This week, Food Tank is highlighting Rainforest Alliance, an organization that has transformed land use practices, business practices, and consumer behavior for nearly 30 years.
Rainforest Alliance works with everyone from large corporations to forest-based communities to protect forests and ecosystems on the planet. Forests supply much more than wood and fuel—they are an important source of food for millions of people around the world. Yet, illegal logging, land acquisitions, and climate change are putting a heavy strain on the world’s forests and the resources they provide.
The Rainforest Alliance is one of the founders of the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), a respected forestry standard-setter, and has certified the greatest number of community and indigenous operations based on FSC standards. To ensure communities and businesses have the knowledge to effectively market their forest products, Rainforest Alliance developed the Training, Extension, Enterprises, and Sourcing (TREES) program
Rainforest Alliance recognizes that certification alone is not enough—the organization also works with forest communities to help them conserve their resources. The TREES program works with communities and small businesses to find ways to harvest forest products more responsibly by establishing and formalizing locally-owned enterprises, developing business and marketing skills, and creating inventory management systems.
Food Tank recently had the opportunity to speak with Joshua Tosteson, Senior Vice President of Programs, Planning, and Assessment at Rainforest Alliance. Tosteson explains, “If you really want to make sure land use practices on the ground are done in a way that preserves and enhances biodiversity rather than consumes it, you must ensure that the rest of the value chain downstream from those land use practices is aligned with the right incentives, goals, and underlying paradigms to support those changes in land use practices.”
The TREES program is actively working across four continents and has projects in Cameroon, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, and Peru. Rainforest Alliance works with small and medium forestry enterprises to train forest managers in sustainable harvesting, erosion control, and conservation of endangered species and ecosystems.
They have collaborated with the International Finance Corporation (IFC), ECOM Agroindustrial Corporation, and local coffee farmers in Mexico and Nicaragua on the Carbon Coffee project, an endeavor to develop a system for measuring carbon stored on coffee farms. The project will help coffee growers earn additional income while promoting reforestation. Coffee farmers are encouraged to plant trees that will shade their coffee plants while absorbing carbon.
And in China, the community-based Reforestation in Yunnan Mountainous Communities Project intends to address poverty and heavy soil erosion by working with the poorest farmers in the Yunnan province to reforest the land. The project will enable farmers to promote native biodiversity and to supplement their income through the sale of non-timber forest products and tree-planting subsidies.
In Louisiana, United States, the Bayou Bartholomew Climate Action Project will reforest an area of agricultural lands in the Lower Mississippi Valley that have been negatively impacted over the last several decades by logging and industrial agriculture. The project focuses on revitalizing soil quality and wildlife habitats in the area by planting 18 native bottomland hardwood tree species, such as American elm and sycamore.
Eaters who want to support the Rainforest Alliance’s work and the communities that they support can look for products bearing their green frog seal, a guarantee that the products originate or are sourced from Rainforest Alliance Certified farms or forests.