Earth Love Fund Conservation Projects

ELF Project Focus:
Tea Leaves Help Save Some Of Brazil's Most Endangered Forests

The mixed pine forests in the State of Parana are characterised by the beautiful native Brazilian pine, a tall emergent tree related to the monkey puzzle tree, which grows in the shape of a candelabra. Home to the rare blue crow, this is the most endangered forest type in Brazil -- far more endangered than the Atlantic Coast forests or the Amazon.

When European settlers first arrived in the interior of Parana in the mid 1800s, they left the forests intact because of the presence of erva-mate trees. The leaves of the tree are used for mate tea, the traditional drink of the region. The settlers -- Italians, Urkrainians, Poles and others -- made their homes in the valleys, where the tree grows most densely, and fenced these areas so they could graze cows, pigs and other animals in the intact forests. Many of these communities still exist as European languages and culture and continue the original form of land use -- known as the faxinal system -- with communal forest areas surrounded by organic agriculture on the nearby hillsides.

Forest Clearance:
As faxinal populations have increased and the available land has decreased, the land must be used more intensively to earn a living. Many faxinals have disappeared already and the forest areas have reverted to private ownership to be cleared for timber or, most commonly, for huge soya and wheat farms, which supply the European market. However, there are still 118 faxinals with a total population of nearly 40,000 people. The forest preserved by these communities represents a significant part of the remaining area of this forest type within Brazil.

Working Towards A Solution:
Over the past ten years, the Tropical Forests Institute in Curitiba has been supporting the faxinal communities. The central activity is tree planting -- mostly with erva mate, with the aim of increasing the economic value of the forests. However, other native species including the Brazilian pine and Brazilian cedar are also grown in order to reforest damaged areas.

Erva-mate is still the traditional drink of the region, and has an increasing international market not only as a drink but also as an ingredient for soaps, shampoos and natural pesticides. The erva mate leaves can first be harvested three to five years after planting. The economic returns for planting are very quick and the first communities to be involved are already feeling the benefits. Erva mate grows best in the dense forest, and therefore its production gives a long-term incentive for people to preserve the remaining forests as part of their system of communal land management.


Earth Love Fund made a donation to the project in 1996.

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ELF Project Focus:
Bark From Cameroon

An Earth Love Fund grant in 1994 helped the prestigious Botanic Garden at Limbe to set up their "Conservation through Cultivation" programme. The programme was a response to a request from local communities for planting material of locally important economic species, which could be propagated using the horticultural expertise of the Botanic Garden.

Local plants have been used by people in the region for generations -- for everything from building materials to medicines -- but many are harvested entirely from the wild and have never been cultivated before. As wild stocks become depleted through over-harvesting, many of these species have become endangered.

Pygeum (Prunus Africana) is a tree related to the European cherry which grows in montane forests high on the slopes of Mount Cameroon. Its bark is effective in the treatment of benign prostate hyperplasia, an ailment affecting up to 60% of men, and international demand for the raw material has led to over-exploitation and local scarcity of the tree. If the trees can be cultivated by villagers, this will ensure a supply of bark in the future whilst taking pressure off the remaining trees in the wild. It will also provide a valuable alternative source of income to local people.

In order to establish the best cultivation techniques for Pygeum and other valuable species, the Botanic Garden has defined a series of steps leading from scientific research to practical work by the communities:

  1. A literature search identifies current knowledge about the plant's ecology and socio-economics.
  2. Propagation material is collected from the forests, often in collaboration with local harvesters.
  3. Propagation and muliplication trials identify the easiest and most cost-effective methods of mass production.
  4. Plants produced are made available for local communities.
  5. Reports are published in order to disseminate the results.


Since Earth Love Fund's initial support, the Conservation through Cultivation Programme has gained support from the UK government ODA.

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ELF Project Focus:
The World's First Environmental Bamboo Centre

Indonesia has one of the fastest deforestation rates in the world, as forests are cleared to supply rare tropical timbers for local and external markets. Timber is slow to grow and rarely managed in the tropics for long term sustainability. Bamboo, on the other hand, is the fastest growing plant on earth, capable of growing over a metre a day.

Bamboo Training Centre Bamboo is a traditional building material which has the advantage that its flexibility gives it resistance to earthquake damage. Processes have now been developed to produce a high-quality ply from bamboo, which can be used instead of expensive, over-exploited tropical hardwoods. In Costa Rica, it has been estimated that 700 hectares of bamboo plantation can produce more than 10,000 houses per year -- which would otherwise require the destruction of 6,000 hectares of forest for hardwoods. Widespread use of bamboo could significantly slow down the destruction of the Indonesian forests, while providing a range of income generating opportunites for rural populations.

The Environmental Bamboo Foundation was founded in Bali in 1993 in order to promote conservation and development of bamboo throughout Indonesia and the world. With a start-up donation from Earth Love Fund, work began on the world's first Bamboo Training Centre in Bali, Indonesia.

The Centre was officially opened in November 1994 and hosted Indonesia's first bamboo training course in December. The course was attended by 30 students and community representatives and covered both bamboo cultivation and management and also uses such as bamboo architecture. As a direct result, the World Bank became interested in funding bamboo construction within a larger development project on the island of Flores, where earthquakes had caused widespread damage to houses made of other materials. Industrial estate operators are now being encouraged to consider the large-scale use of bamboo as an alternative to using the country's dwindling supply of trees.


Since ELF's initial grant to help EBF become established, the Foundation has received funding from the MacArthur Foundation, USAID, AusAID, the Canada Fund and a number of other foundations, corporations and individuals. ELF gave further grants in 1995 and 1996 for additional training in bamboo agroforestry systems and start-up funds for a community-based bamboo nursery project.

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ELF Project Focus:
How Green Are Your Bananas?

Banana production is an important industry throughout Central America and the Caribbean, providing investment, jobs and foreign exchange. The global demand for bananas is growing, and many communities are dependent on their production.

However, there is growing worldwide concern about the serious environmental and health effects of banana farming, including high levels of pesticide run-off, pesticide poisoning of banana workers, the destruction of lowland tropical rainforests for monoculture plantations, displacement of wildlife, the disposal of pesticide-impregnated plastics and organic waste, sedimentation and chemical contamination of rivers and physical disruption of stream systems.

In response to this concern, in 1992 the Rainforest Alliance's Better Banana Project began working with Costa Rican group Fundacion Ambio to raise the environmental standards of banana production in Central America, the Caribbean and Latin America.

In the first stage, environmentalists, government agencies and banana companies came together to produce guidelines for improved banana production. With a grant from ELF in 1993, the Rainforest Alliance's staff in Costa Rica began to run workshops for plantation managers, technicians, workers and their families and to help growers move towards certification. The first Better Banana seals of approval were awarded in July 1993 to two plantations, in Costa Rica and Hawaii.

Through the establishment of a Better Banana stamp of approval, producers and distributors are given an incentive to improve environmental standards on their plantations. The Rainforest Alliance has also worked in the USA and Europe to create and demonstrate the market demand for certified products. In 1996, in recognition of the outstanding success of the programme, Rainforest Alliance received the prestigious Peter F. Drucker Award for Nonprofit Innovation.


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ELF Project Focus:
Ethnobiologial Studies Of Konyak Nagas, India

Nagaland, a small state in northeastern India, is inhabited by 16 different groups of Naga tribesman. The Konyak Nagas still retain much of their traditional culture and have tremendous knowledge of the natural resources around them, which still supply them with all their daily needs. Their complex systems of natural resource management have conserved much of the area's primary forest, and as a result, high levels of biodiversity. However, the change in social structure and cultural erosion caused by modern development is causing changes in traditional practices and having grave effects on the sustainable management of natural resources.

A small grant from Earth Love Fund in 1996 enabled the Applied Environmental Research Foundation (AERF) to begin recording the Nagas' use of natural resources and to train Naga students to continue this work. Naga families maintain extremely complex agroforestry systems and initial studies have identified a total of over 150 species grown in the home gardens of just three villages. Thirty two local names for varieties of rice and fourteen names for varieties of millet were recorded. It is particularly interesting that each village had a very distinct collection of crops and varieties, suggesting that work in further villages would reveal a far higher overall diversity.

In addition, areas of community forest have been preserved for controlled use by the villagers. Each family has its own forest patches within the community forests, which are maintained to provide for household needs for fuelwood, timber, food, medicines and other products.

The research funded by ELF will allow the Konyak Nagas to record their traditional knowledge for future generations. But it will also have more immediate practical applicatoins. Improvements based on indigenous knowledge are being proposed to the state government's five-year Nagaland Environmental Protection and Economic Development project, with the aim to adapt existing systems to the modern situation.

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ELF Project Focus:
Environmental Workshops In Central America And Mexico

The Rainforest Alliance's Conservation Media Centre in Costa Rica works with environmental organisations in Central America and Mexico to provide hands-on training in communications skills and project planning. The CMC has been involved in dozens of cases where non-governmental organisations have used the power of the media to stop environmentally disastrous projects, to safeguard access to resources and to force governments and industries to improve policies on environmentally sensitive issues.

Through the assistance of the Earth Love Fund, in 1995 CMC launched an exciting new programme aiming to empower NGOs in Guatemala, Mexico, Costa Rica and El Salvador through practical, interactive workshops in communications skills.

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