Trillion Trees: Amazon Bioeconomy Challenge

This Challenge calls for innovative bioeconomy projects in the Amazon Rainforest that protect and restore biodiversity and ecosystem functions.

Home to more than 34 million people and 10% of the world’s known biodiversity, the Amazon is a mega-diverse ecosystem that accounts for 20% of the world’s remaining forest areas. Continued deforestation and ecosystem degradation pose major economic, cultural and environmental threats to the region and the planet. We urgently need to scale sustainable “bioeconomy” models that preserve and restore the Amazon Rainforest while providing livelihoods for its people.

In the context of this challenge, Bioeconomy is defined as the approaches that make sustainable use of standing-forests and water-based biological resources, and support forest conservation, preservation and restoration.

This challenge calls for innovative bioeconomy projects and solutions which contribute to the conservation, preservation or restoration of biodiversity and ecosystem functions of the forest, are locally anchored and inclusive, and deliver social and economic benefits for local communities.

Learn about the challenge

This is why it’s important

Our solution and its purpose

This initiative is designed to reverse deforestation and ecosystem degradation in the Amazon rainforest of Ecuador by the complementary integration of Amazonian vanilla plants into 4,000 hectares of polycrop agroforestry systems that are owned and controlled by indigenous smallholder farmers.

Together with our partnering indigenous community associations from Amazonian Ecuador, we identified considerable bioeconomic potential for endangered Amazonian vanilla orchids and the Amazon ecosystem. Vanilla orchids are shade-growing plants that wrap themselves around endemic trees in a symbiotic relationship. This encourages indigenous smallholder farmers to keep and plant local trees instead of clearing forests for cattle ranching or mono-crop agriculture. As the second-most expensive spice in the world, vanilla can have a significant bioeconomic impact for local smallholder farmers to increase and diversify their income, protect the megadiverse ecosystems of Amazonian Ecuador, and facilitate new opportunities for inclusive and independent indigenous community enterprises to operate disintermediated value chains.

What’s the impact?

By using a stakeholder-centered, multidimensional monitoring and evaluation system that collects and analyses data from 4,000 associated smallholder farmers who are organized in three indigenous community associations. We use the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as well as B Lab Impact Assessment as guiding frameworks to measure our impact on a broad range of different metrics (including, for example, economic income development, number of communities served, families assisted, plants and trees planted, and many others).

Vision for the next 5-10 years

We will gradually increase the amount of vanilla integrated into Amazonian agroforestry systems in line with the capacity building of 4,000 associated smallholder farmers who are organized in three community associations. Under consideration of a sustainable development model, the project will gradually move from the integration of 6,000 vanilla plants on 100 hectares of existing agroforestry systems in 2021, to 72,000 plants on 1,200 hectares in2026. This will total 240,000 vanilla plants on 4,000 hectares by 2026, generating an annual volume of 100 tons of black vanilla that can be commercialized through disintermediated value chains in long-term partnerships with responsible and committed international clients.

We define success by the number of families we can pull out of poverty and economic dependence, the hectares of Amazonian territory that can be reforested and protected, as well as the levels of technical and commercial capacity, skill development, female leadership, and gender equality.

You can see more about the project at our UP Link profile