Interview with the rainforest foundation OroVerde
One Green Deed A Day spoke to the tropical rainforest foundation OroVerde that supports and campaigns for the preservation of tropical rainforests. In our interview, rainforest experts explained to us the importance of rainforests and which measures really help to protect them.
One Green Deed A Day: Is there still hope for rainforests? Or will the rainforests disappear over the next years because of forest fires and continued logging?OroVerde: Yes, in spite of all the negative news, OroVerde still believes that there is hope for the rainforest! But we urgently need to act now. According to the Brazilian National Institute for Space Research, almost 90.000 fires were recorded in Brazil in 2019. That is a sad new record for the South American tropical region. But there are tropical forest fires in South East Asia and Central Africa, too, every year. According to the most recent report of the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), 100 million hectares of tropical forests were lost between the years of 1980 and 2000. The main reasons for deforestation were cattle ranching in South America (around 42 million hectares) and plantations in South East Asia (7.5 million hectares). One million of animal and plant species are endangered worldwide according to IPBES. These are all frightening facts, but they should not discourage us. Civil society movements like Fridays for Future have shown that there is a paradigm shift taking place.
One Green Deed A Day: How can deforestation of rainforests be stopped?
OroVerde: Targeted and sustainable protective measures – in partnership with the local population – can reduce deforestation. We need the reduction of fossil fuels as well as deforestation-free supply chains. The goal should not be to compensate for deforestation in supply chains, but not to allow them in the first place. It is up to us, the consumers, to take the change into our own hands: to change our everyday habits like mobility, paper use and meat consumption. Everybody can save a small part of the rainforest every day. On top of that, we can influence politics every time we vote in an election.
“Consumers do not realise that the diversity of animals and plants of rainforests plays a big role in our everyday lives”
One Green Deed A Day: Rainforests produce their own climate, mostly rain. To be able to do that, the rainforest requires a certain size. Is it likely that the Amazon rainforest will not be large enough to produce its own climate within a few years’ time?
OroVerde: It’s true that tropical rainforests are very sensitive ecosystems. One problem is the fragmentation of rainforest regions. The more fragmented the forest is and the less it is surrounded by intact forest, the more difficult it becomes for the ecosystem to regenerate itself. There is no universal rule of thumb when this point is reached, since all tropical rainforests are different from each other.
In 2019, scientists published an article on the Amazon rainforest in “Science”, that showed that a deforestation rate of 20 percent could lead to a “tipping point”, a point of no return. With devastating consequences, not only for the Amazon alone, but for large parts of the South American continent: Rainfall in the South of Brazil, Paraguay and Central East Argentina are directly depended on the freshwater cycle of the Amazon. The rainforest provides enough rain for the whole region in winter. If the ecosystem gets out of balance, these regions will suffer, too. Desertification of these large areas would be a direct consequence!
One Green Deed A Day: The animals and plants of the rainforest are fascinating and unique. Why is it important for us humans to preserve the biodiversity of the rainforest?
OroVerde: We are largely dependent on the biodiversity of rainforests. Nowadays, a lot of consumers do not realise that the diversity of animals and plants of rainforests plays a big role in our everyday lives. Vanilla, cocoa, pineapple, bananas, coffee are all crops that originate from the tropics and are mostly still cultivated in these regions. 1 out of 4 medications in our pharmacies contain substances that were originally developed from forest plants. Scientists believe that there are still a lot of helpful substances to be discovered in forests. Therefore, we do not want to miss the diversity of tropical forests in our everyday life.
One Green Deed A Day: The destruction of rainforests is the greatest threat to the survival of thousands of animal and plant species. What are the main drivers of deforestation?
OroVerde:About 75% of the deforestation is due to the conversion of tropical forests into agricultural land. At OroVerde, we believe that soybean cultivation for animal feed in industrial livestock farming, for example for imports to the EU, as well as logging of intact forests for the cultivation of oil palm monocultures are two of the largest drivers of deforestation. But we also need to mention the extraction of natural resources that causes immense damage, especially in Congo. Additionally, forests are cleared for the cultivation of pulp and the production of tropical timber as well as for the cultivation of cocoa monocultures. That is extremely tragic, since wonderful alternatives to monocultures exist like the biodiverse forest gardens for cocoa farming, which are supported by OvoVerde and its partners.
“Long-term rainforest protection can only work with the participation of the local population.”
One Green Deed A Day: Apart from deforestation, are there any other threats to the rainforest?
OroVerde:Yes, climate change itself is a big threat. Because of the rising temperatures the probability of extreme weather events and longer droughts is increasing. The ecosystems cannot adapt to these changes at this immense speed.
One Green Deed A Day: What das OroVerde do to help rainforests?
OroVerde:The tropical forest foundation uses different levers: next to conservation projects with local partners and the population of tropical regions, we promote the education of consumers and offer programmes for schools. Furthermore, we participate in research studies on different reforestation measures and are also involved in political exchange on national, EU wide and international level. At OroVerde, conservation and development cooperation go hand in hand, because long-term rainforest protection can only work with the participation of the local population. In our projects in tropical regions, we work on long-term alternatives to deforestation of rainforests. We support the cultivation of crop plants in biodiverse forest gardens and, together with our local partners, promote fair prices for these crops. At the same time, OroVerde is working with consumers and their impact on environmental and living conditions in rainforest regions. We put great emphasis on new and innovative methods and ideas for consumers’ education. OroVerde provides a lot of information (online and print material) on simple ideas for daily routines such as to save paper, reduce palm oil or to cook a vegan dish. We also provide interesting graphics for consumers to better understand today’s complex systems.
One Green Deed A Day: A rainforest is a very complex ecosystem. Do reforestation programmes work and is it possible to recreate a “real” rainforest?
Yes, reforestation programmes can have a positive impact – if they are sustainable, well planned and realised with the local population. But it is extremely important to adhere to guidelines and not just to “plant some trees”, because the topic is much more complex than one could assume. We at OroVerde recommend asking the following questions when designing a reforestation programme: Which tree species are being planted? Are they local species? Where exactly will the trees be planted (is it an ecosystem that used to be a forest or not)? Who is the owner of the area and who will look after the trees? Will different trees be planted or only one or two species? How much is the local population involved? And a very important question is, of course: Is the area surrounded by intact forest and could this forest manage to close the gap on its own? At OroVerde, our primary goal is the permanent and long-term protection of tropical forests. Because an intact primary forest is such an exciting and sophisticated ecosystem, that it is impossible to simply “replant” a forest like that. In the Amazon, for example, you will find more species of trees on one hectare of land than throughout Europe. Primary forests have developed over thousands and even millions of years. That is why we focus on the protection of the existing rainforests in South America, the Caribbean and South East Asia: We provide attractive alternatives that do not need rainforest deforestation and also talk to local politicians.
One Green Deed A Day: These approaches sound very reasonable. Which “green deeds” would you like the One Green Deed A Day community to do in order to help the rainforest?
OroVerde:A very simple green deed would be to exclusively use recycled paper. It is very easy to find toilet paper and tissues made from 100% recycled paper in every supermarket or drugstore.
Vegetarian meals can be integrated into the everyday life very easily. There is a great variety of vegetarian alternatives to meat and we are sure that everybody will find something to like. In the beginning, one can start with one day of the week without meat.
There are plenty of other green deeds. You can find more ideas on our OroVerde website: www.oroverde.de/verbrauchertipps.
Green Deeds for the rainforest
Let’s hope that these insights motivated you to do lots of green deeds for the rainforest! In our next blog post, you will find many green deeds that OroVerde has put together.
If you want to find out more about the tropical rainforest foundation OroVerde, check out their homepage that contains lots of information on their activities.
Big thanks to Aldo Villanueva who also kindly provided the pictures of the big green leaf, the cute tapir and the beautiful snake.