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1000 trees a year 1000 acres of rainforest forever

by Camino Verde
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1000 trees a year 1000 acres of rainforest forever
1000 trees a year 1000 acres of rainforest forever
1000 trees a year 1000 acres of rainforest forever
1000 trees a year 1000 acres of rainforest forever
1000 trees a year 1000 acres of rainforest forever
1000 trees a year 1000 acres of rainforest forever
1000 trees a year 1000 acres of rainforest forever
1000 trees a year 1000 acres of rainforest forever
1000 trees a year 1000 acres of rainforest forever
1000 trees a year 1000 acres of rainforest forever
1000 trees a year 1000 acres of rainforest forever
1000 trees a year 1000 acres of rainforest forever
1000 trees a year 1000 acres of rainforest forever
1000 trees a year 1000 acres of rainforest forever
1000 trees a year 1000 acres of rainforest forever
1000 trees a year 1000 acres of rainforest forever
1000 trees a year 1000 acres of rainforest forever
1000 trees a year 1000 acres of rainforest forever
1000 trees a year 1000 acres of rainforest forever
1000 trees a year 1000 acres of rainforest forever
1000 trees a year 1000 acres of rainforest forever
1000 trees a year 1000 acres of rainforest forever
1000 trees a year 1000 acres of rainforest forever
1000 trees a year 1000 acres of rainforest forever
1000 trees a year 1000 acres of rainforest forever
1000 trees a year 1000 acres of rainforest forever
1000 trees a year 1000 acres of rainforest forever
1000 trees a year 1000 acres of rainforest forever
1000 trees a year 1000 acres of rainforest forever
Tambopata River in the Peruvian Amazon
Tambopata River in the Peruvian Amazon

Dear friends,

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.  You can donate here.

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.

Updates 2017

-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,

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Dear friends,

You know the statistics: every day a staggering amount of forest is lost. But you can do something about it. This Thursday, plant a tree with us in the Peruvian Amazon. Why Thursday? Because it's GlobalGiving's Bonus Day, when your donation will count for more thanks to GG's matching funds. Save the date!  (You can donate here.)

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. 

And now on to our report from the field…

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.

The heroes of our story, the trees leaving the nursery 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.  

So there’s something else that’s extraordinary about the seedlings leaving the nursery today.  They can grow where others cannot. 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 calls 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 generating 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. 

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 who rely on it.  

Please donate this Thursday.  (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,

loading up seedlings from the La Joya nursery
loading up seedlings from the La Joya nursery
tree seedlings heading out from the nursery
tree seedlings heading out from the nursery
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Chihuahuaco seedlings ready to be planted out
Chihuahuaco seedlings ready to be planted out

Ok, we know that you just heard from us. But tomorrow is a matching funds bonus day on GlobalGiving, meaning that when you donate tomorrow we’ll get a buck fifty for every dollar you donate.  

We thought you might like to know.  You can donate at this link tomorrow, Wednesday, starting at 9:00 am EST for the 50% match. 

Why contribute? Well let me tell you a little bit about what it is we do. 

What is your mission? What does that mean?

For Camino Verde, our mission is to make sure that future generations get to enjoy the Amazon rainforest.  

Underlying that mission is a vision of what’s possible. It’s a vision of human beings and other biological communities operating in mutually supportive cohesion. It’s a vision that says that what’s good for nature is also good for us. It’s a vision that many of us have seen and felt palpably – in the agro-forestry gardens of native communities, in the wild-like mosaics of traditional crop arrays, in the cooling shade of trees you planted yourself, the undeniable gauge of any successful ecological restoration effort.  

This vision stands in stark contrast with another vision – of the forest as little more than a mine.  Of rainforest destruction as an inevitable pathway of economic development, of a forest’s benefit measured in dollars and without sense.  This is what we call the problem.  Can you tell that our mission grapples with this problem directly? 

For the Amazon to persist into our grandchildren’s twilight years, many things must happen.  We get to talking about strategy.  Our strategy is to reach out to farmers whose land is the green frontier of rainforest deforestation.  People trying to make a living – that is the the most prevalent battleground for conservation and destruction of the world’s forests. 

We connect with farmers and plant trees together. We halt the advance of deforestation and we help bring permanent, economically productive, ecologically restorative agro-forestry systems to fruition, literally.  We let trees do what trees do best – provide for people.

We practice regeneration, and regeneration means: to reap the abundant benefits from giving nature just a little push in the direction it wants to go anyway.  

That all sounds good, but what’s your story? 

Not long ago we loaded a boat with plants and our whole team and visited a neighbor who had approached Camino Verde about implementing a reforestation area on his farm. More than a year after our initial conversation, Fredy Ortega had planted a hectare on his land, and a varied and significant planting it was. 

Side by side went in the rows of dozens of superfood crop trees such as açaí and cacao.  Large timber trees including balsam of Peru and Camphor Moena were interplanted with vitamin C-rich camu camu and nitrogen fixing legumes.  Working in concert, these trees possess the anatomy and physiology of a forest not unlike the wild, primary forest found just a stone’s throw away from Fredy’s farm. 

This is what we do. We can do it thanks to you.  Help us make tomorrow’s Bonus Day on GlobalGiving our best ever. You can donate at this link tomorrow, Wednesday, starting at 9:00 am EST.

All the best from the Amazon of Peru,

Robin

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This is the story of our world:

For the first time ever, more than half of all people live in cities.  Cities are simply something that didn’t exist for most of the human era – indeed, what we now mean by city has scarcely existed for a hundred years.  

For the first time ever, most humans live within a landscape that was constructed almost entirely by and for humans.  And cities are on the rise.

As just one example from around the world out of hundreds we could choose: Lima, Peru in the early 20th century was a relatively typical Latin American capital.  After an illustrious history of geopolitical importance as a major Spanish colonial seat, Lima’s population had just topped a million in the year 1900.  Now considered the 16th largest city in the world and 3rd largest in Latin America, Lima’s population has just surpassed the 10 million needed to be called a megacity.  In just over a century, the transformation has been total. 

But Lima is a capital and a former colonial seat, so perhaps its recent rise to metropolis status is unsurprising.  For a more dramatic example of the unprecedented speed and span of urbanization around the world we can look to the Peruvian Amazon to Iquitos, capital of Loreto region and frontier city of close to a half million that has sprung up in a century. The circumstances of Iquitos’ rapid growth are unique to Iquitos – the rubber boom created the largest city on the globe not connected to the rest of the world by roads – but the fact of its urban burgeoning is representative of an overwhelming trend repeated around the globe.

We can learn a lot about the world from Iquitos’s example.  In the era of cities, this relative newcomer’s rise has been concurrent with the destruction of its nearby forests, picked over for valuable timber and rubber, felled mostly to open up land for farming (crops need sunlight, the rainforest is an obstacle to be removed).  In a familiar way, the the destruction of forests is fueling the fires of progress.  

On a human level, cash economies have penetrated into areas where barter and cashless self-sufficiency were very recently the norm.  Traditional mechanisms for obtaining food and healthcare have quickly eroded.  The setting of prices for goods and services that previously stood outside of a black-and-white valuation system often occurs with a sort of violence toward the have-nots.  Traditional people are marginalized in the transaction, and expected to catch up or perish.  Indigenous identity measured by whatever indicator is being eroded swiftly. 

Loreto’s story is a microcosm of vast processes affecting the whole globe, and not just in the sense of urbanization.  Iquitos is a mirror of the world in which we live, unique to our time.  In this young city just a few degrees from the equator, the weather is not as it once was.  Droughts are becoming more frequent, as are unusually violent storms and floods.  Age-old agricultural practices have become unreliable as if by black magic.  The connection is not lost on farmers between the overall trend of a drying climate and the loss of vast areas of tropical rainforest in the last brief decades.

Often overlooked, a principle underlying factor in urbanization is desperation.  As elsewhere, many people have moved to the city because the rural predicament became untenable, sometimes tragically so.

When I first visited the Peruvian Amazon in 2003, I heard stories that were familiar to me from other places in the world.  I heard about a younger generation estranged from traditional ways and suffering from previously rare mental and physical diseases.  I heard about the almost universal perception that the loss of trees has worsened the severity and damage of storms and droughts.  I heard about languages dying out and places that were once considered holy desecrated to bulldozers.  I felt echoes of a legacy of colonial oppression which could well be described as collective trauma.  

This is the story of our world.

And I saw people doing something about it.  I met foresters and farmers, women and men who have overcome extraordinary hardship and have seen a better way.  I saw the spark of inspiration in people’s eyes and it was a sign in itself of healing having occurred.  I met some of the skilled indigenous farmers and artisans of the Ampiyacu River basin who decided to take a leap of faith and start planting some of their most endangered tree species. I met young forestry students who wouldn’t stand to see their favorite trees from childhood go extinct.  

In these many years since, living in the Amazon of Peru I have seen, well, more.  Burgeoning nurseries stocked with hundreds of native medicinal tree species.  Highly trained forestry technicians alongside medicine men – both with their hands in the dirt.  People going out on a limb to plant trees that nobody has really even tried to plant before, knowing they’re doing the right thing.  (You can hear more about their work in our past project reports.)

Our world is full of extreme forces, some of which are cataclysmic. But when I see what is possible with the work of our human hands I feel hope for the future of the story of our world.  Cities can become intensive gardens again, and perhaps they will have to.  In a crowded world, people will only need more plants that heal.  Perhaps more of us will work toward a better way.  Perhaps we will yet assume the mantle of responsible stewardship for the world that we as humans are uniquely capable of healing or harming.  

This could be the story of our world. 

Thank you for supporting the work of Camino Verde in Peru, and thank you for all the ways you help make the world a better place.  

 

Program Updates

  • 9,000 trees planted so far this year. A thousand more trees to go to reach our goal for the year!
  • 20,000 tree seedlings produced this year at our 2 forestry nurseries, representing over 100 species. What we didn’t plant on Camino Verde land was supplied to our partner farmers and Wake Forest’s Amazonian research institute CINCIA for planting out in degraded mining areas in Madre de Dios.
  • Diverse agroforestry systems planted with our Farmer Innovator group, reforesting 7.5 acres (3 hectares) more. 
  • Farm Manager quarters are up! Our reforestation center’s beloved Farm Manager Olivia Revilla has finished construction of the manager’s quarters, the final fruit of our big infrastructure push that also brought us the distillation workshop and the ED quarters in the last 2 years.
  • It’s live!  I hope you had a chance to check out our quick introductory video on Camino Verde, the first institutional video we’ve ever had.  If not, you can view it out here.  Produced by friend and collaborator Tulio Dávila of the Center for Amazon Community Ecology and with music from 2012 CV intern Benjamin Burns, who composed the songs while at our reforestation center. 

And that's not all.  Want to find out more? Please drop us a line!  We'd love to hear your thoughts on what's happening in the Amazon. 

Thanks once again for your support.  Onward together we go

photos courtesy Shahrzade Ehya
photos courtesy Shahrzade Ehya
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The Tambopata River, Madre de Dios, Peru
The Tambopata River, Madre de Dios, Peru

It’s the rainy season in the Peruvian Amazon, and I mean rainy. All morning the precipitation has blessed us, spritzed us, showered us.  Standing ankle deep in the clay of a slippery riverbank, at this point we don’t know, don’t want to know, what is sweat and what is rain.  Mud caked hands pass along an unlikely cargo – tree seedlings in their black planting bags are handed up the shore like a line of ants.  

The plants are hoisted out of a large wooden canoe and passed up the steep escarpment. And passed again. And passed again.  Today a thousand seedlings will move through our hands, newborn trees of different species of the Amazon.  It’s just a day in the life of rainforest reforestation, but today is a special day – today these trees are coming home.

A volunteer from Pennsylvania hands me the seedlings two by two, and an intern from Tennessee is next up the riverbank and receives the plants from me.  She in turn hands them to a man from the Andes, working for the year in the jungle, who makes a joke to lighten the mood as the plants pass on to a young man from the Amazon and finally to don Salomon, farmer, landowner, steward of these thousand trees. And then we do it again, hundreds more times this morning. 

At the top of the bucket brigade line, Salomon inspects the new arrivals with a keen eye – after all, he’s a sort of father to these trees. A few mistreated seedlings are discarded and the plants are grouped by species, filling up the yard around Salomon’s modest jungle abode.  There are enough trees here to reforest one hectare (about two and a half acres), and we’ll be back to plant them all tomorrow.  

Some of the trees are for fruit, including familiar names like cacao and açaí – and less familiar ones like camu camu and inga.  Others are forest giants, some day to stand a hundred feet above us.  Some provide exquisite aromatic essential oils.  All the species planted are native.  This polyculture represents what we call an agroforestry system: a forest that we plant, that provides for us.  Salomon has opted to plant this polyculture because he knows that growing trees is ultimately less work than growing annuals like corn or rice or cassava, and less destructive in the long run to the forest that surrounds and interpenetrates his farm.  

On a day like today, covered in mud and soaked from head to toe, I’m reminded of the disconnect between words and their meanings. For example, listen to these words: we reforest the Amazon. We plant trees where once there was rainforest.  I say these things to whoever will listen on a regular basis, and it sounds good enough. But the words don’t necessarily do the best job of describing what we actually do, what we actually did on a day like today. 

Today we scrambled up and down a muddy riverbank carefully carrying delicate tree seedlings, a job no machine or robot can effectively do, a task uniquely suited for caring human hands.  Today we shared jokes and encouraging words as our muscles flexed, then strained, then ached.  Today we put the stubble back on a couple acres of a once forested landscape shaved bare.  This is Amazon community ecology.  The story of the day isn’t about the number of pounds of carbon these trees will capture over their lives, though that’s important too. The story of the day is one of sharing, of laughter, of the promise of new beginnings.  

This is Camino Verde - a green way back to symbiosis with nature.  Hands working together to restore the Amazon, despite the challenges and the rainstorms.  People returning seeds to the forest – and reaping the tenfold rewards. The ones doing the real work are these tiny plants that will turn into mighty trees.  We’re just grateful to help them on their way.

This year Camino Verde will plant over 10,000 trees in the Amazon of Peru, at our reforestation center and with partner farmers like Salomon. Our work is supported and inspired by you, and we’re grateful for your interest in what we do. Please consider renewing your support for Amazonian restoration today.  

In celebration of the many gifts forests give, 

 

Among young trees in a restoration site
Among young trees in a restoration site
Back home after a hard day's work
Back home after a hard day's work
Planting trees in the rain is the best!
Planting trees in the rain is the best!
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Organization Information

Camino Verde

Location: Concord, MA - USA
Website:
Facebook: Facebook Page
Project Leader:
Robin Van Loon
Concord, MA United States
$117,413 raised of $125,000 goal
 
1,690 donations
$7,587 to go
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