It’s been a long year, for all of us. First and foremost, we want to take this opportunity to remember those we’ve lost and to extend our sympathies to their friends and loved ones.
If 2020 holds any lessons for us, it’s that we can’t face our shared challenges—be they a pandemic or the looming climate crisis—alone. Partnership, solidarity, a willingness to see opportunities for progress, even in the most unlikely of alliances, will be key in the coming year.
That principle remains our north star, opening doors that seemed otherwise shut and, in spite of the obstacles, allowing us to continue to make advances on behalf of forests, climate and communities.
Shortly before the pandemic erupted, our team in the Brazilian state of Acre held a workshop for women entrepreneurs from around the region, farmers and small business owners among them. One of the ideas that emerged from that workshop—to launch an online platform for the sale of sustainably grown fruits, vegetables and other artisanal products—quickly became an economic lifeline for these women in the days and weeks that followed.
The devastating loss of already tenuous market access for smallholder farmers in tropical forest regions has been one of the more overlooked aspects of the pandemic. Expanding that access is key to forest protection and remains a central feature of our work at EII. Partnering with the regional government of Acre, we developed the Feira SISA virtual marketplace, its launch coinciding with the closure of open-air markets that poor, rural farmers worldwide depend on for their livelihoods.
Since its launch, sales on the platform (named for SISA, the world’s first jurisdictional REDD+ program) continue to grow, surpassing pre-pandemic figures and, in the words of one local official, marking a “paradigm shift” in how smallholder farmers connect to consumers.
Amid the ongoing health and economic crises playing out globally, this for us stands out as one example among others of the potential that partnership and collaboration hold in helping us emerge from this moment stronger than we were before.
So, as we eagerly close the books on 2020, we’d like to share just a few more examples of what can be accomplished when we break through the silos to build solidarity around forests and the climate. We hope these successes give you the same sense of optimism that we carry into 2021.
- Fostering sustainable development: 2020 marks the end of EII’s 5-year effort to support the creation of low-emission rural development (LED-R) strategies across 10 tropical forest jurisdictions—states and regional governments—of the Amazon and in Indonesia. As we move into 2021, we open a new chapter focused on putting these strategies into action. (You can gauge jurisdictions’ progress toward sustainable development here, and learn about what these strategies mean for the future of forest protection in this video.)
- Colombia forging ahead: Inspired by the Produce, Conserve and Include (PCI) approach to reducing emissions in Brazil’s Mato Grosso, state governments in the Colombian Amazon regions of Caquetá and Putumayo are now working with EII to integrate a similar strategy into their regional development plans.
- Creation of an Amazon Commonwealth: Peru’s government formally recognized the creation of the Amazon Commonwealth, which gives legal status to Peruvian jurisdictions committed to reducing deforestation and will strengthen ongoing collaborations to achieve this goal by enabling the Commonwealth to manage funds and implement projects. This milestone was made possible through nearly 10 years of support from many, including EII’s Peru team.
- A future in fish: All 9 governments of the Brazilian Amazon endorsed EII’s “Back to Fish strategy” to reduce pressure on forests from beef production, signaling their interest in and desire to achieve sustainable growth that protects forests.
- Tropical Forest Champions: The past year saw ten tropical forest governments of the Amazon become founding members of EII’s Tropical Forest Champions initiative, pointing to the region’s desire to engage economically with the world in partnership for a more sustainable future.
The growing chorus of calls for collaboration from governments, businesses and communities in these regions stands in stark contrast to the physical isolation wrought by the pandemic. These groups——which together help to manage more than a third of the world’s tropical rainforests—are holding the doors to sustainability and climate action wide open. We just have to walk through.