It’s hard to swallow this statistic, but 2,000 trees are chopped down in the Amazon rainforest every 60 seconds to make room for agriculture. Additionally, 1,600 of those trees are chopped down every minute just to make room forcattle to graze and to grow livestock feed. If these rates of deforestation continue, there likely won’t be any rainforests left in the next 100 years.
In the wake of this, there is one awesome program that is helping to reforest the Amazon by fostering sustainable economic opportunities for indigenous people. One Tree Planted, a nonprofit, organization focused on planting trees throughout the world teamed up with Waykana Social Impact to help restore a section of the Amazon rainforest in Ecuador that has been lost to agriculture and logging.
The loss of forest in this region has a profound impact as Ecuador has one of the highest biodiversity indices in the world. It has 2,703 known species of birds, mammals, amphibians and reptiles and is home to over 19,000 plants, of which 20 percent are endemic.
Sadly, since the 1970s it is estimated that Ecuador has lost 30 percent of its forests – largely due to encroaching industries that seek to exploit the forests natural resources. Indigenous tribes, such as the Kichwa, who own their own parcels of land have little choice but to resort to destructive agricultural practices to keep with the burgeoning economy.
According to Louis Lagoutte, a representative from Waykana Social Impact, “What happens in the Amazon from a conservation point of view is that growers not in conservation areas such as the ones we work with have no restrictions on what they can do with their land as they own it.” He further explains, “The communities are settled in these areas and often live in poverty. It is therefore often in their interests to exploit the land they own in whatever way is most profitable. This often means cutting down all trees and clearing land for cattle, which even on small scale agriculture has massive environmental impacts.”
Transitioning previously diverse land into monoculture crops or cattle ranges quickly leads to soil erosion and depletion, making this new economic model both ineffective and unsustainable long-term.
Healing the Land and Indigenous Communities
In an attempt to restore these plots of land and empower indigenous people, Waykana and One Tree Planted are running a tree planting program focused on planting Guayusa trees. Guayusa is asuper-leaf tree, traditionally used to brew tea, that is only found in the Amazon rainforest in Ecuador. This tree has most caffeinated leaves known to humankind and has been consumed in the Ecuadorian Amazon for thousands of years. It is traditionally consumed before dawn at a special ceremony where members of the family meet to discuss what they dreamt of the night before and their goals for the day.