We started Planting Empowerment because we recognized an opportunity for rainforest communities to profit sustainably from their natural resources. The business model was formed around some basic tenets:
- To slow deforestation, forest dwellers need an incentive not to deforest
- Land tenure is paramount in addressing deforestation
- Rainforest dwellers can earn more from their undervalued parcels of land through sustainable forestry
- Forestry projects would be funded by environmentally and socially-minded investors
Since Planting Empowerment formed in late 2006, we have signed four land-lease partnerships with local Panamanians, planted 22,000 trees over 50 acres and raised $140,000 in forest investments from over 100 investors to finance these operations. We're pretty happy with the progress thus far, and have received positive feedback from our investors, local partners and government agencies. However, there are still thousands of acres of deforested land available - owned by thousands of rainforest dwellers who want better lives.
As Planting Empowerment enters a growth phase, we are dealing with the growing pains of funding and organizational structure, among others. Sometimes we get so wrapped up in details that we lose sight of the big picture, er, don't see the forest for the trees.
So, in the next few posts we will describe our vision for the upcoming five years. Think of them as snapshots of different areas of the business - operations, environmental and social benefits, business structure, number of trees planted, capital raised, and so on.