Planting Empowerment Takes Award in Tropical Forest Challenge

Company recognized as having an innovative solution to conserve tropical forest biodiversity

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Washington DC, Dec. 18th—Planting Empowerment, a sustainable agroforestry company working in Panama, announced today that it won the Startup category in the WWF Switzerland Tropical Forest Challenge.

Designed to discover global for-profit enterprises having a positive effect on tropical forest biodiversity, the WWF Switzerland Tropical Forest Challenge was managed by Ennovent, and honored businesses in Startup and Company categories. Winners went through a selection process that included a popular vote, pre-selection by a panel of experts, and a final challenge jury.

“We’re honored to be selected by WWF Switzerland” said Planting Empowerment advisory board member Emil Herkert. “As part of the growing movement to increase local control of tropical forests, Planting Empowerment has the potential to positively impact both the environment and local livelihoods in a big way. That they won this award speaks to the fact that human well-being must be at the heart of sustainably managing our natural resources.”

WWF Switzerland’s mission is to stop the global destruction of the environment and to build a future in which people live in harmony with nature. The Tropical Forest Challenge was managed by Ennovent, whose mission is to accelerate sustainable innovations for low-income markets.

The winners of the challenge will receive global visibility, networking opportunities and capacity building.

Report from Panama

Operations Director Damion Croston presents a check for a land lease payment to the community of Arimae

Operations Director Damion Croston visited operations in Panama a couple of weeks ago; this is his report.

The last several months has seen a flurry of activity on the ground as we expanded our tropical hardwood plantations by 20% and increased total plantain production ten fold! We also harvested our first crop of plantains from last year’s pilot project generating revenue for our shareholders and community forestry partners

This past quarter our community partners helped us plant approximately 5,500 mixed species saplings in a new plot of land in Arimae, while integrating plantains throughout some of our existing plantations. This is our first new planting since 2008, and we’re looking forward to adding value to our forestry investments through continued intercropping in each of our projects. This was also the first year that we purchased saplings from Arimae's native species nursery, which was facilitated by a grant from the UNDP-GEF Small Grants Programme.

We also recently presented the leadership of Arimae with a $10,000 payment for leasing the new plot of land. This money will be set aside for community projects which will benefit the residents of Arimae. We’re excited to be able to offer our shasreholders the opportunity to have an impact in the economic development of our partner communities. We will be hosting a group visit to see our operations in Panama in June. Contact us if you're interested in going!

Canopy Tower Family Invests in Planting Empowerment

Planting Empowerment (/), a socially responsible forestry company working in Panama, announced today that the Canopy Tower Family, a renowned group of eco-lodges, has invested in Planting Empowerment.

Washington, DC (PRWEB) September 27, 2012—Canopy Tower Family, a Panama-based ecotourism company, announced today that they have made a significant investment in Planting Empowerment, a socially responsible forestry company. The investment will enable Planting Empowerment to expand its operations in Panama’s Darien province, where it has been growing tropical hardwoods for the past six years.

“We invested in Planting Empowerment because we support their mission of profitable, socially-responsible forestry”, said Raul Arias de Para, Canopy Tower Family's founder. “They fit our own business well because we both have an interest in managing natural resources more sustainably and conserving virgin forests. They’re reforesting native tree species in some of the most environmentally sensitive areas in Panama, but also keeping the land in the hands of the local indigenous communities and small farmers. It’s more sustainable in the long run.”

Damion Croston, Operations Director for Planting Empowerment, commented “We lease those plots of land from local communities and reforest with mixed tropical hardwoods and crops. Planting Empowerment’s model provides income, replenishes the soil, grows food, and cultivates high value tropical timber.”

As elsewhere in Latin America, Panama’s natural resources are under constant pressure from logging and subsistence agriculture, which rural farmers depend on to feed their families. Cattle ranching also accelerates deforestation, leading to loss of biodiversity, soil erosion and spread of non-native grasses. Unsustainable management of natural resources threatens biodiversity in Panama, and the long term growth prospects for local communities. Farmers either have to commit more resources to getting the same amount of production from their land, or they move on to a new plot of rainforest.

With the Canopy Tower Family investment, Planting Empowerment will expand its operations and profile in Panama as a forestry company with a strong socially-responsible component. “They’re not the largest forestry company in Panama by far” noted Raul Arias de Para, “but they have been growing steadily over the past six years, and I think they’ll continue to grow as more investors recognize that their profit and sustainability goals go hand-in-hand.”            

About Planting Empowerment
Founded in 2006, Planting Empowerment is a private, Washington, DC-based company with forestry operations in Panama. Planting Empowerment works in partnership with rural communities in Panama to grow tropical hardwoods and promote sustainable land use. As the first forestry company in Panama to work through a land lease model, Planting Empowerment has 60 acres of trees under management on land owned by local farmers and communities.

Andrew Parrucci
Marketing Director
Planting Empowerment
Phone: 804.433.8733

Bringing It Together: An Integrated Forestry Company

We’re pleased to announce that Planting Empowerment and all of our trees in the ground are now one consolidated company. Before, we had set up a separate fund, or vintage, for each of the new plantings because it was the standard operating model for direct investment forestry companies in Panama, and effective for getting us off the ground. We began to realize, though, that at our small scale, it was going to be costly to continue this approach. Combining all of our assets under one company will enable us to raise capital more efficiently, reduce our operational costs and increase our positive affect on our community forestry partners and shareholders.

The consolidation should deliver the following benefits:

  • Reduce administrative expenses (only one set of taxes, lawyers’ fees, etc.)
  • Increase our ability to obtain debt financing to finance expansion
  • Increase liquidity options in the medium to long term for our shareholders
  • Increase awareness and understanding of our Equitable Forestry model

We often refer potential investors to the Investing Alternatively website for a description of the different types of forestry investments. Per their description, we are no longer a “Tree Certificate” type of forestry company--where the investors only own the trees on a certain piece(s) of land--but now a “Tropical Timber Company”: investors are shareholders of a fully integrated timber business, and able to benefit not only from the timber produced in the plots, but also any other activity that adds value such as milling, drying, and production of other crops. As we grow, we will continue to increase equity of the business, but also plan to pursue subsidized debt in order to avoid diluting our shareholders’ stakes.

In the end, while the consolidation of the business is important from a financial perspective, it is no less important than the social and environmental returns that it should facilitate for all of our community of shareholders and partners.