Looking back on 2020: a significant year

12 Mar , 2021 Our News

Looking back on 2020: a significant year

Discover our round-up of activities to restore the Amazon rainforest in 2020 and exciting plans for 2021…

Plant your Future has been running for over a decade and there have been plenty of highs and lows during that time. Of course, there have been challenges as we work tirelessly to reverse deforestation and alleviate poverty in the Amazon, but never has there been a year quite like 2020.

The consequences of COVID-19 have been felt across the world and there are very few of us who have not been affected in some way. For Plant your Future, it’s been devastating to witness the impact of the pandemic on the Peruvian communities who we work with, as many families were pushed into food poverty and needed emergency support.

Rather than admit defeat, our team and supporters sprang into action. Again and again, they have shown strength of character during a year that called for it more than ever before. In fact, thanks to their continued efforts and commitment, 2020 can be described as a significant year in the history of the charity.

Read our Annual Review and Accounts 2020

Scaling up

At the start of 2020, we made the decision to scale-up our activities. This decision was led by the needs of our beneficiaries, who wanted to achieve more with their agroforestry systems, and was driven by demand from neighbouring communities who wished to join the programme.

Despite the challenge of raising funds during COVID-19, with many supporters having been hit hard financially by the pandemic, we have successfully established a strong basis for significant growth into 2021 and beyond. Incredibly, we were able to increase our funding by over three-fold compared to previous years.

We were able to achieve this success thanks to hiring a new Fundraising and Development manager, Bethan John (pictured above). A qualified journalist, Bethan has over 10 years’ of experience working in communications for international conservation organisations and has a strong track record of successfully raising awareness and substantial funds for biodiversity protection and climate mitigation projects. Bethan is our only paid team member in the UK and we’re delighted that her salary for 2021 will be covered by a grant from The Fore’s RAFT Transition Fund; this type of core funding is vital to our sustainable growth, while enabling 100% of donations to be allocated to our work in Peru to restore the rainforest.

Our COVID Emergency Appeal

In May, we launched are first ever emergency appeal, as part of GivingTuesdayNow — a global day of unity in response to COVID-19. We’d never asked our supporters to donate to immediate needs in a crisis situation. We were asking for reactive, short-term support that was against our usual model of raising funds to provide sustainable, long-term solutions. But there was nothing usual about the situation that hit our beneficiaries, pushing many into food poverty.

We were relieved that when we emailed supporters to ask for emergency support, who immediately understood the severity of the situation. We rapidly raised over £15,000 to deliver food parcels, medical supplies and oxygen tanks, thanks to generous donations from the general public and a grant from The Fore’s RAFT Fund.

Later on, when the immediate needs of the communities had reduced, we were able to support families to set up chicken coops and vegetable gardens. This is providing them with a variety of fresh, healthy and nutritious food to eat, as well as a different range of produce to sell at market in addition to what they harvest from their agroforestry plots.

Our Christmas Appeal

In early December 2020, we launched our Christmas Appeal where every donation was doubled, thanks to generous match funding provided by The Coles-Medlock Foundation and Charles Glanville. We were overwhelmed by the response; we hit and surpassed our target, raising a massive £20,468 in just one week with 137 donations.

Thanks to this support, we have been able to start the new year knowing that we can plant thousands of new trees over the next few months and the funding from the appeal will provide the much-needed inputs, such as tools, fertiliser, and the technical field support that’s needed for successful tree growth.

Rainforest reforestation

When it comes to tree planting, 2020 was also a significant year. Between 2019 and 2020, our team planted an impressive 15,703 native trees across the Amazon. This has enabled us to restore 14.5 hectares of land that was deforested and abandoned, bring it back to forest cover through tree-based agriculture.

We’re working across two regions of Peru’s north-eastern Amazon, Ucayali and Loreto, to reforest the land through agroforestry – improving livelihoods and tackling climate change. The hard work of our team last year has brought our total number of trees planted to almost 60,000.

Giving away native tree saplings for free so that families can restore their farmland is just the first stage in a long partnership with rural Amazonian families. We support beneficiaries with inputs and tools so that the trees can flourish on their degraded lands, with timber trees growing big and strong to capture carbon and for fruit-bearing orchard trees to produce high yields. Much of our effort is focused on soil restoration – creating healthy, rich soils by planting nitrogen fixing legumes and using a range of fertilisation techniques. Our team works alongside communities every day so that they gain the skills, knowledge and confidence to run an agroforestry system and turn it into a successful business.

One million trees

In February 2020, our chairman Jenny Henman was able to travel to Peru and work with the team on reviewing Plant your Future’s strategic goals for the next few years. Together, they created a plan to significantly scale-up the charity’s activities and set out our aim of planting one million trees. These ambitious plans became part of our five year strategy, approved by our Board of Trustees in April 2020, marking a momentous time in our charity’s history.

There’s no doubt that the fundraising landscape has become challenging, with current and potential donors being impacted financially by the pandemic. Despite this, we are confident that we can hit our target of planting one million trees over the next few years. We need ambition in climate action more than ever and our small, efficient team are making a real impact where it’s most needed on the front-lines of conservation.

Our new year commitments

We aim to plant 45,000 native trees in the first half of 2021 to restore approximately 45 hectares of degraded and abandoned land back to forest. If we’re successful in 2021, then we will double the impact of our work in a single year – part of our ambitious scale-up.

We have exciting plans for the new year and our team are ready to make them happen. We have a small window of opportunity, as the planting needs to take place during the rainy season that ends by April and cannot start again until November at the earliest. Our team will work alongside our beneficiaries over the next few months to get as many trees planted as possible, when they have the best chance of thriving.

We’ve never planted on this scale before so it marks a momentous time in our history. We’re busily hiring new staff and field labourers to help with the intensive field work and signing contracts with new beneficiaries who want to join the programme.

Our team are out in the field all day, planting thousands and thousands of trees – without a doubt, it is an energising and exciting way to start 2021. Even more, it’s bringing us hope for what we can achieve into the future. Even after a year like 2020, we’re planting more trees then we ever have in our history. We’re supporting more communities than ever to build back better and stronger.

We know the impacts of climate change will come and they will hit hard, but we’re acting now to mitigate the damage and build our resilience.

A hopeful future

The impacts of the pandemic will no-doubt be felt for a long time to come and we continue to face a challenging future, but despite this uncertainty, the action taken by our team and supporters last year has proven that we can overcome even the greatest challenges. Despite everything 2020 has thrown at us, it has also given us the faith that we have built strong foundations for our work to grow and flourish.

Thanks to the continued support we receive for Plant Your Future, our team faces a new year with hope and renewed energy. More than ever, we need to redouble our efforts to support Amazonian communities over the long-term so that they can turn their degraded farmland into thriving forest. Addressing the social and economic issues that drive deforestation is the only way to safeguard this rainforest into the future. It’s the only way to create a better world.

We’re ready to build back stronger and greener in 2021 and we’d be delighted if you’d continue to support our work. We cannot thank you enough for giving us faith and hope as we plan for the future.

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