The Forest

The Amazon basin is quite possibly one of earth’s most precious natural resource. This sprawling region, spanning nine countries covering 7% of the Earth's surface, is home to half of the world's biodiversity including an estimated 3000 species of fish and 5000 tree species.

Often described as "the lungs of the earth" or "nature's last frontier", it is under threat from ranchers looking to expand land under crops, loggers seeking tropical hardwoods and increased development and roading infrastructure.

Much of the destruction has been either:

  • caused by the desire to destroy trees to make way for other land-uses of ostensibly higher value
  • justified by the need to remove trees due to their wood value

Uses for trees where these have a higher value left standing than cut down or burnt are rare in this region. The Açaí fruit industry is one such use. There are very few other examples, and yet, this really is a model for how to save the Amazon. The fact is that the forests of the Amazon will continue to be cut down at increasing rates unless it can be demonstrated that the trees have a higher value in situ than cut down. The acai fruit industry can clearly demonstrate this, and thus serves as a model for how we might be able to convince development to leave the trees in place.

Debt-for-nature swaps have also been promoted as a feasible mechanism for ensuring the protection of the Amazonian rainforests. The fact is that even those forests that have been apparently "saved" are being attacked at a local level. What is required is local interest and understanding that the resource is too valuable to cut down. We simply must find more uses like that provided by the Açaí berry.