Planting Empowerment launched in 2006 as a more socially and environmentally beneficial forestry company. Our goal is to practice tropical forestry in a way that empowers local communities in Panama to profit sustainably from their natural resources.
Planting Empowerment grew from the management team’s experiences as development workers in Panama. During our time there, we worked and lived with smallholder farmers and indigenous communities who depend on cattle ranching and slash and burn agriculture for their livelihoods. It was frustrating knowing that our communities contributed to the rampant tropical deforestation in the area and drastic loss of biodiversity.
But as we spent more time “living the issues” alongside our community partners, we realized that they’re simply trying to meet their financial and social needs. Keeping rainforests pristine sounds noble to us, but it’s a different story for those who depend on their natural resources for survival.
Adding to this challenge is increasing competition for land from large monoculture tree farm projects and industrial agriculture. Besides being environmentally questionable, these projects reduce the amount of arable land available to smallholders, effectively encouraging them to carve out settlements deeper in the rainforest.
Our agroforestry projects address these issues by encouraging land tenure, growing mixed native tropical woods, and enabling our partners to profit from sustainable land use. We’re also incorporating initiatives such as biochar and agroforestry to generate more consistent revenues from our forests while promoting biodiversity.