Social Investment in the Amazon Forest
09 Jun 2010
The Cochabamba Project, a UK-based financial co-operative, is on the look out for ethical investors seeking opportunities that will grow.
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The Cochabamba Project, a UK-based financial co-operative, is on the look out for ethical investors seeking opportunities that will, quite literally, grow and grow.
Establishing a new model of reforestation, the project is inviting shareholders – who will own the trees – to enter into equal partnership with Bolivian farmers who own the land and provide the labour. Timber revenues will be shared equally. This is a joint bid to create a long-term, sustainable future for the tropical forests of the Amazon and all the communities that live in them.
The Cochabamba Project is one of a number of partners involved in a much wider programme, known as ArBolivia. A tree management scheme, it has been working with the local farmers to replant species of native hardwoods, including teak, on 7,200 hectares of degraded land on the eastern flanks of the Andes.
“It really is an honour to work on this particular project – one of only three in the world to be accredited as a ‘clean development mechanism’ under the Kyoto protocol,” said David Vincent, co-director of the Cochabamba Project. “It tackles deforestation and local climate change, improves biodiversity, improves social welfare, and it also provides a stronger economic future.”
Expert tropical agronomists are working with 1,500 local farmers, drawing up management plans for the forestry plots and other aspects of each smallholding. They assist the smallholders in growing accredited trees on their own land, from certified seed stock. The seedlings, which grow into valuable timber, are supplied by family-run tree nurseries. Permaculture techniques are also practiced in the forest plots, such as inter-cropping with maize, cassava and rice. Farmers are paid fairly at every step, encouraging them to work efficiently and profit from their labours. In addition, the scheme is making sure that further areas are set aside and planted as conservation spaces to guarantee that more land reverts to primary forest and forest plantations.
About eight million euros is needed to fund the initiative, but over half of this amount will be provided by ‘green loans’ from a Dutch bank. As a Clean Development Mechanism, the venture receives carbon credits, which for 2008-2012, have been sold to the Belgian government for three million euros. Public investment is now being encouraged.
“Forestry is an ideal counterbalance to the stock market,” explained David. “It’s tangible. Every year the trees grow, the heartwood gets denser and the wood becomes more valuable. This is a project that’s regenerating the forests but offers a sound future investment.”
The first share offer in May 2009 raised £623,000, the highest ever achieved by an Industrial Provident Society for the Benefit of Community and enabled 241 hectares to be planted. Shares are then redeemed by the Society for no more than their original value but interest payments are made on withdrawal of shares, based on the increase in the value of the forestry assets. Shares can be redeemed after five years, as funds allow.
Investors are now being sought for the second share issue, to raise £400,000. The minimum amount to invest is £1,000 and the maximum, £20,000. It is an opportunity to make a real social investment, say the project organisers, benefiting savers, the planet and poor indigenous farmers. Every £10,000 invested would enable 4,000 hardwoods to be planted, create an acre of conservation land and triple the income of an average family in the area.
Contact: David Vincent,
100 Whirlowdale Road,
Sheffield, S7 2NJ
Tel: +44 (0)114 2368 168
One of the Cochabamba Project tree nurseries
Photo: copyright John Fleetwood
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