The Trees for People project restored land around the Xingu River in the Amazon basin. Funded by retail giant JYSK and Daenisches Bettenlager, the project helped farmers and communities bring the land back to life, improving both its ecological and agricultural value.

Niels Madsen, Director of Administrative Procurement, Logistics and Social Compliance at JYSK/Bettenwelt, says: “TFT’s Climate Tree initiative enabled JYSK to support local communities through a project that is now delivering important tangible benefits to the individuals and communities involved. We hope this project will go on to inspire others to restore their degraded land in Pará and in the wider Brazilian Amazon.”

Trees for People is managed by TFT in Brazil through TFT’s Climate Tree initiative. Instituto Socioambiental (ISA), a Brazilian environmental and social not-for-profit organisation implemented the project on the ground. ISA worked closely with local farmers to select the most suitable plants and the most effective ground preparation and planting techniques for each area – and then to tend the crops.

Planting targeted ‘Permanent Preservation Areas’, which include environmentally significant lands such as those bordering rivers and lakes. Although these areas have been officially protected since 1934 by Brazil’s Forest Code, in reality many been heavily degraded giving way to urbanisation or converted to pasture for cattle ranching.

Project planting on small and medium-sized family farms was designed to restore ecological health and agricultural productivity that had been severely damaged by soil compaction and invasion by exotic grasses.  The project farmers and ISA selected regional crops that are both ecologically appropriate and provide farmers with a new source of food and income.  They include pineapple, cashew, buriti, murici, magaba, cagaita and bar. When farmers generate additional income they are more likely to protect and expand the crops long into the future.

The project also demonstrates to farmers who are not directly involved how they too could restore their land successfully, and shows that the benefits are worth the time and work. Mario Fulanetti, a participating farmer, said: “I tell my neighbours that we have to think about our future income. The difficulties we face now are only to get worse over time, growing fruits is an extra means of survival that we can depend on. I believe, and I tell my colleagues, that every year, people are destroying nature, so there must be restoration. So, we have to commit ourselves and work on it. Well, this is what I tell them, so that they can invest, because it’s guaranteed, and it’s something we are going to need in the future.”

Another participating farmer, Armando Menin, said: “In the beginning I found the extra work difficult, but I became accustomed to it once I saw for myself the benefits it would bring. Now the water on my land is protected from the floods and erosion coming from nearby plantations. Also, as a benefit, we have lots of fruits – within one or two years, there will be lots of barus and other types. We have also noticed that a number of wild animals have returned to our land such as the Paca, is increasing a lot, because before, they had almost no fruit to eat”.

When asked if he had a message for other farmers like himself, Amandio Micolino replied: “We have to be aware of these things because we are going through a hard time where if we do not act, we will not survive. There is a great win in the hands of the people themselves. I’d say if you have an area, take a piece of it and plant, restore it and don’t care about what neighbours say, just plant. Plant – this is the message that I leave to the next and future generation.”

Forest destruction in the Amazon, the Congo basin and South East Asia is a major cause of greenhouse gas emissions and climate change. TFT set up the Climate Tree initiative to help companies to support change-making environmental projects – projects that help businesses and individual farmers to prosper without clearing more forest.

Scott Poynton, TFT founder and Executive Director, said: “At the heart of this project is practical action – transformation you can actually see happening on the ground. I commend JYSK and Dänisches Bettenlager for supporting something that is making a real difference to people’s lives. Well done to ISA, the farmers and our field teams for putting all this hard work in.”