Today, Ennovent and WWF Switzerland announced the winners of the Tropical Forest Challenge in two categories: company and startup. The WWF Switzerland Tropical Forest Challenge, was launched in May 2012 as a global initiative to discover the best for-profit enterprises around the world that are creating a positive impact on the conservation of tropical forest biodiversity. The challenge has been managed by Ennovent on behalf of WWF Switzerland.Winners receive endorsement from WWF Switzerland as the best solution providers and are awarded global visibility, networking and capacity building opportunities from the challenge partners, which include Good Company, Sustainatopia and Thomson Reuters Foundations. Given that many early-stage entrepreneurs face resource gaps in networks and training, the rewards from the challenge enable the winners to overcome barriers to scaling these high potential ventures.
The venture selected as the winner of the company category was Runa. Other finalists in this category included EcoPlanet Bamboo, Wildlife Works, Rainforest Expeditions, and CHICZA.
Runa is an Ecuador-based organization creating US markets for guayusa, a naturally caffeinated tea sustainably grown by indigenous farmers. Prior to Runa’s intervention, the limited access to markets and diminishing arable land were forcing smallholder farmers to engage in intense agricultural production practices that degraded the Ecuadorian Amazon rainforest. Since 2009, Runa has planted over 200,000 trees and has improved average farmer income by about 30%, generating over $100,000 of direct income to over 2,000 farming families.
“Runa is tremendously honoured to be chosen as the Company winner of the WWF Switzerland Tropical Forest Challenge,” said Tyler Gage, Co-Founder of Runa. “We hope that our model can inspire other entrepreneurs to take up sustainable conservation solutions.”The winner of the startup category is Planting Empowerment. The other finalists in this category were Floresta Group, EcoTech Timber, Maya Mountain Cacao and Eco-Fuel Africa.
Planting Empowerment works to develop mixed native species agroforestry projects that encourage tropical forest conservation by providing alternatives to slash-and-burn agriculture for smallholder farmers in Panama. The company leases plots from small landholders to ensure the responsible management of natural resources in the long-term, as well as providing hands-on forestry management skills and traditional classroom knowledge. Planting Empowerment has so far planted over 27,500 trees and has boosted farmer income by about 45%.
Andrew Parrucci, Co-Founder of Planting Empowerment, said, “We are excited to have won the startup category. We look forward to developing more sustainable agroforestry projects with small landholders and Indigenous communities in Panama and throughout Latin America as a result of the WWF Switzerland Tropical Forest Challenge.”
306 solutions were nominated for the WWF Switzerland Tropical Forest Challenge with over 70 applications coming from Latin America, Africa, Southeast Asia and beyond. The public cast over 2,300 votes to choose the most high impact application. Each application was independently assessed by three panels supported by 31 experts on the criteria of forest biodiversity, development impact, and commercial viability. 11 experts on three jury panels then evaluated the top applications in each category.
Other partners for the challenge included ANDE, ASEI, Dalberg, GroAction, IDESAM, Impact Investment Asia, ITTO, Kaospilots Switzerland, Social Earth, The Artha Platform, The Hub, TONIIC and Unreasonable Institute.
Visit here to learn more about the winners.
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