Plant with Purpose

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Plant With Purpose
PWPLogo Green XL.jpg
Founded 1984
Type Non-governmental organization
Area served
Dominican Republic
Key people
Scott Sabin (Executive Director)
Slogan Environmental Solutions to Humanitarian Problems

Plant With Purpose (formerly known as Floresta) is a Christian nonprofit organization that works in developing countries around the world with the goal of improving the quality of the lives of people living in extreme rural poverty.[1] Plant With Purpose uses a transformational development approach that brings together environmental restoration, economic empowerment, and spiritual renewal.[2] Plant With Purpose currently works in more than 350 communities in six countries across Africa, the Caribbean, Latin America, and Southeast Asia.[3]


Plant With Purpose was founded in 1984 under the original name Floresta.[4] Tom Woodard and his colleagues had traveled to the Dominican Republic to volunteer with an agency doing relief work. It became clear to Woodard that food aid alone would not solve long-term problems caused by deforestation and desperate farming practices that depleted the soil.[5] He realized that farmers needed sustainable methods to meet their immediate needs while also working toward long-term restoration of the land. In response, Woodard developed Floresta to meet the environmental, economic, and spiritual needs of rural communities in the Dominican Republic. Today, Plant With Purpose operates in the Dominican Republic, Burundi, Haiti, Mexico, Tanzania, and Thailand.[6]


1984 Floresta Dominican Republic is founded.

1997 Floresta Haiti is founded.

1999 Misión Integral (Floresta Mexico) is founded.

2004 Floresta Tanzania is founded.

2006 Plant With Purpose first uses the Village Savings and Loan Association (VSLA) method.

2008 Floresta and Upland Holistic Development Project (UHDP) form a partnership in the northern hills of Thailand.

2008 Floresta Burundi becomes the sixth international program.

2010 Floresta is renamed Plant With Purpose.

2010 A 7.0-magnitude earthquake in Haiti necessitates relief effort.

2010 Tending to Eden: Environmental Stewardship for God’s People by Executive Director Scott Sabin is published.

2011 Plant With Purpose earns a top rating from Charity Navigator.[7]

2012 Plant With Purpose reaches 8 million trees planted worldwide.[8]

2014 Plant With Purpose celebrates its 30-year anniversary.

Rural Poverty[edit]

Today more than 70 percent of the world's poorest people, or roughly 1.4 billion people live in rural, isolated areas, limiting their access to basic resources.[9] Most rural communities depend on the land for their livelihood and survival. Members of these rural communities often have limited access to financial services like savings and credit, and struggle to procure adequate resources. This makes them extremely vulnerable to external shocks, such as natural disasters, family emergencies, poor crop yields, and civil unrest.[9] Without an established safety net, external shocks can cause rural families to fall deeper into a cycle of poverty.

When left with few options to generate needed income, rural farmers often cut trees to create more farmland or to use or sell as fuelwood.[10] This cycle of deforestation degrades soil, damages habitats and biodiversity, and further exacerbates the problems of rural poverty.


Three-part environmental, economic, and spiritual approach to sustainable development

Plant With Purpose employs a three-part approach for transformational community development that addresses environmental restoration, economic empowerment, and spiritual renewal.[11][12] The overarching strategy is to provide training and tools that equip rural communities to develop and utilize their own talents and resources to reverse the effects of poverty.

Environmental Restoration[edit]

Areas suffering from rural poverty often suffer from environmental degradation as well.[9] Partnering communities receive agricultural training and plant trees to establish reforestation and sustainable farming techniques. The small-scale farmers within these communities can then work to restore the environment while simultaneously producing more income and crop yields.

Economic Empowerment[edit]

Plant With Purpose uses the Village Savings and Loan Associations (VSLA) model, created by CARE, to provide a sustainable form of microfinance that allows participants to build capital.[13] This savings-led approach equips self-elected groups to create a financial safety net by saving their own money and making small loans to individuals within the group.[14] The group decides on a fair interest rate, which then go back to the group and increase overall savings.

Spiritual Renewal[edit]

Plant With Purpose partners with local churches to develop local leadership and support discipleship efforts. Plant With Purpose also uses a formal program[15] designed to mobilize congregations to be agents of change in their communities by finding solutions to existing needs using local resources. Spiritual programs also tie back into environmental restoration through connection to creation care.

While Plant With Purpose is a nondenominationally faith-based organization that works with local churches and Christian leaders as a component of community interactions, participation in its programs is not contingent on religious affiliation, nor does it require participation in Bible studies or church services. Plant With Purpose's Theology of Work curriculum in Burundi is also taught in local mosques and helps facilitate reconciliation in communities.

International Impact[edit]


In 2008, Plant With Purpose began working in Burundi after the end of a long period of violent conflict.[16] Burundi is one of the five poorest countries in the world and has been rated the hungriest country in the world.[17]

Dominican Republic[edit]

The Dominican Republic is the first country Plant With Purpose partnered with and has been the longest running program to date. Of those living in rural Dominican areas, 57 percent live below the poverty line.[18]


Haiti is recognized as the poorest country in the western hemisphere and has one of the world's highest rates of deforestation.[19][20] The country is still recovering following a magnitude-7.0 earthquake in 2010. Plant With Purpose has been working in rural Haitian communities since 1997. In rural areas, 88 percent of Haitians are considered poor (living on less than $2 a day), and 67 percent are extremely poor (living on less than $1.25 a day).[21]


Plant With Purpose has worked in Oaxaca, Mexico with indigenous communities since 1996 and began working in the neighboring state of Chiapas in 2012. Oaxaca and Chiapas are two of the three poorest states in Mexico.[22] In Mexico, 61 percent of rural families live below the poverty line, while 75 percent of the indigenous population live in poverty.[23] Nearly 25 percent of this population group - mainly the men - has migrated to the U.S. and other parts of Mexico, leaving many women to provide for themselves and their children. [24]


Plant With Purpose began working with communities in the Mt. Kilimanjaro region of Tanzania in 2004. The majority of Tanzanian farmers who partner with Plant With Purpose are women.[25] In Tanzania, 98 percent of rural women who are economically active depend on the land for survival through agriculture.[26][27]


In 2008, Plant With Purpose began a partnership with an existing organization called the Upland Holistic Development Project (UHDP). The focus of the program is helping marginalized hill tribe communities in Thailand’s northern hills. The northern hill tribe communities of Thailand consist of hundreds of thousands of refugees. The majority of ethnic hill tribe people came to Thailand to escape civil strife in Myanmar (Burma).


In 2010, Plant With Purpose's Executive Director, Scott Sabin, published Tending to Eden: Environmental Stewardship for God's People.[2][28] Tending to Eden offers a global perspective on the theological foundation for caring for the earth and its people.[28]

In February 2013, an organization called Wings of Kilimanjaro organized a group of almost 100 paragliders to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro and fly from the top.[29] The group raised funds for three nonprofits working in Tanzania, including Plant With Purpose.[29]


  1. ^ Mission. (2012). Plant With Purpose.
  2. ^ a b Sabin, S. (2010). Tending to Eden: Environmental Stewardship for God's People. Judson Press: Valley Forge, PA.
  3. ^ "Plant With Purpose Global Villages 2014". Plant With Purpose. 2014. 
  4. ^ "History and Philosophy". Plant With Purpose. 
  5. ^ Agriculture and Rural Development: Soil Degradation. (2013). The World Bank.,,contentMDK:20452551~pagePK:148956~piPK:216618~theSitePK:336682,00.html
  6. ^ Annual Report July 2011-June 2012. (2012). Plant With Purpose: San Diego, CA.
  7. ^ "Plant With Purpose". Charity Navigator. 
  8. ^ Lee, M. (2012). Nonprofit Group Marks 8 Millionth Tree Planted. UT San Diego News.
  9. ^ a b c Rural Poverty Report 2011. (2010). International Fund for Agriculture Development (IFAD).
  10. ^ Environment and Natural Resource Management Paper. (2002). International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD).
  11. ^ Alford, D. (2009). Trees of Life: How Floresta integrates development discipleship, and creation care overseas.
  12. ^ Sabin, S. (2012). Getting to the Root of Poverty. Huffington Post: Impact.
  13. ^ VSLA Model. (2012). VSL Associates.
  14. ^ Small Wonder: A new model of microfinace for the very poor is spreading. The Economist.
  15. ^ UMOJA. (2013). Tearfund International Learning Zone.
  16. ^ Burundi Profile. (2012). BBC News: Africa.
  17. ^ Grebmer, K. V., et al. (2012). Global Hunger Index: The Challenge of Hunger: Ensuring Sustainable Food Security Under Land, Water, and Energy Stress. International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).
  18. ^ Dominican Republic:Country Strategic Opportunities Programme. (2010). International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD).
  19. ^ The World Factbook: Haiti. (2013). The Central Intelligence Agency.
  20. ^ McDermott, M. (2009). 10 Countries With the Highest Deforestation Rates in the World. Tree Hugger.
  21. ^ Rural Poverty in Haiti. (2012). Rural Poverty Portal.
  22. ^ Mexico Poverty at a Glance (Fact Sheet). (2010). U.S. Embassy, Mexico City.
  23. ^ Enabling Poor Rural People to Overcome Poverty in Mexico. (2012). International Fund for Agricultural Development.
  24. ^ "Measuring the Impact of ICF-supported Productive Employment Projects in Oaxaca (2011)". International Community Foundation. 
  25. ^ Huizenga, C., & Luthye, B. (2013). The Sower: Female Farming. Plant With Purpose.
  26. ^ Rural Poverty in Tanzania. (2010). Rural Poverty Report.
  27. ^ Mmasa, J. J. (2013). Policy Brief No. 8: Participation of Women in Agriculture in Tanzania: Challenges and Policy Recommendations. CLKnet.
  28. ^ a b Shimer, K. (2010). Tending to Eden Recognized for National Book Award. Judson Press.
  29. ^ a b Wings of Kilimanjaro. (2013).

Additional Readings[edit]

  1. Sabin, S. (2010). Tending to Eden: Environmental Stewardship for Gods People.
  2. Sabin, S. (2012). Getting to the Root of Poverty. Huffington Post: Impact.
  3. Myers, B. L. (1999). Walking With the Poor:Principles and Practices of Transformational Development.

External links[edit]