App gamifies tree planting, aims to plant 365,000 trees in Ipo watershed

Kristine Sabillo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jun 25 2019 11:16 PM

MANILA—Every year, the Philippines loses 47,000 hectares of forest cover.

To address this problem that may eventually lead to landslides, water scarcity and loss of biodiversity, GCash and its partner organizations launched a feature that will enable users to plant actual trees.

“The Philippines used to be a producer of lumber,” said World Wildlife Fund (WWF) President Joel Palma at the launch of GForest on Tuesday evening. “This is not just about forest and about wood. It is about forest for water, water for agriculture."

The feature, called GForest, will allow the company’s subscribers to collect “green energy” by frequently using the GCash app and accomplishing environment-friendly acts like walking.

The team behind it hopes that the game will engage users who are able to monitor their growing virtual tree. Increasing their “green energy” becomes equivalent to lowering their carbon footprint since paying for bills and groceries using the app means they don’t have to drive, which produces carbon emissions, to the bank or the supermarket. 

A fully-grown virtual tree enables the planting of an actual tree in Ipo Watershed, which plays a crucial role in Metro Manila’s water system.

The goal is to plant 365,000 trees in the watershed for the next 12 months.

Palma said majority of people in Metro Manila do not know where their water comes from.

“They don’t realize it comes from the watershed… It’s critical we take care of this,” he said, explaining how the current situation has already resulted in the recent water shortage.

Initially, the app will allow users to plant Yakal trees. Palma said they will only plant indigenous trees in the watershed, which has seen its forest cover drop to just 40 percent in recent years. More than tree planting, the project will focus on forest management through the WWF. This means existing forests will also be rehabilitated.

Mynt CEO Anthony Thomas said they hope the feature will “lead to a sustainable lifestyle for everyone.”

“So many Filipinos changing their lifestyles will see the real impact of their actions,” he said.

Titon Mitra, resident representative to the Philippines of the United Nations Development Programme, said it is important for the private sector to engage in such issues.

“The consumer demands are fundamentally changing. They (consumers) care. They want to inherit the future that is the valuable today. So they are going to start to make (environment-friendly) choices,” he said. “Any business that is savvy and appreciates this.”

GForest hopes to replicate the impact of the Alipay Ant Forest of Alibaba, which helped 500 million users plant 100 million trees.

The feature is expected to be rolled out to users this week.