The Xingu Seeds Project
Source: Partnerships for Forests
As policymakers, environmentalists, and business leaders prepare to convene virtually for Climate Week NYC, the need to act on climate and biodiversity has never been more pressing. COVID-19 has disrupted our global finance systems and ways of life, serving as a wakeup call that humanity’s dysfunctional relationship with nature is a symptom of our unrestrained exploitation and encroachment upon it.
The sheer scale of the challenges before us can be overwhelming, but according to a recent report published by Partnerships for Forests (P4F), practical examples to reduce deforestation and build a better future already exist.
Right now, virgin rainforest and other valuable ecosystems are being cut down and converted to commodity monocultures (single crops such as palm oil and soya), which is good for short term profits, but comes at the expense of biodiversity. As shown in the map below, forests across key tropical biomes are shrinking rapidly.
Despite its destruction, over half the world’s GDP depends on nature and its services, generating around USD 44 trillion in economic value.
But there is a win-win solution. Forest-friendly regenerative business models represent alternatives to business-as-usual and can generate billions of dollars in investment opportunities, while mitigating nature-related risks.
These models are crucial to tackling climate change, protecting species against extinction, creating jobs, and building social and economic resilience to future shocks.
With a portfolio of business models in Africa, South East Asia, and Latin America, P4F has identified three replicable approaches to forest-friendly business from amongst its partners. The key is to apply the right model in the right landscape, and to ensure benefits to local communities.
1. Businesses that enhance the value of existing forest by creating livelihoods for local communities.
Coffee production has been a tradition in Ethiopia for centuries, thanks to the native arabica plant. Currently, a new, premium forest coffee brand is being developed from 150,000 hectares of forest. Local communities and farmers are being rewarded with premium prices for harvesting forest coffee sustainably, providing an increased income to around 10,000 farmers and an annual export value of approximately GBP 21 million.
Beyond being great for business, the forest coffee harbours a rich secret: its genetic code. The Kafa Biosphere Reserve where locals collect wild coffee has 5,000 native arabica coffee varieties. The reserve is also home to 100 bird and 48 mammalian species, including the black and white colobus monkey. By creating financial incentives for local communities to protect the forest and the coffee therein, this business model safeguards rich genetic resources that can be used to breed disease resistant, higher yielding coffee plants globally.
2. Businesses that bring value to forest regrowth by involving local communities in restoration.
Forest restoration on degraded land is typically expensive and labour intensive – but it doesn’t have to be. In Brazil, the Xingu Seeds Association (ARSX), who recently won the Ashden award for Natural Climate Solutions, is a network of 560 seed collectors that promotes an innovative restoration technique called direct seeding.
Direct seeding involves mixing seeds from native species and planting them directly in the ground. Compared to traditional seedling-based reforestation, direct seeding is 60% cheaper, more efficient (20 times more trees can be planted per day), and results in denser, more diverse forest by mimicking the natural restoration process. This makes it attractive to farmers, offsetting their environmental liabilities under the Brazilian Forest Code, which requires them by law to reforest a portion of their land.
As well as restoring forest biodiversity, ARSX helps preserve traditional knowledge. In addition to rural and urban collectors, seed collection is undertaken by indigenous peoples living in the Xingu basin, who are responsible for the maintenance of 92% of the region’s natural forest. The collection and processing of native seeds is deeply connected with traditional knowledge, experience, and culture.
For example, given their knowledge of forest natural cycles, the elders suggest the best time to collect seeds, whilst identification of the best tree species and areas from which to collect is based on forest observation linked to everyday activities.
3. Businesses that increase production efficiency on degraded lands and create robust forest protection mechanisms.
The Juaboso-Bia landscape in Ghana is a key cocoa producing area and home to many forest reserves and national parks. The main protected area provides habitats for over 160 bird and 62 mammal species, including the threatened chimpanzee, forest elephant, and leopard.
P4F works with Touton, a private cocoa trading company, and partners to implement a landscape governance approach to help communities manage the land sustainably. This includes creating financial incentives for local people to adopt climate-smart agricultural techniques, protect remaining forests, and regrow trees in cocoa areas. The business model supports over 17,000 cocoa farmers and brings approximately 180,000 hectares of land under sustainable management.
The key to the success of the model is ensuring landscape governance is inclusive of all stakeholders.
As Ernest Dwamena from Touton puts it, “The surest way to achieve zero deforestation outcomes in cocoa and forest landscapes is for all stakeholders and value chain actors living and working in the landscapes to work in concert in providing pragmatic solutions to deforestation. Working in silos and not at a landscape scale will only give marginal results”.
Nature-based solutions, such as the models incubated by P4F, are gaining political traction. They offer an immense opportunity to achieve the 2015 Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Agreement on climate change targets. But they can only be scaled by collective action and will.
To find out more read the full report.
Partnerships for Forests (P4F) catalyses investments in which the private sector, public sector and communities can achieve shared value from sustainable forests and sustainable land use. P4F is managed by Palladium in partnership with SYSTEMIQ. P4F is funded with UK aid from the British people.