Vote for the 2018 Rainforest Alliance Gala Community Honoree

Every year at the Rainforest Alliance annual gala, we recognize the outstanding achievements made by individuals and companies in sustainable agriculture, forestry and tourism around the world. This year, we will continue to extend that honor to the men and women in local communities whose livelihoods directly depend on the land and who demonstrate an exceptional commitment to creating a more sustainable future.

Please take part and help us to choose this year’s honoree! Cast your vote at the bottom of this page. the selected community/individual will be announced in a few weeks and will join us at the Rainforest Alliance Gala in May.

Finalists

Juaboso-Bia Landscape

The Cocoa Farmers of Ghana’s Juaboso-Bia Region

Demonstrating the maxim that there is strength in numbers, the cocoa farmers of the Juaboso and Bia districts in Western Ghana have harnessed that strength by coming together to transform an entire landscape. The members of 34 communities, covering 2.9 million hectares, established a landscape management board (LMB) to oversee the planning, implementation, and monitoring of sustainable practices on their cocoa farms, and the impacts have been nothing short of remarkable.

More than 2,200 cocoa farmers in the area have earned Rainforest Alliance certification, and the LMB has offered climate-change education to help them learn how to make their farms more resilient. Collectively, these producers have been able to protect High Value Conservation Areas in 10 communities—safeguarding precious biodiversity in a region where forests are facing conversion to farmland and other threats—and boosted their carbon stocks by planting 58,600 tree seedlings in areas that were previously degraded.

The economic impact of their hard work has been just as impressive. In five years, they have been able to increase their cocoa yields from an average of 250 kilograms per hectare to 800 kilograms per hectare, and they are enjoying price premiums to boot. Plus, they’ve diversified their income streams by establishing other forest enterprises, such as beekeeping operations and the rearing of small livestock (such as the grasscutter) for meat. Not only do these activities generate money that gets farmers through the lean times between seasonal cocoa harvests, but they’ve also helped other members of the community—creating work for local carpenters who were tasked with constructing beehives and other equipment.

These improvements require more than just time and effort. They also take financial investment, and it’s significant that these communities have been able to mobilize their own funds to achieve their goals. The LMB is becoming an institution that can stand on its own, illustrating another important facet of sustainability—one that allows these communities to continue to build on the progress they’ve already made.

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Leticia Monzón

Though Leticia Monzón’s coffee farm is small and tucked away in a remote part of Guatemala, the impact of her work has been huge and far-reaching. As the head of her coffee cooperative in Huehuetenango, she has led by example, transforming her farm into a model of sustainability and encouraging her peers to participate in our training sessions so that they could do the same.

Her unwavering commitment has been central to her co-op’s implementation of sustainable practices, which earned the group Rainforest Alliance certification. Thanks to changes led by Leticia, the community has become a healthier place to live. The co-op disposes of its trash properly, and the wet mill’s wastewater no longer contaminates local waterways. Farmers have improved their management systems, which has boosted their ability to secure loans from financial institutions. And Leticia’s co-op now serves as a model to smallholders throughout the region.

But her impact hasn’t ended there. She was an active member of our 2014 Farmer Training App pilot, and despite her initial discomfort with the required technology, she embraced the project and let her son teach her how to use the tools that we provided. She also enthusiastically shared her new knowledge with other members of her co-op, passing on the information and statistics that were included in the app’s training videos. She has been and continues to be an advocate for this project in particular and the work of the Rainforest Alliance in general.

Beyond the measurable difference that Leticia has made in her community, she has also been a source of inspiration for other female coffee producers. She understands how important it is for women to be active in the community, and she models that behavior for her female peers, motivating them to get involved in decision-making processes and to fight for their children’s education.

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Tunas Karya II Farm Group

There are two types of people in the world: those who follow and those who lead. The way you respond to a crisis is one way to determine which type you are, and by this standard, the coffee farmers of Kramat Jati have proven themselves to be leaders indeed.

Near their village in the Lampung area of southern Indonesia, there was a small river that used to drain into a reservoir—a resource used for irrigation and electricity. Many years ago, these farmers began cutting down trees along the river to obtain the wood they needed to build their homes, and they also began planting food crops along the steeply sloped riverbanks and nearby hills.

Little by little, the soil lost its ability to retain moisture, and the stream began to dry up. After 20 years, the soil was no longer fertile, and the area became covered with flammable weeds and bushes, making it extremely vulnerable to fires during the dry season. These fires only exacerbated the problem until eventually the stream was transformed into a dry riverbed, and the community lost an important source of water.

That’s when these farmers took action. Banding together, they created a reforestation project in 2000, establishing tree nurseries and planting trees in the deforested area between the naturally regenerating plants. Thanks to their initiative and hard work, they reforested 200 hectares with protective species, timber wood, fruit trees, and rubber. The stream now runs with fresh water again, and the soil structure has been improved by the presence of organic matter. Furthermore, the trees they planted are producing durian, purple mangosteen, and other high-value fruit, which generate additional income for the community.

United under the name of Tunas Karya II farm group, these coffee farmers continue to be responsible stewards of their natural resources, participating in Rainforest Alliance training through the Nescafé Plan and IDH (The Sustainable Trade Initiative) project, and applying what they’ve learned on their farms—including halting the use of herbicides and producing more compost than before. Their many achievements serve a shining example to other farmers in the region.

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Elija Owusu-Cashiekrom

Farmers who have earned Rainforest Alliance certification work hard every day to ensure that their farms continue to operate sustainably, but then there are those individuals—like Elija Owusu-Cashierkrom—who go above and beyond the call of duty. A cocoa farmer in Western Ghana, Elija began working with the Rainforest Alliance six years ago, and his farm has been certified since 2011. Since that time, he has become very conscious of environmental issues, implementing erosion-control measures on his own farm to protect streams, planting trees on fallow land and working actively to increase carbon stocks and build resiliency to climate change.

As a result of his efforts, he has increased his cocoa yields from 350kg per hectare to 600kg per hectare. After attending Rainforest Alliance workshops, he established a beekeeping enterprise, which has earned him additional income that helps to fund his children’s education. But Elija is not satisfied with making improvements on just his own land and in his own life. As chairman of the local landscape-management board, he has also been instrumental in fostering discussions about sustainability among the members of neighboring communities. He has taken it upon himself to educate his peers on the need to conserve biodiversity, and he motivates them to take action.

When asked why he does this, he says that it’s because he sees how much he himself has gained from his involvement with the Rainforest Alliance, and he believes that our work can benefit many other farmers around the world.