The Cochabamba Project combats deforestation by working with poor smallholders in the Bolvian Amazon, Co-op News talked to the Director David Vincent.
In 2008 David, an Investment Financial Advisor, decided to start the Cochabamba Project, based upon the pilot project ArBolivia. Members provide finance for local smallholders to plant native species of tropical hardwoods as an alternative to unsustainable farming practices.
The Cochabamba district has been the scene of some of the most aggressive deforestation over the last few decades.
The minimum investment is £1,000 (which can be paid in instalments) and the maximum (by law) is £20,000.
David said: “I wanted to look at a different way of investment for the benefit of society. In this model you had a direct say in how money was handled and pull efforts together. I had been one of the few IFAs in the country supporting ethical investment.”
The project was developed by Anko Stilma an expert in international forestry at the UN Food and Agricultural Organisation.
David said the Cochamabba Project was based in Bolivia because of its’ strong community links and co-op structures.
“Bolivia has a very well developed co-op culture. That’s what makes it work as a project. Those structures are already in place. Whole community groups migrating from one area to another has caused deforestation. People move and communities are left without revenues;” he added.
In 2009 the Bolivian Government didn’t sign the Copenhagen Accord, which underlined climate change as one of the greatest challenges of our time. David explained it had a great impact on Cochabamba Project, because people thought deforestation was not a key issue on the Government’s agenda.
Luckily the society had already raised £650,000 to develop the project, but they had to continue fundraising.
David said despite some improvements, the project could bring more benefits if it had a more capital.
He explained that for every hectare planted-at least 0.2 of a hectare is dedicated to conservation.
“Deforestation means land heats up more quickly, so a lot of the conservation is around protecting water courses. Another one is creating link corridors between forest for animals to enable them to migrate.”
The Project helps to tackle climate change, poverty reduction and promotes biodiversity it also encourages people to co-operate, whether they are migrant or indigenous communities, for the benefit of the whole community and involves women and elder people, he added.
“We’ve just been out there for a second time and we have seen the same people as two years ago, they have prospered. They are more confident about their future. Is not just about farming and providing them with a better, but organising themselves, taking control of the situation.”
David Vincent said he welcomes the involvement of other co-ops and potential investors.
“If other co-ops have something to offer, we would like to hear from them. We are running an operation on limited resources and we are making a real impact. We can have a bigger impact with bigger help. It would be great if we could expand what we are doing to other countries.”
Don Segundino, a farmer from Cochabamba explained at the very beginning local people doubted the project. After starting to plant trees jointly with one of his neighbours, the farmer realised he needed to join an organisation to gain more power.
The Cochabamba Project is a fully trading Industrial Provident Society, working in equal partnership with poor smallholders on the fringes of the Bolivian Amazon to establish and maintain a profitable and sustainable community-based forestry enterprise as part of a wider project known as ArBolivia.