It takes a certain kind of leader to succeed here.

Our business challenges aren’t what you typically see. In any given week, our planting teams might deal with bandits, warlords, elephants, leopards, wildfires, hurricanes, or parching droughts. So we need leaders with grit, creativity, relentless determination, and total commitment to the mission. We need leaders who understand the science of reforestation, can build relationships with community leaders and government ministers, manage a rapidly scaling start-up business, and, when needed, build a fence to keep elephants from destroying a nursery, steer a boat through a cyclone, or manually shovel 100 tons of soil onto a truck to transfer to the nursery.

Steve showing how to single a tree in Indonesia

Dr. Stephen (Steve) Fitch

Founder/CEO

As a third-culture kid raised in the Philippines, Steve always cared deeply about impoverished communities. His commitment to environmental restoration began when he visited his boyhood home in the Philippines in 1997. During his trip, he saw the jungles he once played in were cut down, the topsoil was eroding into the ocean, and the run-off had smothered the coral reefs he used to explore. He also saw the impact this environmental destruction had on the local community as their livelihoods were threatened.

In 2004, while in Ethiopia addressing issues related to poverty, Steve was asked by President Hailemariam Desalegn of the Southern Nations and Nationalities People’s Region to take over a failed seedling nursery and forest restoration project. He accepted this opportunity and began to develop our Employ to Plant methodology, which empowers the local community to restore their natural environment. This experience inspired him to start Eden in 2005, and he has led the organization as the CEO since then.

We offer the dignity of employment to thousands of people living in extreme poverty to produce, plant, and protect trees across nine projects nations. By earning a consistent, fair wage, employees have the opportunity to provide a better life for themselves and their families. In October, we surpassed 700 million trees planted. The forests we restore sequester tons of carbon, provide habitat for threatened species, purify water sources, improve the soil for farming, and help prevent extreme natural disasters. By 2023, we project to plant a billion trees per year, and by the end of the decade, we plan to plant a billion trees per month.

Alex and an Eden employee standing in the mud

Alex Kinzer

International Co-Director of Africa Area

No car of their own. Covered in mud. With the COVID pandemic limiting people’s ability to work, and people losing jobs in the surrounding community, Alex and a committed team of Eden diehards found themselves at a remote police station loading 800 seedlings onto a trailer, all in the effort to create a handful of jobs in the midst of a global crisis. Because this team had one goal - to employ people to plant trees - and at Eden, no matter the circumstances, you find a way to get the work done.

Alex focuses on turning overwhelming challenges into viable opportunities, which is how Eden Kenya has become the largest reforestation organization in the country. As she and her Africa co-director (and husband), Andrew, expand the Eden model into additional African countries, she always starts with instilling Eden's organizational values as a way to build teams to accomplish large-scale restoration goals. She doesn't wait for lots of random options; she finds "the one" person or solution. Then, Alex passes down the strategy, direction, and resources for success.

In every country she works in, Alex identifies leadership potential and skills in non-traditional places and then offers people the opportunity to ignite their passion and capacity to change their landscape for the better. She has found that educational background or current occupation are not as important as an unwavering commitment to apply local knowledge to develop local solutions. This is how Alex turns a seed of opportunity into a forest and a community full of jobs.

Sehr Ali

Director of International Operations

Overseeing teams in nine countries who are restoring degraded landscapes by planting hundreds of millions of trees each year, in extremely remote areas, with wild animals, poor roads, spotty internet service, extreme weather, and civil unrest, there are no typical days for Sehr.

Having worked in over thirty-five countries, she understands the need to be flexible and to work with local teams to develop solutions that will actually work on the ground, not just in theory or in a conference room in the US. She helps bring to life our mission of planting trees and saving lives by putting the community first, then empowering them to heal their environment and create hope and opportunity for themselves and their families.

Sehr also oversees our Monitoring & Evaluation team, which tracks the ecological and socioeconomic impacts of our work, ensures we meet our commitments, oversees our compliance with scientific standards and best practices, and communicates with our funders the ways in which their money is being put to the best possible use.

In the face of all those technical challenges, Sehr maintains a connection and commitment to our people. One example came after a major earthquake in Haiti in August 2021. Some leaders' first reaction would be to initiate a damage assessment of their infrastructure. Instead, Sehr first took the time to ensure that all team members and their families were safe and had enough food and water. She then guided those teams through a damage assessment across our project sites so we could restart operations, return people to their jobs, and continue restoring the environment and the local communities.