Prior to our intervention, farmers were earning just £100 per month from their smallholdings — barely enough to cover basic needs, leaving them vulnerable to crisis in the event of harvest failure or family health problems. The ‘slash and burn’ agriculture locked them into this continuing cycle of poverty whilst also systematically destroying precious rainforest habitat.
Our unique way of working begins at grassroots. We empower farmers to break the cycle themselves and ultimately our goal is to enable them to become self-sufficient within 5 years by helping navigate the challenges preventing them from returning to sustainable farming. We’re doing this by introducing an ‘agroforestry system’ into their land: a combination of growing both long-term (trees) and short-term (crops) produce.
We use your donations to meet the upfront costs of planting and maintenance, and provide ongoing technical support to ensure that the trees and crops planted continue thrive. For example, training includes how to manage pests and diseases, and effectively prune and graft trees.
Our support also means farmers can access formal markets to achieve fairer prices through the sale of high quality fruits. Until recently, each farmer has worked individually, selling either to intermediaries or on a market stall in Iquitos or Pucallpa. This meant wasted time and low bargaining power with buyers — especially as they were selling such small amounts. But Plant Your Future are providing the funding, logistical and legal support to farmers in Loreto and Ucayali to build their business skills. In Ucayali we’re working with farmers to help them strengthen their farmers association, APACAMP. This means they can aggregate the crops they produce from their small farms, set up contracts and supply larger amounts to buyers. Prices are more stable and normally higher in a known market where less time wasted.
“Having worked for many years in direct contact with farmers and communities I have developed a special sense of smell when conducting an evaluation to recognise a good project from a bad project… The most striking thing about visiting farmers in this project is that they never talked about the agroforestry systems belonging to Plant Your Future, but rather to themselves. This “tiny” detail might sound minor but it is not. It shows that farmers have participated in decision-making and feel complete ownership over the agroforestry systems. It is key to their longer-term success and sustainability.”
Jorge Torres Padilla, Ministry of the Environment, Peru
Growing thousands of trees isn’t as simple as throwing seeds into the ground and hoping for the best — the agroforestry system we’ve developed means we need to ensure that the trees flourish early on. The process is a community affair, and the nursery in our new project area in Ucayali is run by lead farmer, Carlos. It starts with creating a fertile sub-soil mix that a seed can thrive in, which is then used to fill individual grow bags. This involves mixing in various inputs such as sand and charcoal, and then aerating it. Timber seeds such as Shihuahuaco have to be germinated first, and are then washed and disinfected to prevent any fungus growth before being placed individually into the soil mix in the grow bags. It’s this process that ensures strong and healthy saplings, followed by constant care (watering, pruning, light management, weeding) for 2-6 months, depending on the species, whilst they grow. Once they are big and healthy they are ready to be transferred to the farms and planted out in the degraded pastures. The success of the tree nursery is thanks to the hard-work and dedication of Carlos who says, “I am pleased to be able to learn from Plant your Future’s technical team.”