Community reforestation project encourages ‘real-world investment’

A new co-operative is offering investors the chance to help safeguard the future of the Amazon rainforest and invest their money in something more tangible than the stock market

The Cochabamba Project is working with rural communities in Bolivia to establish a new model of community-based reforestation. According to the organisation, the Bolivian Amazon has been devastated by poor farmers cutting down trees out of economic necessity to grow rice and graze cattle, resulting in the soil becoming drained of nutrients. This creates a destructive cycle in which the farmers must fell more trees to access fertile land.

The Cochabamba Project is aiming to address the underlying poverty that drives this cycle. A team of technical advisers are employed to visit around 1,000 farmers, who each have their own smallholding. Farmers receive advice on operating their farms more sustainably, in return for dedicating a small proportion of their land to growing native hardwood trees, which are managed sustainably for timber.

Unlike typical sustainable forestry investments, the profits from the timber are shared equally between the investor, who funds the project, and the farmer, who looks after the trees and owns the land.

This approach results in a biodiverse patchwork of tree plots, embracing 18 different native tree species, rather than establishing a plantation of non-indigenous trees.

Investors can get involved in the Cochabamba Project co-operative by buying shares, with interest of up to 7.5%, based on projected timber revenues. Alternatively, organisations and individuals can sponsor trees as an alternative to conventional carbon offsetting.