The Amazon rainforest, with its vast biodiversity and vegetation, is one of the most cherished ecosystems on our planet. However, it has also fallen victim to deforestation and unsustainable exploitation over the years. Amidst this challenge, stands Bosques Amazónicos (BAM), a company that not only strives to restore the biodiversity and ecosystems of the Peruvian jungle but also works diligently to build a sustainable future in the region.
As we delve into this journey alongside BAM’s CEO, Jorge Cantuarias, we will uncover the innovative strategies that have guided BAM‘s development and how it has overcome obstacles to achieve the growth the company has today. From financing to technology and community involvement, we will unravel the pillars on which BAM‘s strategy is built. Furthermore, we will explore the corporate social responsibility and community development approach, highlighting their commitment to the people and ecosystems surrounding their projects in the Amazon.
Tell us about the beginning of BAM? What is its purpose and vision?
I had the opportunity to be in the central jungle, specifically in the city of Pucallpa in the 90s, due to various activities I was engaged in at that time, and I saw a reality that unfortunately continues to this day. A reality where you see vast areas of pastures or completely deforested areas that have lost their economic value. At that time, we were coming from a very complicated political stage in the country, which made the situation even more serious. In response to this situation, the idea emerged to try to recover the economic and productive value of these areas. What we did was a small pilot at that time, funded by International Cooperation, The Americas Fund, specifically the Regional Government of Peru, which even back then understood that such a reality could not be acceptable. In other words, vast areas that had no productive use and had completely lost their economic value.
How has the development of these projects evolved over the years? Being pioneers in an underdeveloped or virtually undeveloped market: What are the main hurdles BAM has overcome over the years to reach the growth it enjoys today?
The main barrier that quickly became evident was financial. We started this reforestation pilot with native species in Campo Verde and quickly achieved excellent results. However, when we wanted to replicate and obviously increase the areas we had begun reforesting, we encountered the sad reality that there was no financing in Peru. Clearly, there was no expertise from banks; International Cooperation typically finances early projects or initiatives, not on the scale of the activities we were seeking. This was the first barrier. The carbon market did not exist yet, which eventually became the driving force that allowed us to start BAM’s growth journey and bring us to where we are today.
What innovative strategies or approaches has BAM been utilizing to ensure the long-term sustainability of its projects?
We are convinced that any form of development must involve the neighbors, the community, the people around the project, and we’ve been doing this in all our projects. We work closely with people in the Campo Verde area: the hamlets, the neighbors. We are constantly working on projects and transferring technology to them so they can see that the development of a company must bring well-being to the communities around the projects. Similarly, in the project we have in Madre de Dios: REDD+ Brazil Nut Concessions, which is a very large project where we now protect nearly half a million hectares. It’s an emblematic project for us and, I would say, for the country as well, because we started at a very early stage of the carbon market‘s development, and yet, we’ve managed to stay united for 15 years. Nowadays, with a more developed market, we’re seeing the results. Not only have we protected an area of great biodiversity value, but we’re also witnessing improvements in the quality of life for our project partners.
Now, shifting towards technology: How have you implemented it, for instance, in the BAM Science Program or the Forest Genetic Improvement Program?
The great value of the reforestation project in Campo Verde is that we have genetic material from nearly 20 years ago, sourced from different parts of the Peruvian Amazon, and today, we’ve initiated a Forest Genetic Improvement Program with both local and international guidance (in collaboration with the Technological Institute of Costa Rica – TEC). We are producing the first clones of amazon native species like shihuahuaco, marupa, mahogany, from trees that have been selected from millions that we’ve planted. This is a very important technological shift that we hope will revolutionize the forestry sector, particularly when it comes to native species.
Moving more towards community aspects: Could you share more concrete examples of corporate social responsibility and community development carried out by BAM?
In Madre de Dios, we’re seeking to transfer the technology we’ve developed in reforestation and leverage our years of experience. Currently, we’re working on a forest enrichment project involving Brazil nut trees (REDD+ Brazil Nut Concessions project), which is also very interesting. All of this aims to enhance quality of life, which is the purpose of our partners’ lives. For example, something quite innovative that we’re doing is a Scholarship Program for the children and grandchildren of our partners (Brazil Nut gatherers). We’ll be launching it soon, and we’re very excited because it will also contribute to developing human capacity, which is ultimately what brings about significant change.
What are BAM’s goals, perspectives, and future vision for expanding its projects and contributing to conservation in the Amazon region?
We have to understand that, from BAM’s perspective, it’s impossible to achieve the goals that the world has set in terms of combating greenhouse gasses without involving the forestry sector. This sector accounts for around 20% of greenhouse gas emissions, that’s well-established. Forests are lost, and we often ask ourselves: How are they lost? They are burned. And this is a direct emission of CO2 into the environment. So, all the efforts the world makes to achieve emissions reduction goals must consider the forestry sector as part of the strategy.
In the same vein, even though the bonds generated by the forestry sector are still traded in the voluntary carbon market, over time, we are convinced that significant economies and internal capacities will improve. Involving the government, the Ministry of the Environment, and all the technical aspects that are well-developed in Peru, we can succeed in trading bonds for Peru’s forestry sector. Especially because we already have an advantage compared to other situations, and that will allow us to generate income to maintain these conservation projects and develop the villages and communities that depend on forests, which ultimately are the great defenders of our forests. That’s from the carbon side.
On the sustainability side, we must be aware that we cannot lose this extraordinary biodiversity of the Amazon rainforests. It’s the responsibility of society and the world to preserve them, and there’s no way to preserve them – again, I reiterate – if we don’t manage to simultaneously develop the communities that are the great guardians of the Peruvian Amazon.
Could you give us a sneak peek into 2024?
We’re very excited about the expansion of our areas in existing projects, and we’re also starting a project with native communities in Loreto. It’s the first time that a private company like ours is involved with native communities. As we speak, a BAM team is currently sharing information with the community leaders about what a REDD+ conservation project is, how they are managed, what the carbon credit market is, among other aspects. Our first priority is to ensure that they understand exactly what it entails and that these are long-term commitments.
A clear example is what has happened with the REDD+ Brazil Nut Concessions project: 15 years later, we remain united, stronger than ever. We’ve increased, almost doubled, the area we conserve in Madre de Dios, and it’s not that difficult. It’s about proper communication, laying all the cards on the table from day one, and ensuring that agreements are respected. That’s what we plan to do with future projects as well. So, we’ll soon be in the first REDD+ conservation project with native communities.
The BAM story is an inspiring testament to how an idea, born amidst challenges and adversity, can flourish into a movement that embraces sustainability and positive change. From its beginnings to its current achievements, BAM has demonstrated that rainforest restoration and building a sustainable future are achievable goals. Their focus on community, technology, and corporate social responsibility reminds us that conservation is not just about protecting the environment but also empowering the people who depend on it. With an eye on the future, BAM will continue forging a path that seeks not only to preserve the Amazon but also to enrich it and ensure its enduring prosperity.
More about BAM
The REDD+ Castañeros conservation project developed by BAM works hand in hand with over 700 partner Brazil Nut-gathering families in Madre de Dios, protecting over 500,000 hectares of forests and their extraordinary biodiversity.
Join the fight against climate change and become part of the Bosques Amazónicos community by clicking here.
BAM, private investment for a sustainable world.
Check out Jorge Cantuarias’ interview with Aldo Carlos, host of “PRO con la Naturaleza” here.
Check out Walter Wust’s interview, BAM Director and Leader of the BAM Science Program, here.