How Markets Can Make a Difference in Forest Conservation
Originally Brazil’s Atlantic Rainforest covered more than 1.3 million square kilometers--an area larger than the state of California. But today, less than 7% of this superbiodiversity-rich biome is left standing. The remaining forest is extremely fragmented, and it continues to suffer from deforestation and forest degradation with the encroachment of millions of people living in its surroundings. Presently, one of the most pressing factors contributing to the slow and steady degradation of the forest fragments is the use of wood as fuel for domestic cooking.
The Recôncavo region of Bahia state, where I and at least four generations of my family were born, was once covered by this lush forest. Since the 17th century, the forest has been converted into sugarcane and tobacco fields, cassava and other subsistence crops, and pasture fields.
Presently, one of the most pressing factors contributing to the slow and steady degradation of the forest fragments is the use of wood as fuel for domestic cooking. In the 33 counties that form the Recôncavo region, more than 100,000 households still depend on wood to fuel their stoves daily. Every day thousands of gatherers go into the forested areas to collect wood, and cook their meals over smoky, open fires.
Since 2001 we have engaged in many efforts to understand and reduce forest degradation in the region, and we have found a very effective and fast-result action that is now benefiting thousands of households: the introduction of improved cook stoves. By substituting rudimentary, open fires with efficient and robust stoves we reduce up to 60% of the wood removed from our forest fragments.
We have already substituted stoves in 6,000 households, and are now starting our second initiative, extending to another 6,000 households over the next three years. This effort is improving the lives of more than 40,000 people, especially women and children, who are generally the ones collecting and cooking with wood.
In 2010 our project design was the first initiative of its kind in Brazil to be validated by the Gold Standard to operate in the carbon market. The first independent verification occurred in 2012, for offsets totaling 98,000 tons of CO²e, and early this year our first carbon credits were issued and retired in the name of our client on the Markit Environmental Registry. Our second project design was validated in September of this year, allowing for the reduction of another 98,000 tons of CO²e.
Field operation requires accessing hundreds of remote, rural communities across the region. The logistics to transport materials and personnel are challenging, and may include trucks, tractors, wheelbarrows, bicycles and pack animals. Stoves are built on-site at each home by our masons. After construction is completed, training and monitoring continues with hundreds of door-to-door visits and community meetings by our agents in the field.
All these results have been achieved with 100% funding from the proceeds of the carbon credit sales; we have not received any funds from philanthropy, private grants, or funds from the government or multilateral organizations. We are very proud of our fully market-based approach, which has forced us to work as a business with very lean operating costs, extremely reduced administrative expenses, firm timelines, and concrete, independently-audited results.
We are aware that many other efforts are needed to protect our forests. Nevertheless, traditional conservation efforts have failed over the last decades of intervention by big international NGOs and government agencies. Millions of dollars have been spent with no, or very few, measurable results. We feel that our success, based on a local and pragmatic approach, serves as an example of how markets can make a real difference in forest conservation.
Guilherme and his team completed their second verification process successfully, have validated a new project design document, and secured funds for the substitution of 2300 new stoves which they will start building in Feb 2016 in 120 new rural communities.
About the Author
Guilherme Prado Valladares (2008 Fellow) is the founder and CEO of Ambiental PV Ltd., and executive director of Instituto Perene, both based in Salvador, Bahia, Brasil. Guilherme holds a B.Sc. in Forestry and Natural Resources Management from the California Polytechnic State University, and an Executive MBA from the Fundação Getulio Vargas. As a professional forester Guilherme worked for Duratex, Brasil´s leader in fiberboard production and pioneer in FSC certification. Later as a consultant Guilherme has worked with companies like AngloAmerican, Arcelor Mittal, PwC, Odebrecht, and NGOs like The Nature Conservancy, Climate Care, Conservation International, Forest Trends, and CARE International. In 2011, Ambiental PV was selected by the World Finance magazine as the best forest carbon company in Latin America. As head of Instituto Perene, Guilherme helped secure the sales of two carbon credit contracts, and coordinates all field operations. In 2011 Instituto Perene was given a special achievement award by the U.S. EPA for the work with efficient cookstoves. Guilherme is a happy family man, married to partner Renata Everett, and a proud father of two boys, Pablo and Francisco. He is fluent in English, Portuguese and Spanish.
“ … we have found a very effective and fast-result action that is now benefiting thousands of households: the introduction of improved cook stoves.”