Update on Kiva Loans

Partner David standing in front of some of his existing plantain trees

Partner David standing in front of some of his existing plantain trees

Late in July we closed a plantain loan on Kiva, a microlending platform that supports entrepreneurs and projects in the developing world. The $6,000 loan will cover the costs of a plantain project with our partner David, including seed stock, fertilizer, fencing materials, and technical assistance.

This latest one closes out our round of seven plantain loans, all with our smallholder and Indigenous partners in Panama. We are already starting to harvest plantains from project funded with our 2013 loans, and look forward to hopefully renewing an agreement with Kiva to continue doing these high-impact projects.

With our remaining credit line, we plan to fundraise on Kiva for longer term timber projects, that will deliver more revenue and opportunity for our Panamanian partners.

We took this set of videos to demonstrate the process of seeding the plantains in the nursery prior to planting.

Call for Renewed Focus on Sustainable Forestry

A Nuevo Paraiso girl enjoys some local sugar caneA Nuevo Paraiso girl enjoys some local sugar cane

We enjoyed reading CIFOR director Peter Holmgren’s call for a new focus on sustainable forestry. One of the first things he states is that “Fair, affordable and accessible private finance that promotes sustainable land use, particularly for rural smallholders, is needed.

Amen.

Driving capital towards sustainable agroforestry projects is something that Planting Empowerment has been working on since we started developing our Equitable Forestry model back in 2006. Using private sector finance for community and smallholder forestry is all too much of a niche. We need more capital at work for programs that facilitate sustainable land use by forest-dependent communities. Where we work in Panama for example, our community forestry partners can receive subsidized financing for cattle ranching, but no financing for agroforestry projects because they are a longer term proposition.

Holmgren also mentions the need to understand the food security dynamic tied to forestry. While many countries are deforesting in the name of food security, there needs to be a better understanding of how forests provide food and increased focus on how agroforestry systems can strengthen food security. Towards that goal, Planting Empowerment is currently scaling the production of plantains in our agroforestry system. Plantains are a food staple in Panama and their price increased substantially over the last two years. We also think there is the opportunity to plant guandules, or pidgeon peas, which is a local favorite and fixes nitrogen into the soil during its growth.

We're glad to see Holmgren drawing attention to these issues, and hope that he continues to highlight them during his tenure. Increased research and resources need to be directed to promoting food security and sustainable forestry, for the sake of both those living in forests and the world at large.

Mining Debate in Panama

Watch In Panama, 'New Conquistadors' Protest Canadian Copper Mines on PBS.
See more from PBS NewsHour.

Last night there was a report on the PBS NewsHour examining Canadian mining companies operating in Panama and the environmental impact of their mines on local communities.

As part of a larger project called “The New Conquistadors”, the piece profiled a subsistence farmer in the town of Coclecito, where a mining company is expanding a large gold mine. The piece covers the negative environmental effects that the open mines are reportedly having on downstream local communities, but also the benefits that the companies are pitching to those communities: schools, health centers and roads.

Perhaps the most interesting part of the report was the effect on local food production by subsistence farmers. According to the subsistence farmer interviewed, since the mining companies have been employing more and more local farmers, they have been importing more of the rice, beans, corn and coffee, that the farmers would traditionally grow themselves.

I was tempted to jump up on the soapbox—to discuss how our sustainable forestry model helps local farmers manage their land more effectively for short and long term benefits—but I’ll spare you. The mining companies are easy to go after and what we’re doing is different and doesn’t require a direct comparison.

We'll keep an eye on the mining debate in Panama, especially because it may indicate how the government will deal with indigenous land rights and environmental protection in the future.

New York Times profiles African land grabs (2 of 2)

This is part two of our response to the New York Times article entitled African Farmers Displaced as Investors Move In. In the first part, we explored how land right affects your investment with us. Now we'll look at how different definitions of productive land use is driving development in our partner community Arimae.
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New York Times profiles African land grabs (1 of 2)

The December 21st New York Times story, African Farmers Displaced as Investors Move In, examines the trend of land acquisition in Africa by foreign governments and corporations.

This is a complex subject involving issues of food security, ethics, politics, and capital markets, among others. While Africa's situation is different than Latin America's, there are some parallels to be drawn from the story.

A topic as controversial as land rights merits two separate blog posts. Here in the first, we'll explore how land rights pertains to our business, and how that affects your investment with us. The next post will go into more depth as the topic relates to our indigenous partner Arimae.

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