The ArBolivia Project is an initiative to promote reforestation, improved land use and fair trade. The initiative seeks practical solutions to increasing worldwide deforestation, climate change, and poverty in developing countries.

The Amazon is one of the world’s greatest ecosystems. Just one of its natural parks is home to 43% of the biodiversity in the New World. However, these natural forests are disappearing due, in part to the existing slash and burn culture. Covering 7,200 hectares and involving 1,500 smallholders belonging to cooperatives, the Arbolivia Project provides a solution to unchecked deforestation, fueled by poverty. Small scale, economically viable forest plantations of native tree species are being established in partnership with local farmers where natural forest has disappeared the sub tropical lowlands of the Amazon Basin. Sustainable agro-forestry practices are also introduced, alleviating pressure to fell more trees. Land owners are also encouraged to harvest and replant seeds from a selection of native trees on their own land, thus conserving and demonstrating the long term value of primary forest.

This project aims to

  • Improve land use planning, defining conservation areas and implementing protection measures
  • Improve land use and income by introducing agro-forestry systems as an alternative to slash and burn. 10,000 citrus and 10,000 cacao plants to be planted by farmers
  • Protect native trees from being felled by enabling farmers to generate income from seed collection. 500 seed trees to be certified, from which farmers can collect and sell seeds.

The Update

By October, data had been gathered for 150 farm parcels, and maps created for about 30 parcels. Integrated land use planning documents are being created for a target of 75 separate farming families, which will include a definition of which part of the farm will be designated for conservation.

While discussing these farm plans, two communities have come forward requesting that their communal forest areas be designated as conservation areas. Two areas, totalling 1300 hectares of primary and degraded forest are therefore being included in this part of the work and land use plans are being drawn up for them.

Just before the dry period, 250 cacao plants and 499 citrus plants were distributed and planted with 11 different farmers as part of the target to improve land use and income by introducing agro-forestry systems as an alternative to slash and burn.

Half way through the project, 250 seed trees have been selected as seed sources, mainly of Palo maria and Tejeyuque species.  ARBolivia is also producing a guide on quality criteria for the selection of seed trees.  This will be used by farmers with some trees left and indigenous communities, as well as for the capacity building of field staff and being available on the website.

The project was completed November 2012, at which point, data had been gathered for 175 farm parcels and 52 land use plans had been completed. In addition, ArBolivia had supported the conservation of 1300 hectares of communal land.  21,136 trees were distributed to 169 farming families and planted over 52.7 hectares. Following consultation with farmers, it was decided that more of the trees would be citrus rather than cocoa as this would benefit the farming families more due to market conditions.  Farmers were also provided with technical assistance in tree planting and maintenance.  Finally 269 trees had been selected as seed sources – enough to meet current demand.  These trees have been mapped and a guide has been prepared on seed selection and processing.