Resilience Dispatch #24: Tropical agriculture reimagined

Apr 1, 2022
In Peru, potatoes are grown in rotation with beans, corn, and other native species to help prevent
biodiversity loss, support food security, and preserve Incan culture. Credit: Eliana Lorenz Sangay Tucto

In this Earth Day edition

Tropical Agriculture Reimagined

Our Forest, Our Home Project

FT in the News

Join our Mailing List

Tropical Agriculture Reimagined:
Why Forest-based Agriculture and Livelihoods Are Central to Climate Solutions

With Earth Day this coming Friday, I’m looking forward to the annual tree planting that we have organized for 20 years ago in my Brookmont community. It’s a great celebration full of kids, dogs, soil, and laughter. And a visceral reminder of our connection to the land that we depend on for food, water, well-being, and other “ecosystem services.”  

US President Biden is in the Pacific Northwest today to highlight his climate policies and commitment to environmental justice, creating green jobs, boosting clean energy, and protecting 30% of US lands and waters by 2030. We anticipate that he will showcase how this government is “using mother nature” to tackle climate change. We know firsthand from our work across the Amazon and Mekong regions that nature-based solutions and traditional knowledge are powerful tools to work with mother nature to build climate and livelihood resilience. Reimagining how we view, value, and manage nature is at the center of all of our work.  

Agriculture sits squarely between nature and our societies. We know global food systems produce about one-third of carbon emissions and in particular, commercial agriculture, the current development model across the Amazon, based on single-product economies for commodities such as beef, soy, or palm oil, are a leading cause of deforestation globally.

But alternative development trajectories are possible. Traditional Amazon systems have been based on diversity, not monoculture, taking advantage of a multitude of crops and wild-harvested foods, drawing carefully on different forest types and cultivated areas, and keeping the overall landscape intact.

The “Amazon Bioeconomy” we are supporting mimics traditional Amazon management systems, creating a diversity of supply chains based on the incredible natural wealth of the region. The conversations, planning, and management involved in producing a product using methods like agroforestry can also serve as a foundation for other benefits to a community, such as food security, sustainable land management, protection of territories and biodiversity, autonomy and empowerment of women, and well-being.  

Over two decades partnering with indigenous peoples has driven home what the research tells us: long-term collaboration with these communities on forest-based economic opportunities is the best way to stabilize the forest frontier. Doing so both helps them defend their forests from illegal activities and strengthens sustainable forest economies of their choosing. All of which benefits the people and biodiversity who depend on those lands – and the rest of the world through their stewardship of irreplaceable carbon sinks and “weather pattern regulators,” such as the Amazon rainforest.  

Our partners have helped us demonstrate how reimagined agriculture can support biodiversity, livelihoods, and climate action. We are pleased to share some of our most recent program milestones below. Endeavors such as these are not short-term or one-off projects but rather long-term efforts to build a critical sector and economy around landscape restoration. 

– Michael

Our Forest, Our Home Project

Through the Our Forest, Our Home project, together with Ecoporé, Xingu Seeds Network, and Parceiros Pela Amazônia, we partner with 21 indigenous communities across eight territories in Brazil’s Tupi Mosaic to develop economic enterprises that promote forest conservation. Our focus is on building sustainable value chains for five products: açaí, artisan products, Brazil nuts, cacao, and indigenous community-grown native seeds and seedlings to support forest restoration in the Amazon. Efforts are already increasing community access to markets and resulting in economic partnerships that are built upon shared values and respect for their ways of life. The models developed through projects such as this are important examples of how this work can be replicated and scaled across the region.  

Where We Work: the Tupi Mosaic
The Tupi Mosaic spans 4 million hectares in the Brazilian Amazon (indicated in red stripes). Source: From Indigenous Territories to Markets: Artisan Products, Brazil Nuts, Cacao, and Açaí
As the latest milestone of the project, we recently launched a series of four practitioner guides on Amazon value chains (below) to promote these positive examples of sustainable, equitable indigenous economic enterprises: From Indigenous Territories to Markets: Artisan Products, Brazil Nuts, Cacao, and Açaí. An English summary is forthcoming this spring. We hope these books will serve as a resource for peoples of the Tupi Mosaic and provide guidance to other actors supporting indigenous economies and valuing indigenous peoples.

FT in the News

Myanmar Timber Exports Continue, Despite Western Sanctions: Report
According to Forest Trends, much more can be done to strangle the junta’s access to natural resource revenues.To cooperatively stop deforestation for commodities, navigating ‘legal’ vs ‘zero’ is key (commentary)
Policy makers and advocates have been debating the relative merits of trade barriers based on a “legality” or “zero-deforestation” standard to eliminate deforestation from commodity supply chains: we believe this presents a false dichotomy. Both are necessary, from different stakeholders.Luxury wood market driving extinction of rare ipê trees, report warns
Demand for wood from ipê trees in the Amazon Basin could lead to their extinction if better international trade regulations aren’t implemented soon, according to a new report from Forest Trends.Countries that sanctioned Myanmar’s junta are still buying their timber: Report
Despite sanctions imposed following the February 2021 coup, Myanmar exported more than $190 million worth of timber, including to countries that have sanctions on the country’s state-controlled timber monopoly, according to a new report from Forest Trends.


Join our Mailing List