Reforestation Act Proposed for Haiti and Armenia

Satellite image showing deforestation in Haiti. This image depicts the border between Haiti (left) and the Dominican Republic (right).

An aid from Senator Dick Durbin’s office recently asked us to provide feedback on a bill introduced by the Illinois Senator that would reduce deforestation and promote reforestation in Armenia and Haiti.

The Haiti and Armenia Reforestation Act of 2013 intends to promote forestry, agroforestry, sustainable agriculture, pay-to-protect schemes, and local stewardship of forests in Haiti and Armenia, two countries that are largely deforested--98 percent and 93 percent, respectively.

The types of activities that would be eligible for funding through the bill include pay to protect programs, seed capital to forestry and agricultural cooperatives, technical training and oversight for reforestation efforts, adoption of clean cookstove technology, and technical and business training for local communities.

This bill brings to mind a framework for investing in forestry that was defined in the Guide to Investing in Locally Controlled Forestry. The guide, published by the Forests Dialogue and the Growing Forest Partnerships, divides forestry investments into two classes: enabling investment and asset investment.

Enabling investment is the foundational kind of capital that helps make forestry industry more attractive to traditional asset investors by securing land tenure and developing business and technical capacity. Asset investors benefit from enabling investment by investing in organizations that are better managed and more sustainable.

Funding through the Haiti and Armenia Reforestation Act of 2013 could be a powerful enabling investment because it would help address one of the key barriers for asset investors: lack of business capacity of the organization receiving financing. With grant support, NGOs or local government agencies could help small forestry enterprises become more “investable” by building their business and operational acumen.

We're inspired by the leadership of Sen. Durbin in proposing this bill, and hope that it is eventually passed into law once the government reopens.

Must-Reads For Tropical Forestry Investing

Photo of women sorting native species saplings in Darien PanamaWomen sort native species saplings in Darien PanamaTwo recently published reports examine the roles of private capital in forestry, and increasing investment flows to locally controlled forestry.  

The Guide to Investing in Locally Controlled Forestry, released in December, is the product of a series of meetings called the Growing Forest Partnerships Initiative. The initiative, managed by the Yale School of Forestry’s Forests Dialogue, brought together investors, forest rights-holders, policy makers, and donors for a series of meetings to develop a set of recommendations to increase investment flows into locally controlled forestry. We contributed a case study about the challenges and benefits of building a local focus into our business model.   

In January, The European Tropical Forest Research Network (ETFRN) and Tropenbos released their News 54 publication entitled Good Business: Making Private Investments Work for Tropical Forests. The ETFRN/Tropenbos piece looks more broadly at the role private finance plays in the restoration and sustainable management of tropical forests. With an estimated investment of $15 billion per year, the private sector represents the largest investor in sustainable forestry. We contributed a case study to this report as well, a more in-depth look at how the Equitable Forestry model increase benefits to local communities and reduces investment risk.

All the case studies featured in the Guide to Investing in Locally Controlled Forestry and the ETFRN News 54 are inspiring examples of how organizations are attracting private investment to sustainable forestry models and increasing local control of tropical forests. We consider them must-reads for anyone interested in investing responsibly in forestry, and feel honored to be included.

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!

Planting in Arimae

Cocobolo saplings growing in Arimae's nurseryCocobolo saplings growing in Arimae's nursery

This morning I pulled my old hiking boots out of the closet and brushed off the residual clumps of dirt. After a few years of wearing them down to Panama, they’ve given in to the humidity and now require regular applications of Shoe Goo to keep the soles on. I should probably just get another pair, but I’m hoping they’ll make it through my next trip.

Next week we begin the planting of five hectares (12 acres) of mixed tropical hardwood trees in our partner community of Arimae. This is the first planting we’ll have done since 2008 and represents a big momentum boost for us as we continue to grow the business. 

Besides bringing our planted area up to over 60 acres, this planting contributes to one of our main goals as a company: promoting community forestry as a sustainable economic alternative. As part of a UNDP-GEF Small Grants project in 2009, we helped Arimae set up a community-owned native tree nursery to sell saplings to forestry businesses like us. For this planting they’ve agreed to sell us spanish cedar, spiny cedar, zorro and cocobolo saplings raised from seed collected from their rainforest reserve and surrounding areas. It’s a positive development for the community, and we’re hopeful that the trees will meet or exceed the quality of the ones we’re buying from more established suppliers.

While we’re only buying about ⅓ of the stock from Arimae, they have the potential to become our biggest supplier of native tree saplings.

The land is prepped, the stakes are ready, we have the fertilizer, and the saplings are on their way. Now, all we need is steady rainfall and a couple weeks' worth of hard work to get them planted. In my opinion this is the most rewarding aspect of what we do. Growing the business here in the US is exciting and rewarding, but it doesn't provide the same tangible sense of accomplishment that I get from putting trees into the ground, getting the hands dirty and building relationships with our partners.

I'll capture as many photos and videos as I can during the planting and upload them to our Facebook and Twitter accounts. Not sure how often I’ll be able to do this—internet access tends to be spotty in the campo—but keep an eye out for updates!