Loreto and Ucayali are two different regions of the Peruvian Amazon suffering many of the same issues — limited education, a scarce access to capital, and a significant dependence on small-scale agriculture and ranching. Farmers live day-to-day in a subsistence manner, vulnerable to crisis. And as the climate becomes less predictable — with evidence showing that climate change is directly responsible for less stable weather patterns — this vulnerability increases.
Farmers are trapped in a vicious cycle of poverty and environmental degradation. When the rainforest is cut down for agriculture, the protective cover from heavy rains is gone — soils are washed away, and vital nutrients are lost. So more rainforest has to be cut down in order to grow crops, ensuring farmers and their families have enough to survive. A growing number of young people are forced to leave the rainforest in search of work in distant cities of coastal Peru, although some remain and help deforest new areas of the rainforest, eking out a living. It’s a ‘hand to mouth’ existence, with no savings, and a situation that feels increasingly bleak for the families.
But Plant Your Future offers renewed hope.
We’ve helped farmers introduce an agroforestry system we’ve developed that creates a sustainable income from growing short, medium and long-term produce. This includes sustainable timber trees, grown for harvest in the longer term, alongside fruits trees, such as Cocoa, and high value crops like chilli peppers.
One of the main fruit crops from the agroforestry systems is cocoa. There is increasingly a market for cocoa beans from Peru to supply the global chocolate market. Cocoa trees work well in our agroforestry systems as they are a small tree which can grow in the shade of the timber trees which have been planted. When managed properly, and grafted correctly, cocoa beans can fetch a good price and provide farmers an improved and sustainable income.