Oneota Community Co-op is a member of the National Cooperative Grocers Association (NCGA) and participates with other member co-ops in many ways. Our staff has many opportunities to attend trainings, workshops and meetings throughout the year. These face-to-face interactions for trainings, meetings, advocacy work and some all-important peer networking are critical to the success of food co-ops. Because this organization spans 134 co-ops in 36 states, valuable face time necessitates quite a bit of travel. Last year, NCGA staff (plus co-op staff with reimbursed travel to NCGA events) logged a combined total of 2.5 million air miles. Taken together, those flights emitted 467.8 tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. This significant environmental impact prompted NCGA to offset these carbon emissions in an extraordinarily meaningful way: by growing a sustainable forest in Peru.
To grow this forest, the NCGA has partnered with Pur Projet, a French collective that facilitates more than a dozen reforestation programs around the world. Pur Projet was founded by Tristan Lecomte and Mathieu Senard, who also pioneered the fair trade company Alter Eco, which supplies co-ops with rice, quinoa, chocolate and sugar. Expanding upon the fair trade ethos, Pur Projet provides the research, accreditation and on-the ground support necessary to create an effective carbon-offset program based upon farmer-supported reforestation. NCGA is proud to be Pur Projet’s first U.S. partner to plant trees as part of this innovative program.
Pur Projet estimates that it takes three trees planted and maintained for forty years to remove one ton of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Based on the NCGA’s 2012 travel-related emissions of 467.8 tons, NCGA has already funded the planting of 1,404 native Capirona and Paliperro trees.
This forest is part of the Alto Huayabamba Project located in northern Peru. The Alto Huayabamba Project promotes sustainable agroforestry among small-scale indigenous cacao farmers associated with the ACOPAGRO cooperative. In addition to global environmental benefits, ACOPAGRO farmers benefit from the Alto Huayabamba Project in these ways:
• Farmers receive compensation for planting and caring for native tree seedlings.
• Trees provide medicinal bark, edible fruit and the shade required to grow quality cacao.
• Farm families earn income by sustainably harvesting trees as they are thinned to maintain a healthy forest.
• The community now has a viable alternative to producing coca for the illicit drug trade that once contributed to social instability and environmental degradation in the region.
The ACOPAGRO cooperative provides support and offers agroforestry training to 1,800 small-scale cacao farmers. ACOPAGRO sells organic cacao at fair trade prices, allowing the cooperative to invest in equipment, training, medical services and education for farm families. In July 2012, ACOPAGRO won first place for quality in Peru’s national cacao competition—proving that sustainable agroforestry is as good for taste buds as it is for people and the environment