We are now in the Anthropocene, a time when the collective influences of human societies and economies are radically altering the stability of the Earth, as habitat.
The uncertainty of whether the Earth will be able to sustain a human population quickly approaching 9 billion has necessitated a change in how sustainable development is being conceptualized.
Given the world-wide devastation wrought by climate change, the necessity of a new relationship between humans and the environment is critical. Rainforest Partnership’s support of community ventures which established an artisan craft business in Sani Isla, Ecuador or empowered the Chipaota community to sustainably harvest piassaba palm fibers serve as examples of sustainable development, which posits the economy in an interdependent-preserving relationship with the environment.
Rainforest Partnerships mission is to provide financial, legal, educational, and administrative support to forest communities allowing them to preserve their forests from oil industry prospects and drilling and deforestation due to the clearing of land for agriculture or the sale of timber, and minerals. Rainforest Partnership’s sustainable business enablement model involves working with communities to develop and market products made out of raw materials found only in the rainforest or by providing services that are unique to the rainforest. By developing the market for these products, locally, elsewhere in Latin America, and in the U.S., sales of these goods and services give rainforest residents a financial stake in protecting their forests.
In 2008, approximately 1,300 people living in Mushuk Llacta de Chipaota in Northern Peru were the first community that Rainforest Partnership supported. This community had already found an alternative to deforestation relying on the piassaba palm to make brooms; however their farming practices of the piassaba were destructive and resulted in either, cutting down or fatally wounding trees. When the community voted to work with Rainforest Partnership, the nearest palms for harvest were a four to six hours walk away and the Peruvian government had placed a ban on extraction of the palm for sale unless extraction methods were approved.
Due to Rainforest Partnerships collaboration with villagers, a management plan was created. This plan resulted in the identification of 65,000 existing piassaba palms and development of an extraction technique minimizing harm to the trees and allowing for their regeneration every few years. The management plan also resulted in the formation of ECOMUSA, a communal business that harvests and markets the palm fiber. In addition, a committee to patrol and protect the forest was formed , and a broom making facility was established.
What is distinct about Rainforest Partnership projects is the nature of the relationships established with the communities supported. Rainforest Partnership relationships are motivated by a genuine interest to provide support to rainforest communities in order to preserve forests through viable economic and environmental means. Our relationships are an example of how it is possible to have economies supporting societies while sustaining and preserving the environment.