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The Amazon rainforest is the largest and most important rainforest, making up for 40% of the remaining rainforests in the world. It covers approximately 40% of the total land area of South America, serving as home of more than 30 million people. This area also hosts 25% of the terrestrial biodiversity including the biggest fish variety in the world, with species that are endemic, endangered, or yet to be discovered. Often referred to as “lungs of the planet earth”, the Amazonas produces a great part of the world’s oxygen making it one of the most important regions for our global climate.
In the past decades, deforestation caused by ranching, extensive agriculture and logging pose a rising threat to the Amazon region, other activities such as smuggling and poaching, damming, and mining aggravate the situation. As the pressure afflicting the region grows, it is becoming increasingly clear that the price to be paid is not only loss of biodiversity, habitat degradation, modified global climate, loss of water cycling, but also a decreasing life quality for people living and working in the Amazon region. Local and indigenous communities struggle to benefit from the depleting natural resources the ecosystem has left, leading them to poverty and displacement.
We are convinced that the affected communities are the key to tackle these challenges and social businesses a conduit to transformation. As a solution, Yunus Environment Hub is supporting local businesses in the Colombian Amazon region that contribute directly or indirectly to afforestation or the preservation of natural resources. By supporting social business entrepreneurs, they are able to build and scale up their efforts such as creating sustainable products or services, helping to distribute resources more responsibly, improving waste disposal management as well as negotiating with governments, municipalities and companies to decrease their ecological footprint. Furthermore, we encourage communities directly to produce and consume more sustainably and take responsibility of their valuable natural resources.
Fostering Entrepreneurship in the Colombian Amazon Region
To gain a more robust understanding of entrepreneurship in the Colombian Amazon region, we conducted a feasibility study in cooperation with the University of York. The study assesses the status quo of entrepreneurship in the Amazon region, highlight the challenges and opportunities that exist today and investigate in particular how external factors and internal motivation factors influence entrepreneurial activity in the region. As conclusion, the study offers recommendations how the entrepreneurial ecosystem can be strengthened through structural programs.
Amazon Social Business Support Program
Amazonía Emprende is one of the social businesses supported by Yunus Environment Hub. Located in the heart of the Amazon rainforest, nearby Florencia in the Caquetá region and founded by social business entrepreneur Julio Rozo, Amazonía Emprende connects environmental with social impact. Through extensive afforestation, education, and community business support he aims at preserving and restoring the valuable ecosystems of the Amazon rainforest while generating a stable income for the people in the region. With support of Yunus Environment Hub, Julio was able to strategically review, refine and realign his social business model according to his vision. Together, we set a focus on communication and impact measurement to demonstrate the positive effects to grow impact and scale of the social business.
Amazonía Emprende focusses on three main activities:
- Sustainable Tourism: Amazonía Emprende introduces tourists to the prosperity and importance of the Amazonas rainforest and connects them with local communities and entrepreneurs. Visitors are invited to live, volunteer, and telework from the Forest Camps in the middle of the Amazon rainforest. The Centre provides first-hand experiences and education on topics such as biodiversity and indigenous culture but also informs about the threats posed to the forest and its people. A deeper understanding in combination with the personal connection serves as motivation for the visitors to establish a more sustainable lifestyle, while creating synergies between professionals and locals, helping the entrepreneurs to scale up their activities in the Colombian Amazon region.
- Reforestation and Restoration: Since 2020, through the Megavivero Tree Nursery, Amazonía Emprende has ensured alliances with more than 65 families of the Colombian Amazon region, providing territory for over 1.2 million native seedlings to be planted by 2025. At the same time, 100.000 native tree species are germinated annually in the Megavivero tree nursery to ensure the preservation and restoration of local ecosystems, degraded by ongoing deforestation activities.
- Entrepreneurship support: Amazonía Emprende helps communities and families in giving access to new markets and customers and promoting the conservation of natural resources as well as ancestral knowledge and practices. Through the support of small community and family businesses, the social businessprovides a stable income for families and incentivizes them to work on the ecosystem restoration of the Colombian Amazon region.
Find out more about Amazonía Emprende.
Yunus Environment Hub partners with Compaz Foundation to build more opportunities for social businesses who are tackling environmental issues in the Amazon region of Colombia. Many exciting social businesses already exist in the region, but they lack the mechanisms for building sustainably – one of the reasons for this is that the region has been embroiled in armed conflict for the last 50 years. Yunus Environment Hub works with social businesses which are addressing issues related to deforestation and the degradation of the Amazon rainforest. It is our goal to help the ventures to realise their potential, by giving them the resources and support they currently lack. The social businesses are led by youth groups and women, who have been involved in armed conflict in the area.
The selected social businesses cover different topics, from conservation through to the creation of sustainable products and ecotourism. For example, Maikuchiga has been rehabilitating primates in the area, whose populations have been subject to excessive hunting and illegal trafficking. They fund their efforts by making dolls, clothing, and other handicrafts, which also helps to raise awareness for the cause. Alimentos Del Monte is a social business that has been working with fruit pulp and fish farming. 17 women combined their knowledge and skills to launch the commercial operation, which currently helps and empowers 50 women in the area. Their goal is to be recognised for their good management practice for the use of non-timber products in the forest.
Over the course of six months, the 10 social businesses will refine their social business plans together with a mentor. Additional coaching will help them to plan short-, mid- and long-term objectives. This will not only allow the social business entrepreneurs to empower themselves, but to also create a better economic situation for their communities, and to protect and nurture the environment around them.
Entrepreneurship in the Colombian Amazon Region: Peacebuilding and the Protection of the Environment