Runa, Planting Empowerment Win Tropical Forest Challenge

Launched in May 2012, the World Wildlife Funds’ Tropical Forest Challenge is identifying and supporting companies that can have the most positive impact on preserving the biodiversity of tropical forests.

This year, they chose two companies as winners of the Challenge: Ecuador-based Runa and Panama-based Planting Empowerment.

Runa is developing markets for a tea called "guaya" in the US. This rich-tasting tea is grown in forests and has been sustainably cultivated for thousands of years. It has twice the antioxicants as green tea.

With decreasing amounts of land and limited access to markets, before Runa’s intervention, small farmers had little option than to practice intensive agricultural production, further degrading the Amazon rainforest.

But since 2009, Runa has been able to increase their income by 30%, while planting over 200,000 trees.

The other winner is Planting Empowerment. This start-up is providing slash and burn alternatives to small farmers in Panama. They lease degraded land from small landowners and then teach them to plant mixed native species that can be managed sustainably for profit.  

Farmers are earning 45% more in income than they could through slash and burn and then raising cattle on degraded lands. 

Finalists are: EcoPlanet Bamboo, Wildlife Works, Rainforest Expeditions, CHICZA, Floresta Group, EcoTech Timber, Maya Mountain Cacao and Eco-Fuel Africa.

The winners will get help on networking and capacity building from Challenge partners such as Good Company, Sustainatopia and Thomson Reuters Foundation.

To choose the winners, an independent panel assessed 70 applications on their potential to positively impact forest biodiversity, economic development, as well as commercial viability.

Learn more about the Challenge:

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