Each year Camino Verde grows a little more thanks to you. That growth means trees planted, rainforests protected, and native communities strengthened. While many organizations carry out elaborate fundraising activities at this time of year, we’re hoping that you’ll agree that in some things, less is more.
Rather than bombard your inbox with obnoxious repeated reminders, I want to take a brief moment of your time to state the obvious: as a donor-funded non-profit organization, we rely on the support of our network to keep us strong. There’s no doubt about it: this year has been unusual in many regards and economically challenging for many of us, including our organization.
I’m particularly grateful for your support when times are uncertain and lean. As the year wraps up and we plan for 2018, this is an especially welcome time to make your tax-deductible contribution through GlobalGiving.
This message isn’t only about raising support though. Let me share one piece of news that has been a long time coming. The brand new and beautiful CaminoVerde.org is here at last! We’re excited to share the new look! Make sure to drop me a line and let me know how it looks.
Now on to some other updates and a quick glance at 2018.
-Camino Verde Baltimori reforestation center was transformed in 2017. With new infrastructure in place including staff and visitor quarters and solar panels installed, the unique example of this living seed bank for over 400 species of trees is now more accessible than ever to visit. Oh yeah, and we planted over 5,000 of trees there this year.
-Camino Verde La Joya nursery is now producing over 20,000 seedlings a year! – over 100 species of trees. Our alliance with CINCIA (Wake Forest University’s Amazon research institute) has allowed us to find homes for over half of these seedlings in areas that were clear cut and severely degraded by gold mining. Next year we plan to produce more seedlings and impact more once and future rainforest.
-In addition to seedling sales from our nurseries, we’re diversifying our funding in other ways. That means your donation will go 100% to program work – none to admin. In 2017 we made our biggest export of essential oils to date. And our consultations and work with partner companies has grown in significance. We’re proud to be able to offer our donors the assurance that all funds will go directly to rainforest restoration work.
Plans for 2018
-Our work with Amazonian Farmer Innovators is growing. In 2017 we worked with a select group of farmer leaders in our area to establish economically-productive restoration areas on their farms. In 2018 we plan to grow the farmer group, connecting conscious supply chains to rainforest farmers who are doing it right.
-We envision the Camino Verde La Joya nursery to expand in impact next year. As we crank up the numbers for seedlings produced and species represented, we’re also planting more at the nursery site, building it into a reforestation center in its own right. Close to the regional capital of Puerto Maldonado, the La Joya center will help spread our regenerative models (and seedlings themselves) to more would-be tree planters in the Peruvian Amazon.
-Our close collaboration with the Center for Amazon Community Ecology (CACE) is just getting closer. With a network of native communities in Northern Peru’s Loreto region, working with CACE has made Camino Verde into a truly regional organization with impact throughout the Peruvian Amazon. Expect to hear more about our partnership this year.
-While it’s too soon to unveil the details, we’re in conversations with one of our partner companies about undertaking an ambitious reforestation effort to bring trees back to an area of 200 acres (80 ha) of degraded ranch land. This will be our largest scale reforestation so far – and the best part is that it won’t require a cent of donor funds.
There’s no future without forests. So thank you – for your support, for your passion, and for your wisdom in wanting to help protect and restore one of the greatest treasures of our planet, the Amazon rainforest. We couldn’t do it without you, nor would we want to. Together, let’s make 2018 a year of transformation. Make a donation today and leave your mark on the rainforest!
Best regards from Tambopata, Peru. In gratitude,
I’m particularly grateful for your support when times are uncertain and lean. As the year wraps up and we plan for 2018, this is an especially welcome time to make your tax-deductible contribution. You can donate here.
As I'm sure you know, every day a staggering amount of forest is lost. But you can do something about it. Tomorrow, Thursday, plant a tree with us in the Peruvian Amazon. Why tomorrow? Because it's GlobalGiving's Bonus Day, when your donation will count for more thanks to GG's matching funds.
We are grateful for your support of Camino Verde’s work. For many organizations, this season represents a slump in donor giving, meaning some tough decisions when it comes to budget. Please consider making a donation on Thursday, when it will count even more. (Donate here.)
And now on to our report from the field. This is a story about plants and the wonders they perform. And a story about biochar, which by now you know from our previous reports is an amazing technology to mitigate climate change while improving soils. It's a story I find inspiring, and I hope you will too.
The seedlings are strong and tall, and I can see satisfied faces and eager hands moving carefully to place these future giants into crates for transport. Today it’s ten species that are moving out – ten kinds of native trees of the Amazon that are as useful as they are endangered. A few are prized for their timber, and therefore under pressure from constant culling in the wild forest. Some are valued for their fruits. Others are medicinal. A couple of amazing trees are used for all of these things.
These trees were born and raised in Camino Verde’s forestry nursery at La Joya, Madre de Dios, Peru. A nursery that produces over 100 species of trees a year, it is remarkable for its diversity and for its steady output – less than two years after the nursery’s founding over 25,000 seedlings a year will find a home in future forests, replacing areas that were clearcut for agriculture, for ranching, or even for gold mining.
Another thing that makes the nursery remarkable is the fact that every seedling from here carries a small payload of something that's been called black gold: biochar. Biochar is charcoal used in agricultural soil – or a forestry nursery's substrate, as is our case.
While clearly relevant as a strategy for carbon sequestration in the soil, biochar performs a number of other small miracles as well. Its microscopic honeycomb-like structure provides ample ecosystem for beneficial microorganisms and also holds on to particles of a variety of sizes and shapes. It's this latter property that makes activated charcoal a leading ingredient in water filters. Perhaps unsurprisingly, biochar is being used more and more in remediation of polluted and degraded sites, where its particle-attracting powers can help clean out toxic contaminants.
Which brings us back to the day at the nursery. The heroes of our story, the trees leaving today will intervene in the regreening of one of the Amazon’s most acute wounds. Illegal and legal gold mining alike have radically altered the uninterrupted canopy of Madre de Dios, a region often considered to be the most significant area of intact tropical forest left in the world.
The threat of mining is unlike agriculture in that the devastation is much more permanent. Whereas a farm that goes fallow after harvest will grow back quickly in a tangle of secondary forest locally called purma, the degradation of forest landscapes wrought by mining goes deep into the subsoil. Trees are cleared, soils are dredged up and returned in a contaminated form, now carrying diesel fuel and heavy metals, especially mercury. The resulting moonscape is inhospitable to all but the hardiest of organisms, whether microbe or plant.
And so there’s something else that’s extraordinary about the seedlings leaving the nursery today. They can grow where others cannot, thanks in part to the biochar carried in their planting pots. They can work their roots into sterile and polluted soils, even into the gravel piles left behind by dredgers and pumps. These trees are expert regenerators; in addition to their other uses and benefits, they will bring back life-giving organic matter in the form of leaf litter and make the soil livable again for a variety of organisms, including the region’s astonishing diversity of birds, amphibians, insects, and mammals.
It’s a process that brings to mind the establishment of life on our planet. Before there was an oxygen-rich atmosphere enveloping the Earth, plants were working to make a stark landscape congenial to life. In addition to the oxygen we now breathe, long ago plants were enacting the conditions necessary for animals of all kinds. In the Amazon of Peru, we get to watch this process unfold once more.
It inspires optimism. The Earth can regroup, recover, regenerate. Especially if we lend it helping hand. We know the Amazon can be restored – even in our lifetime. The protagonists of this heroic process, trees are silent and seemingly immobile, yet we ignore their power at our own peril. With allies like these, capable of transforming desolation into exuberance, we stand a real chance at bringing our forests, and our planet, back from the brink.
One way we're doing more is biochar production, underway this month at the La Joya nursery – using the beautiful Adam Retorn oven that your support helped us to build (see photos below). Each batch of biochar we produce turns waste materials like sawdust and ricehulls into a thousand year carbon sink, trapping the CO2 gathered by plants over a lifetime into a form that doesn't decompose back into atmospheric carbon.
Doing it better means doing it together. Your enthusiasm for this work is what literally sustains us and allows us to continue with the labor of love of reforesting the Amazon. Thank you for your generosity in contributing – it means more trees planted, more hope seeded, a better chance for the rainforest and the people that rely on it.
Please donate tomorrow. (You can do so here.) Tell a friend – we’re stronger together.
Before signing off, I’d like to extend a special thanks to CINCIA, a research group from Wake Forest University who are our key strategic partners in bringing more trees to mined areas. They also provided us with the beautiful drone image you see at the top of this message.
All the very best from the Peruvian Amazon,