ELTI - Facilitating Sustainable Forestry

ELTI - Facilitating Sustainable Forestry

Traveling through Panama for the first time in 2004, I was amazed at the amount of land dedicated to the cultivation of teak. The increasing global appetite for the valuable wood and decreasing amounts of old growth teak available make teak an attractive investment for investors and project promoters, who plant it by the tens of thousands of hectares.

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A silvopastoral experiment: cows and trees

A silvopastoral experiment: cows and trees

Last month we began using cattle to control pasture growth on our Finca #2 in Nuevo Paraiso, Rio Congo.

Our employee Jose "Ino" had been asking us to try this system, known as silviculture, to reduce our maintenance costs and to generate income. So, we decided to try a controlled experiment to see if the cows would control the vegetation without damaging the trees. 

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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.

Will Herbicides Reduce Long-Term Yields?

Photo of an employee taking a break from manual cleaning between plantain treesAn employee taking a break from manual cleaning between plantain treesA recent article in the NY Times highlighted that a number of farmers in the US corn belt are seeing diminished returns from the use of popular herbicide glyphosate, or more popularly known as RoundUp.

This herbicide is a very popular tool used by plantation companies in Panama to control the quick growing undergrowth that can impede the development of trees.

What's most interesting is the story of a farmer who used the herbicide frequently and then stopped because he noticed his soil compacting and required a bigger tractor to till it. Since stopping using glyphosate he has continued to realize average to above average yields.

We’ve don’t use glyphosate to control vegetation growth on our plantations because we want to protect the long term fertility of our soils. We believe this will ultimately lead to better growth of our tropical woods and plantains. There’s also the obvious health risks of exposing our employees to to hazardous chemicals through fumigaition.

It will be interesting to see the longer term studies on the impacts of using this herbicide on crop yields. In the meantime, we look forward to comparing our long term results results to those forestry companies using glyphosate to control vegetation.

Forests Map is Live

Image of Planting Empowerment's forest map

We recently published our forest map, which shows the location of our mixed-species timber and plantain projects. Clicking on any location will open an information bubble with more detail about that site. Our goal is to develop this into a more engaging interactive tour with video and photos, so let us know what you’d like to see.