Rotating agroforestry fund set to finance forest restoration within buffer zone of Sumaco Napo-Galeras National Park by pairing tree planting with agricultural micro-loans to guayusa farmers.
Napo, Ecuador. – “Restoration is not quite the same as reforestation”, explains program director Sydney Nilan as we arrive to Mushullakta, a Kichwa-community in Napo-province. “In restoration, your main goal is to recover the ecological integrity of degraded land, we want to restore a forest-like structure and ultimately increase biodiversity.
With the support of Rufford Foundation and WWF, Runa Foundation is creating connectivity corridors between protected areas using applied nuclei restoration and enrichment planting of agroforestry systems. The goal is to recover the biodiversity of the land and to create livelihoods for landowners in the region.
“Having short-cycle crops alongside the planted trees works as an incentive to manage the land”, says Nilan. “This way, we can help farmers to earn income during the very first year of restoration and, thus giving a financial incentive to care for the seedlings during the early establishment phase.”
Planted species were selected based on their value for wildlife, commercial value to farmers, and their ability to rapidly grow and facilitate natural regeneration. Species such as ungurahua (Oenocarpus bataua), chuncho (Cedrelinga cateniformis), and cópal (Dacryodes peruviana) provide fruits that are eaten by mammals and birds. They also benefit land owners by increasing the value of their land through more availability of timber and non-timber forest products.
Over the first few years of stand development, farmers can continue growing various conventional short-cycle crops, such as maize, peanuts, naranjilla, or can plant shade tolerant cash crops in the understory such as guayusa, coffee, and cacao. As the system develops, the larger trees will create a multi-strata agroforestry systems, which is similar in function to natural forests. These systems are known as chakras, and provide an especially climate resilient, wildlife friendly form of agroforestry production.
Rotating Agroforestry Fund
Runa Foundation is implementing a strategy to make restoration and enrichment planting financially viable for smallholder farmers by partnering with a local guayusa producer’s association to pilot a ‘rotating agroforestry fund’. The fund provides farmers with inputs such as seed, organic fertilizer, tools and cash in the form of an agricultural loan.
One of the conditions of the loan is that smallholders plant and maintain trees alongside a short cycle cash crop (in this case maize) on degraded land and fallows. The loan period coincides with the crop cycle so that all of the maize is ready for sale at the same time. Loan recipients will aggregate, and dry the corn through the guayusa producer’s association, and sell it directly to markets. The interest accrued on the loan will be deducted from the sale of the aggregated product.
This approach will encourage repayment while reducing transaction costs to farmers by aggregating market access and eliminating the need for outside intermediaries. By disbursing the funds to as a grant to the guayusa association Runa is also helping to reduce the risk associated with incorporating new crops into agroforestry production.
This project builds on the guayusa supply chain model by creating direct linkages between smallholder communities to end buyers,. It will also serve to diversify farmer income, while restoring habitat. Manuel Narvaez and his wife Estela have sold guayusa to Runa for 5 years as a primary source of income. He sees the project as great way to create livelihoods in the community. “I think the project brings great opportunities for the farmers in the community. I’m happy to try something new and find better use for degraded land and pastures.”
PlanJunto, an organization that helps to build sustainable community enterprises in various areas in Ecuadorian Amazon, is supporting Runa Foundation in the development of the rotating agroforestry fund. The aim is to plant 13 hectares during the first cycle, plus 2 hectares for experimenting with corn, which is a new commercial crop for the farmers in the community.
“Experimenting with the methods of growing corn results in better yields and better economic incentive”, explains Wain Collen, an executive director of PlanJunto. “When the next cycle starts, farmers are able to raise a larger fund and increase the land area under restoration.”
Find more information on the areas under restoration here: http://runa.openforests.com/webmap/