Restoration of degraded Amazonian forest landscapes with native tree species
We contribute to the regeneration and protection of the Amazon Rainforest and its people.
I confirm that I am fully aware of the eligibility criteria and terms of the Act for Biodiversity Challenge and that I am eligible to apply.
I am 18 years old or older.
Here nursery staff help transport seedlings to a reforestation site in the Peruvian Amazon.
Initiative's representative name
Robin Van Loon
Initiative's representative date of birth
August 13th 1982
Initiative's representative gender
Headquarters location: country
Headquarters location: city
Where are you making a difference?
The Madre de Dios Region of the Southern Amazon of Peru.
Website or social media url(s)
Scaling (expanding impact to many new places or in many new ways)
Yearly Budget : What is your current yearly budget for the initiative?
1. Founding story: Share a story about the "Aha!" moment that led the founder(s) to get started or the story of how you saw the potential for this project to succeed.
When I was 18 years old I visited Peru for the first time. I was following a lifelong fascination with farming and food, and in particular, the ways traditional and indigenous cultures have sustained themselves with crops and medicines, fibers and building materials, all sourced from their environment. When I fell in love with people who were so intimately connected to land and had a symbiotic relationship with the place they live, I became sad when I learned of the rapid deforestation that was happening in their home. I wanted to help. I looked for seeds and yet found none. It became apparent that there was no seed bank safe guarding these beautiful medicinal, cultural and native plants of the Amazon. That is how Camino Verde began.
2. The problem: What problem are you helping to solve?
the Amazon is being destroyed at an astonishing rate, despite a great deal of awareness raised by environmentalists starting mainly in the 1980’s, we are losing Amazonian rainforests more quickly than ever. Scientists estimate that Amazon rainforest is being destroyed at a rate of three football fields per minute. If this deforestation rate continues unhindered, the Amazon will be entirely gone by 2050, causing an increase in atmospheric carbon levels that will make catastrophic climate change.
3. Your solution: How are you working to solve this problem? Share your specific approach.
From 2007-2020, Amazonian Regeneration focused on the establishment of our Living Seed Bank and reforestation center, home to over 20 hectares planted and 400 species of trees so far, source of seeds for the future. Now we're taking the lessons learned there and sharing them with communities and farmers in the Peruvian Amazon.
The AR program is about making reforestation tangible. Every year we invite farmers, institutions, visitors, and students to see restoration agroforestry live and in person at our reforestation center. We want to share what we do, so others find their own inspiration.
A keystone of AR today: each year our tree nurseries produce 20,000 seedlings, representing over 100 species of trees. These seedlings are part of efforts to productively restore degraded gold mining areas, farms, and ranches. We source seed from the 120 ha (300 acres) of rainforest we protect directly in Tambopata, and from a network of seed providers throughout the Peruvian Amazon – an area slightly larger than Pakistan.
The implications of strategies that work to regenerate the Amazon's communities and ecology are global.
There's only one Amazon and we're all breathing it.
4. Innovation: How are you innovating or using unique approaches to solve the problem?
Agro-ecologists in training throughout the Peruvian Amazon, these farmers are the future of restoration. From Ampiyacu in the North to Tambopata in the South our partner farmers are part of a growing supply chain enterprise implementing the strategies that work to restore the Amazon while improving livelihoods for families and communities. This program proliferates seedlings and training and connects farmers to markets throughout the Peruvian Amazon, helping establish robust regenerative supply chains. A cornerstone of this initiative to date is our Artisan Outreach program, working with more than 200 Amazonian craftspeople to develop and market innovative fair-trade handicrafts, meeting economic demands while restoring the forest.
5. Collaboration: How does your initiative seek to bring key players together to preserve biodiversity?
Researching the ecology and sustainable development of rainforest products in benefit of Amazonian communities since 2006, our research and advocacy branch seeks to further the state of knowledge of economically productive restoration strategies through research and implementation. Toward best practices, we road test replicable models and design the mechanisms to take them to scale.
This program is a collaboration with forest people, other researchers, and institutions to grow our implementation and widely share its results with forest communities, the scientific community, forestry and development practitioners, government agencies and others who may be able to apply our lessons in their work or share our results with others.
6. Impact: how has your project made a difference so far — in terms of both business outputs and social impact? How do you plan on measuring progress?
Camino Verde was created in 2007 and has planted over 400 native Amazonian tree species in our reforestation areas in Tambopata, Peru. We currently manage a total of 2,300 hectares in the Peruvian Amazon, including 65 hectares of productive, restorative agroforestry systems. Our 3 nurseries produce an average of 50,000 seedlings, 100 native tree species a year, focusing on highly endangered species with economic potential for smallholders and indigenous growers. We are currently buying bio-mass from native communities and work with over 45 families with grant funding in place for the inclusion of 100 more farmers in our supply chain every year. For the upcoming future we are developing technology for monitoring and tracing tree planting through the use of a phone based app connected to a blockchain database. This technology will allow for tracking of tree growth, carbon capture estimates and providing next level transparency to donors.
7. Growth strategies: what are your main strategies for scaling your impact?
We are growing through offering trainings to farmers, holding workshops and expanding the work we do with native communities. Our Farmer Innovation program gives incentives to farmers for keeping their lands intact while generating revenue. An innovative approach! We are attracting more farmers every year and know that with the right support we can scale up and see more keystone and native tree plantings and more hectors of forest in conservation. We also help farmers find a market for their non-timber forest products creating a full return on their efforts to conserve. Currently we are expanding into new regions of Peru and and know our methods are replicable with the right staff and training.
8. Creating shared value: How does your initiative create value for society? Or different stakeholders?
Historically, efforts to restore tropical rainforests have been hindered by the exclusion of forest-dependent people, the critical actors in deforestation and in any attempt to regenerate forests.
One of the factors that motivates many Amazonian farmers to pursue livelihood activities that are destructive to the rainforest is market accessibility for the kinds of products obtained – timber, cash crops like corn and rice, cattle and charcoal. For long-term forest landscape restoration efforts to be successful, bridges must be built to markets that prefer products sourced from regenerative Amazonian farms.
Our approach centers around linking restoration activities to a shared value.
9. Financial sustainability plan: can you tell us about your plan to fund your project and how that plan will be sustainable in the short, medium, and long term?
Camino Verde's Amazon community ecology work is funded in part by the sale of premium rainforest products, used in natural cosmetics, artisanal perfumes, and aromatherapy. All profits go directly to our programs and allow us to engage with more communities in the rainforest. This is growing as we work with more and more farmers and communities in the Amazon. This program helps conserve and regenerate rainforest while providing significant income to farmers and as a long-term sustainable economic plan for Camino Verde.
10. Team: what is the current composition of your current team (types of roles, qualifications, full-time vs. part-time, board members, etc.), and how do you plan to evolve the team’s composition as the project grows?
Robin Van Loon – Executive Director FT, Ursula Leyva - Administrative Director FT, Manuel Huinga - Forestry Coordinator FT, Camino Verde La Joya Tree Nursery Olivia Revilla FT - Farm Coordinator, in addition we have Horticultural Specialists, Nursery managers, Distillers, Educators and a Communications Director. . 6 Full time, 10 part time, 10 board members all working to nurture and grow our work of rainforest regeneration with native communities. Using extension and outreach people to expand.
11. How did you hear about this challenge?
12. Connection to Biodiversity: How does your project directly contributes to preserving and/or restoring biodiversity? Please share data to support your answer.
A key example of how we directly contribute to preserving and regenerating biodiversity can be seen through our work with the Rosewood tree. A certified endangered species by CITES and ICUN-Red List, we have found ways to help bring this keystone species back through collaborating with native farmers and propagating and sharing seeds. Planting over 5,000 trees with 10,000 waiting to be planted in our nurseries right now. But this is just an example of the many levels of work we do to bring back and protect biodiversity. We work with local communities to make a larger impact, planting rare medicinal and keystone native rainforest species in addition to agroforestry plants. We work extensively to conserve primary and secondary forest lands, which are significant to the conservation impact across flora and fauna and help in the longterm preservation of one of the most biodiverse regions on this planet.
13. Example: Please walk us through one or two concrete examples that show how your solution will solve the problem you’re trying to address.
A farmer who has 50 rosewood trees on their farm can earn $50 a month in bio-mass when the trees are 7 years old. At 15 years old that turns into $200. The harvest is low impact and can be done in less than 2 hours. This is revolutionary for the conventional corn or soy farmer who spends hours slashing and burning to produce their standard cash crop. This is an example of how we provide programming that addresses one of the main causes of deforestation, economics. We have found a way to help farmers keep their lands intact while actively planting highly endangered local tree species, regenerate the forest, brining back biodiversity and creating a less labor intensive agro-forestry system. Farmer's are able to harmless harvest aromatic branches or tropical fruits and sell them back to us or to a local market. The quality of life goes up for families everywhere, with healthy eco systems, healthy bodies and shared prosperity.
14. Marketplace: Who else is addressing this problem in your environment? How does your proposed project differ from these other approaches?
We know there are many organizations planting trees. We often partner or collaborate in efforts to share knowledge and share resources when possible. However, we believe that where we stand out is in our current development of utilizing technology to collect and provide transparency to donors. We want to show a measurable impact of our work. We are starting to learn that we can calculate our carbon capture, monitor tree growth using an app on our phones. For example, rosewood trees are protected but there is still a lot of illegal harvesting of the tree, if we are able to provide data for each tree, and have others replicate this tracking system, then illegal harvesting becomes much more difficult to find a market. Ultimately this can be used for many resources from cocoa to essential oils. Our approach is to address the problem of deforestation holistically, that means thinking not only about ecology, but including education and economics into the solution.
15. Awards & Recognitions: What awards or recognitions, if any, has the project received so far?
We have been featured in numerous articles from Huffington Post, MongaBay and recently our efforts to use technology to measure our carbon capture was mentioned in an article written by Adele Peters in Fast Company. Our work has been highlighted at the International Federation of Essential Oils and Aroma Trades Conference in 2019 and we have received a grant in support of our work with Rosewood from the Flemish Foundation.
16. Financial Sustainability – funding breakdown: Please list a quick breakdown of your funding, indicating an estimated percentage that comes from each source.
Individual donations or gifts: 30%
Corporate Donations: 50%
Earned Income: 10%
17. How do you plan to influence your field of work if you are a winner of the Act for Biodiversity Challenge? How would you invest the prize money to leverage your work?
We are looking to not only plant more trees but expand our network of families in native communities with outreach and educational trainings. We are growing our team to help manage larger regional restoration and conservation sites. Funds will be used to continue to grow our programming, perform trainings, outreach and set up more nurseries. We hope that utilizing the developing technology as mentioned before, will fortify the importance of the work all restoration organizations are doing, not just for timber trees, but also all rainforest products. Illuminating accountability as a tool to help protect precious and endangered resources. By showing actual metrics of ecological and cultural reforestation work we hope to pave the way to climate resilience for people and land.
18. Pitch-video (finalists only)