sure why you would think that having a commercial competitor who be a sign of success. A commercial competitor would be on about making (taking) a financial gain. I think success is about increasing community wealth and making a social gain. Sadly not many commercial operators have this as an objective. ”
I wonder if this is still true? Many organisations have very well-developed CSR programmes of course, but beyond that many are recognising that their people can, and should, be act as responsible individuals and would support them getting involved in projects like this without direct corporate benefit. How are businesses reacting to WithOneSeed? In particular, what about companies in the tech space that typically with younger founders who may have a very different view of what engagement looks like?
Commenter: Peter Thomas Melbourne February 10, 2014, 9:55PM
Very Encouraging, possibly they could talk to our government about the way we ripped them off in the Timor Gap Treaty.
Commenter: Excellent February 11, 2014, 7:28AM
Well done Andrew – https://withoneseed.org.au/ is a fantastic example of a sustainable business that integrates the interrelated dimensions of profits, people and the planet. Critically it seeks to embed and empower the social business within the local community. It is a great opportunity for the community sector, government and business to be integrally involved and engaged in supporting the sustainability & transfer ability of this model.
Commenter: Scrase February 11, 2014, 1:24PM