"FOREST for A LIVING" PROJECT
This project pilots a new approach to conservation incentives that leverages environmental funding to facilitate the empowerment of poor rainforest communities as sustainable entrepreneurs, reframes program eligibility constraints to allow for their widespread participation, and explicitly links the resultant alleviation of poverty to continued conservation for lasting environmental returns. Basically, our aim is to conserve forests by strategically alleviating poverty through a program that uses the marketplace to become financially self-sufficient. We are approaching this goal by testing market-based conservation incentives in two poor, marginalized communities that collectively control 3,175 forest hectares within the Mache-Chindul Ecological Reserve, one of Ecuador's last two strongholds of Chocó rainforest.
This initiative sets itself apart from other similar efforts via incorporation of the following three innovations:
1. True "Payment" Sustainability: Rather than ongoing cash payments, we are trading the services required to catalyze lasting livelihood improvements as the incentive for conservation. This guarantees that incentives translate into intended socioeconomic impact, and dramatically increases program financial sustainability.
2. Conservation Target: We are offering poor and often title-less forest inhabitants access to conservation incentives. This addresses the reality of who controls remaining forest expanses in developing countries, taps into a network of cost-efficient stewards that is already in place, and helps to prevent their displacement by advancing waves of agro-industry.
3. Explicit Linkage: We are linking the availability and continuance of newly equitable livelihood improvements to local rainforest conservation. This causes a paradigm shift in the perceived value of standing forest, and ensures that economic alternatives actually reduce environmental degradation.