Reforest The Tropics recognizes the social and economic needs of tropical landowners and has thus developed a model that seeks to transform forestry from a long-term, low-rent proposition, to a land-use activity that is able to compete with, and even outperform the value of a corresponding hectare of cattle pasture over the short-term. We want the landowner to be satisfied with the decision to convert pasture to forest. Accordingly, we must treat the farmer fairly. Otherwise, the landowner will simply cut down the forest for a land-use activity that generates more profits.
We accomplish the fair treatment of farmers in a number of ways, including; the design of the forest; payments to the farmer to establish the forest and for the carbon dioxide that is captured; the contractual relationship; and the interpersonal relationship.
- The Forest Design: The RTT model relies on periodic thinnings in order to optimize the sequestration capacity of a hectare of forest. Without thinnings, the trees crowd one another and overall productivity declines. The timber that is extracted from the forest belongs to the landowner – to either sell or to use on the farm. RTT selects species for its forest designs with this in mind. Certain species tend to grow very rapidly and are great carbon accumulators, however the market value of the wood is insufficient for sustainable forestry. Others species grow more methodically, however the wood is more valuable. RTT uses a mixed species model that balances these concerns. Some species excel at long-term carbon accumulation, while the fastest growing tree species are included to provide the farmer with significant early income.
- Payments for Ecological Services (PES): Since most landowners do not have the resources to wait 15-20 years to realize profits from their forest, the RTT model incentivizes and motivates landowners to establish and manage the forest through two PES mechanisms. The first is a US$2,000 establishment contribution per each hectare of new forest plantation. The $2,000 is spread out over a period of three years, which helps cover planting and management costs over that period. RTT conducts its forest measurements annually in order to ascertain the productivity of the plantation. For each metric ton that is captured in the forest, RTT pays the farmer US$5. Typical annual forest productivity would yield approximately $200 each year in carbon capture payments. These payments allow the farmer to remain invested in the project until profits from forest thinnings arrive.
- The Contractual Relationship: RTT enters into initial 25-year contracts for each project. These contracts are easy to follow and are discussed in depth with the farmer in order to set reasonable expectations. Although we intend that each forest plantation last indefinitely, the 25-year period is a reasonable legal agreement for a landowner. RTT envisages entering into a series of 25-year contracts for each project. Fortunately, we believe that the model will work, and we are confident that the landowner will maintain the land as forest indefinitely due to its ability to satisfy his or her needs for income.
- The Interpersonal Relationship: RTT forests require regular management. RTT guides the landowner every step of the way (after all, we have obligations to the forest sponsors that we must meet!), however we attempt to empower the landowner to take responsibility over. RTT staff regularly visits each project to train the farmer and farm employees on management techniques and general land management. It is rare that a week goes by without some interaction between RTT and a landowner. In some cases, we have even reinforced the link between the farmer and the forest donor through visits to the project sites by the sponsor.
Through fair dealings with the farmer, competitive profitability, and a strong and trusting bond, we attempt to ensure that an investment in a new farm forest will span generations. As a result, the carbon that is captured in each forest project will remain sequestered for humanity well into the future.