Updated January 2013 | Ennovent
Tropical forests provide important resources such as fruits, medicinal plants and herbs, making their survival critical for the income generation abilities of local communities. Despite the importance of tropical forests to both animals, plants and humans, with the continued preeminence of harmful industries, they now only cover 6% of the earth’s land surface and continue to be depleted rapidly.
However, for the many low-income communities living amidst these tropical forests, the timber derived from chopping these trees is an important source of income and conservation is akin to taking away their livelihood.
With this in mind, in 2012 WWF Switzerland launched the Tropical Forest Challenge – a global initiative to discover the best for-profit solutions that have a positive impact on tropical forest biodiversity.
After more than five months of searching, 306 nominations, 75 applicants, over 2,300 public votes and the involvement of 42 experts in the fields of forestry, development and business from organisations such as Thomson Reuters Foundation and the Skoll Centre for Social Entrepreneurship, two winners were selected in December 2012 within the categories of company and startup.
Ennovent and WWF Switzerland are thrilled to announce that Runa was selected as the winner of the company category. The other finalists within this category were EcoPlanet Bamboo, Wildlife Works, Rainforest Expeditions, and CHICZA.
Runa is an innovative Ecuador-based organization creating US markets for guayusa, a rich tasting naturally caffeinated tea sustainably grown by indigenous farmers. With decreasing amounts of land and limited access to markets, prior to Runa’s intervention smallholder farmers typically had no other option than to maintain intense agricultural production – further degrading the Ecuadorian Amazon rainforest. Since inception in 2009, Runa has generated over $100,000 of direct income to over 2,000 farming families – representing an impressive average farmer income increase of 30% – and has planted over 200,000 trees.
“Runa is tremendously honoured to be chosen as the Company winner of the WWF Switzerland Tropical Forest Challenge,” says Co-Founder Tyler Gage. “We hope that our model can inspire other entrepreneurs to take up sustainable conservation solutions”, he adds.
Ennovent and WWF Switzerland are also excited to announce that Planting Empowerment (www.plantingempowerment.com) has been selected as the winner within the startup category. The finalists in this category were Floresta Group, EcoTech Timber, Maya Mountain Cacao and Eco-Fuel Africa.
Planting Empowerment is focused on developing mixed native species agroforestry projects that provide alternative income streams to slash and burn agriculture for smallholder farmers in Panama – encouraging tropical forest conservation. The company leases plots from small landholders to encourage long-term land tenure and stewardship of natural resources while providing hands-on forestry management skills and traditional classroom knowledge. To date Planting Empowerment has planted more than 27,500 trees and has ensured that farmers are earning 45% more than previous income levels.
Co-Founder of Planting Empowerment, Andrew Parrucci says, “We are excited to have won the startup category. We look forward to developing more sustainable agroforestry projects with small landholders and Indigenous communities in Panama and throughout Latin America as a result of the WWF Switzerland Tropical Forest Challenge.”
These companies and startups set the bar for entrepreneurs that are looking for opportunities to address the pressing issue of tropical forest depletion and make an impact on people living in low-income markets.
The winners are therefore endorsed by WWF Switzerland as best solution providers and are awarded global visibility, networking and capacity building opportunities from challenge partners such as, Good Company, Sustainatopia and Thomson Reuters Foundations’. These Challenge rewards are important as many early-stage entrepreneurs face resource gaps – such as networks and training – that inhibit their ability to scale high potential ventures.
WWF Switzerland and Ennovent thank all nominees, applicants and other partners including ANDE, ASEI, Dalberg, GroAction, IDESAM, Impact Investment Asia, ITTO, Kaospilots Switzerland, Social Earth, The Artha Platform, The Hub, TONIIC and Unreasonable Institute for their support towards the Tropical Forest Challenge.
To learn more about the winners, download the challenge publication by visiting: http://www.ennovent.com/challenges/winners/id/8