Chakra agroforestry and sustainable agriculture
About the Implementing organization
Name: Runa Foundation
Year of establishment: 2011
Type of organization: Legally recognized non-profit status
Building on existing local knowledge, Runa gives farmers the tools to maintain biodiverse agroforestry systems instead of conventional, mono-crop systems, while simultaneously increasing the economic stability of indigenous families. Runa focuses on preserving buffer zones of protected areas, reducing forest fragmentation and encroachment into primary forest.
Type of Action
Protection / Restoration / Sustainable use
Sustainable Development Element
Food security / Health / Climate action
Infrastructural development through government programs as well as pressure on farmers in the Amazon to increase income through monocropping, cattle grazing, and timber extraction have led to deforestation and exploitation in previously isolated areas and protected areas. Traditionally, indigenous Amazonian farmers grow their crops in ‘chakras,’ or biodiverse agroforestry systems that mimic the forest’s natural composition. Chakras provide not only subsistence crops and food security for indigenous families, but also an extension of forest habitat for rainforest flora and fauna. By providing producers with Fair Trade and Organic Certifications, Runa incentivizes producers to utilize sustainable agroforestry systems instead of monocropping. Runa has also launched reforestation projects in partnership with communities, donating over 115,000 guayusa trees and timber species that have been planted on 550 hectares, helping to restore degraded ecosystems.
Sustainable Development Impacts
From 1990 to 2010,Ecuador lost a total of 28.6% of its forest cover, or 3,952,000 hectares. By focusing on buffer zones of protected areas,Runa works to reduce the need to encroach into primary forest and avoid forest fragmentation.In order to incentivize farmers to maintain agricultural production in agroforestry systems,Runa provides capacity building workshops, agricultural extension, and access to financial capital for investment in sustainable community initiatives.These agroforestry systems provide a dependable source of varied subsistence crops that sustain families with a varied diet throughout the year and are essential for avoiding food shortages.These agroforestry systems help to maintain biodiversity, sequester carbon and mitigate the greenhouse effect while also increasing livelihoods and food security for families.Runa works with indigenous communities to create management plans and establish areas for conservation, reforestation, and sustainable agricultural production.
By expanding the line of products and involving more farmers, the model set forth by Runa Foundation holds exciting potential for scaling up. The basic principles of the Foundation’s model— depending on local knowledge and using biodiverse agroforestry techniques— are not limited to Napo Province, the Amazon, nor Ecuador.The initiative has had impact on policy development at the national level by influencing how Ecuador’s Ministry of Environment regulates native and wild species. Runa Foundation has been actively involved with the Ministry as they develop new rules for the commercialization of these species. Beyond regulations,Runa Foundation has worked in various ways to create incentives for sustainable agroforestry production in the Amazon.At the local level, Runa Foundation has worked with provincial and municipal governments to create local incentives for guayusa production.These agencies provide funding directly to farmers’ groups for agricultural inputs and nursery construction.
Runa Foundation’s model includes a process of identification of potential commercial products, creation of a sustainable Fair Trade value chain, and the connection of farmers to national and international markets.These new value chains utilize traditional knowledge and production systems, as well as existing governance structures to organize indigenous producers for sustainable social and ecological impacts.Our methodology for providing workshops, holding forums, and supporting the organization of producer associations has the potential for replication across these value chains and adds to the positive impact of the certification on local communities.In 2016,Runa Foundation established itself in Peru with a project financed by the Inter-American Development Bank to develop a new value chain of guayusa and other Amazonian products in the region of San Martin. This is the first stage of our expansion to other countries.We hope to begin working in other countries in South America by 2020.
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