most frequently asked questions here at Floresta.


Frequently Asked Questions

Below you’ll find answers to some of the most frequently asked questions here at Floresta. We will be constantly adding most asked question to this page so if you have a question and don’t see your answer, don’t hesitate to email us at info@floresta.co.tz

Where do you work?

We currently work in more than 435 communities in Burundi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Mexico, Tanzania, and Thailand. We are currently exploring new programs in additional countries as well.

How do you decide where to work?

We focus our efforts on places where extreme poverty is caused or exacerbated by environmental degradation. This is where our programs and expertise can most effectively bring about lasting transformation. Plant With Purpose uses a matrix of needs to determine where we can be most effective. In addition, Plant With Purpose seeks to identify local leaders, including churches, with whom to partner.

Why do you plant trees?

Reforestation is one of the most effective components of sustainable rural development. Although seemingly simple, planting trees is one of the most important things we do. Trees restore productivity to the land, creating a sustainable means for smallholder farmers to provide for their families. Planting trees leads to increased crop production, which means food security and better nutrition for families and surplus produce to sell for income. As incomes grow, farming families are able to invest in the future, send their children to school, provide for household needs, and more.

Why do you focus so much on agriculture?

Reforestation is one of the most effective components of sustainable rural development. Although seemingly simple, planting trees is one of the most important things we do. Trees restore productivity to the land, creating a sustainable means for smallholder farmers to provide for their families. Planting trees leads to increased crop production, which means food security and better nutrition for families and surplus produce to sell for income. As incomes grow, farming families are able to invest in the future, send their children to school, provide for household needs, and more.

Do you practice organic agriculture?

Yes, as much as we can. The use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides are discouraged. Organic pesticides are easily made with resources on hand, and solutions to chemical fertilizers are found in compost, green manures, bio-intensive planting, and agroforestry techniques.

What do governments think of you?

Local Plant With Purpose staff members work hard to develop constructive relationships with regional and national governments where they work. In fact, we have received grants for our work from the national governments of Mexico, the Dominican Republic, and the United States.

Do you work with AIDS victims?

Yes. Many communities, particularly in our African programs have been deeply affected by HIV and AIDS. Through improved nutrition and economic opportunity, our work helps improve the health of those living with HIV and AIDS and also give hope for a better life to many of those orphaned by AIDS.

How do you measure progress?

Trained local staff regularly monitor activities, achievements, and number of participants, providing quarterly reports on this information. U.S.-based staff conduct regular site visits and work with local staff to evaluate program effectiveness. Local program staff also seek feedback from program participants on results and areas of needed improvement. Long-term program impact is also gauged through formal impact evaluations that compare surveys of a significant sampling of both participant households and non-participant households.

Where does your support come from?

Approximately half our financial support comes from individuals and churches. The remainder comes from foundations, corporations, special events, and seasonal campaigns.

What is organic agriculture?

Organic agriculture is a production system that sustains the health of soils, ecosystems and people. It relies on ecological processes, biodiversity and cycles adapted to local conditions, rather than the use of inputs with adverse effects. Organic agriculture combines tradition, innovation and science to benefit the shared environment and promote fair relationships and a good quality of life for all involved.

What are the four principles of organic agriculture?

1. Principle of Health: Organic Agriculture should sustain and enhance the health of soil, plant, animal, human and planet as one and indivisible.

2. Principle of Ecology: Organic Agriculture should be based on living ecological systems and cycles, work with them, emulate them and help sustain them.

3. Principle of fairness: Organic Agriculture should build on relationships that ensure fairness with regard to the common environment and life opportunities.

4. Principle of Care: Organic Agriculture should be managed in a precautionary and responsible manner to protect the health and well-being of current and future generations and the environment.

Why is organic food more expensive than conventional food?

Certified Organic Food

Certified organic products are generally more expensive than their conventional counterparts (for which prices have been declining) for a number of reasons:

  • Organic food supply is limited as compared to demand;
  • Production costs for organic foods are typically higher because of greater labor inputs per unit of output and because greater diversity of enterprises means economies of scale cannot be achieved;
  • Post-harvest handling of relatively small quantities of organic foods results in higher costs because of the mandatory segregation of organic and conventional produce, especially for processing and transportation;
  • Marketing and the distribution chain for organic products is relatively inefficient and costs are higher because of relatively small volumes;

As demand for organic food and products is increasing, technological innovations and economies of scale should reduce costs of production, processing, distribution and marketing for organic produce. Prices of organic foods include not only the cost of the food production itself, but also a range of other factors that are not captured in the price of conventional food, such as: Environmental enhancement and protection (and avoidance of future expenses to mitigate pollution). For example, higher prices of organic cash crops compensate for low financial returns of rotational periods that are necessary to build soil fertility; Higher standards for animal welfare; Avoidance of health risks to farmers due to inappropriate handling of pesticides (and avoidance of future medical expenses); Rural development by generating additional farm employment and assuring a fair and sufficient income to producers.

Non-certified organic food

In many developing countries, there are agricultural systems that fully meet the requirements of organic agriculture but which are not certified. Non-certified organic agriculture refers to organic agricultural practices by intent and not by default; this excludes non-sustainable systems which do not use synthetic inputs but which degrade soils due to lack of soil building practices. It is difficult to quantify the extent of these agricultural systems, as they exist outside the certification and formal market systems. The produce of these systems is usually consumed by households or sold locally (e.g. urban and village markets) at the same price as their conventional counterparts. Although the uncertified produce does not benefit from price premiums, some cases have been documented where non-certified organic agriculture increases productivity of the total farm agro-ecosystem, and saves on purchasing external inputs. In developed countries, non-certified organic food is often sold directly to consumers through local community support programs such as box schemes, farmers markets and at the farm gate. These allow the producer to know exactly what the consumer wants, while the consumer knows where the produce comes from and in the case of box schemes, saves on transport costs through delivery of produce to their homes. In developed countries, non-certified organic produce usually carries a higher price than its conventional counterpart, in accordance with the specific consumer willingness to pay.

What are the environmental benefits of organic agriculture?

Sustainability over the long term

Many changes observed in the environment are long term, occurring slowly over time. Organic agriculture considers the medium- and long-term effect of agricultural interventions on the agro-ecosystem. It aims to produce food while establishing an ecological balance to prevent soil fertility or pest problems. Organic agriculture takes a proactive approach as opposed to treating problems after they emerge.


Soil building practices such as crop rotations, inter-cropping, symbiotic associations, cover crops, organic fertilizers and minimum tillage are central to organic practices. These encourage soil fauna and flora, improving soil formation and structure and creating more stable systems. In turn, nutrient and energy cycling is increased and the retentive abilities of the soil for nutrients and water are enhanced, compensating for the non-use of mineral fertilizers. Such management techniques also play an important role in soil erosion control. The length of time that the soil is exposed to erosive forces is decreased, soil biodiversity is increased, and nutrient losses are reduced, helping to maintain and enhance soil productivity. Farm-derived renewable resources usually compensate crop export of nutrients but it is sometimes necessary to supplement organic soils with potassium, phosphate, calcium, magnesium and trace elements from external sources.


In many agriculture areas, pollution of groundwater courses with synthetic fertilizers and pesticides is a major problem. As the use of these is prohibited in organic agriculture, they are replaced by organic fertilizers (e.g. compost, animal manure, green manure) and through the use of greater biodiversity (in terms of species cultivated and permanent vegetation), enhancing soil structure and water infiltration. Well managed organic systems with better nutrient retentive abilities, greatly reduce the risk of groundwater pollution. In some areas where pollution is a real problem, conversion to organic agriculture is highly encouraged as a restorative measure (e.g. by the Governments of France and Germany).


Organic agriculture reduces non-renewable energy use by decreasing agrochemical needs (these require high quantities of fossil fuel to be produced). Organic agriculture contributes to mitigating the greenhouse effect and global warming through its ability to sequester carbon in the soil. Many management practices used by organic agriculture (e.g. minimum tillage, returning crop residues to the soil, the use of cover crops and rotations, and the greater integration of nitrogen-fixing legumes), increase the return of carbon to the soil, raising productivity and favoring carbon storage.


Organic farmers are both custodians and users of biodiversity at all levels. At the gene level, traditional and adapted seeds and breeds are preferred for their greater resistance to diseases and their resilience to climatic stress. At the species level, diverse combinations of plants and animals optimize nutrient and energy cycling for agricultural production. At the ecosystem level, the maintenance of natural areas within and around organic fields and absence of chemical inputs create suitable habitats for wildlife. The frequent use of under-utilized species (often as rotation crops to build soil fertility) reduces erosion of agro-biodiversity, creating a healthier gene pool – the basis for future adaptation. The provision of structures providing food and shelter, and the lack of pesticide use, attract new or re-colonizing species to the organic area (both permanent and migratory), including wild flora and fauna (e.g. birds) and organisms beneficial to the organic system such as pollinators and pest predators.

Genetically modified organisms

The use of GMOs within organic systems is not permitted during any stage of organic food production, processing or handling. As the potential impact of GMOs to both the environment and health is not entirely understood, organic agriculture is taking the precautionary approach and choosing to encourage natural biodiversity. The organic label therefore provides an assurance that GMOs have not been used intentionally in the production and processing of the organic products. This is something that cannot be guaranteed in conventional products, as labeling the presence of GMOs in food products has not yet come into force in most countries.

Ecological services

The impact of organic agriculture on natural resources favors interactions within the agro-ecosystem that are vital for both agricultural production and nature conservation. Ecological services derived include soil forming and conditioning, soil stabilization, waste recycling, carbon sequestration, nutrients cycling, predation, pollination and habitats. By opting for organic products, the consumer through his/her purchasing power promotes a less polluting agricultural system. The hidden costs of agriculture to the environment in terms of natural resource degradation are reduced.

Can organic farmers produce enough food for everybody?

Food security

Food security is not only a question of the ability to produce food, but also of the ability to access food. Global food production is more than enough to feed the global population; the problem is getting it to the people who need it. In marginalized areas, organic farmers can increase food production by managing local resources without having to rely on external inputs or food distribution systems over which they have little control and/or access. It is to be noted that although organic management of natural resources can substitute external agricultural inputs, land tenure remains a main constraint to the labor investments needed for organic agriculture. Organic farms grow a variety of crops and livestock in order to optimize competition for nutrients and space between species: this results in less chance of low production or yield failure in all of these simultaneously. This can have an important impact on local food security and resilience. In rain-fed systems, organic agriculture has demonstrated to outperform conventional agricultural systems under environmental stress conditions. Under the right circumstances, the market returns from organic agriculture can contribute to local food security by increasing family incomes.

Organic agriculture and yields

The performance of organic agriculture on production depends on the previous agricultural management system. An over-simplification of the impact of conversion to organic agriculture on yields indicates that:

  • In industrial countries, organic systems decrease yields; the range depends on the intensity of external input use before conversion
  • In the so-called Green Revolution areas (irrigated lands), conversion to organic agriculture usually leads to almost identical yields
  • In traditional rain-fed agriculture (with low-input external inputs), organic agriculture has the potential to increase yields

In fact, many multiple cropping systems, such as those developed by small holders and subsistence farmers show higher yields in terms of total harvest per unit area. These yield advantages have been attributed to more efficient use of nutrients, water and light and a combination of other factors such as the introduction of new regenerative elements into the farm (e.g. legumes) and fewer losses to pests and diseases. It can be concluded that increased yields on organic farms are more likely to be achieved if the departure point is a traditional system, even if it is degraded. Results will vary depending on management skills and ecological knowledge, but this can be expected to improve as human capital assets increase. However, it is important to have a good land tenure system because an individual is not likely to invest in improving the land if his/her future there is not secure.

What’s the difference between "natural" and "organic" foods?

Organic agriculture is based upon a systematic approach and standards that can be verified and are recognized internationally. Natural foods, on the other hand, have no legal definition or recognition, and are not based on a systematic approach. While natural products may generally be minimally processed, there are no requirements to provide proof, leaving open the possibility for fraud and misuse of the term.

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