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Agroforestry systems: an alternative to degraded areas recovery, promoting biodiversity conservation in natural protected areas buffer zone



AIDER proposes recovering degraded areas by agricultural activities in the buffer zone of natural protected areas (NPA) through the implementation of agroforestry plots with fine flavoured cocoa, contributing with climate change mitigation and adaptation, creating a biological corridor for conservation and giving farmers quality of life by promoting an holistic and good management of their farms, increasing their income.  

In contrast of the conventional practices such as migratory agriculture or livestock, this Project promotes the restoration of degraded and deforested areas through the implementation of agroforestry systems with fine flavour cocoa, considering a farm integral management, including the promotion of touristic activities, fish farms and conservation of micro watersheds; To be part of this iniative, the farmer has to sign a conservation agreement to preserve primary forests in their lands. The idea is to increase productivity in degraded areas so that, farmers won´t need to cut more primary forest to expand their agriculture área. Also, the Project has created a farmers  cooperative, which is the way to associate them, promote conservation and secure route to market for cocoa. 

Actors involved in this proposal are farmers settled in the buffer zone of the Tambopata National Reserve, SERNANP (NPA peruvian authority), AIDER (NGO, responsable of project implementation), Althelia Climate Fund (investor), management committees, regional and local governments.

The proposal contributes to climate change mitigation and adaptation, recovering deforested areas and degraded soils; improve the life quality of population through the integral management of plots, generating jobs, diversifying inputs and developing technical capacities.


What actions do you propose?

During 80s, peruvian government made an aggressive promotion for the expansion of cattle farming in Madre de Dios region. Many farmers changed the soil use in order to get benefits from this promotion, but the cattle farming made soil pressure and very soon their areas became unproductive spaces, which they could not use anymore so left them aside. Nowadays, those areas still have no use and owners are looking for another alternatives with economic benefits and that can recover the soil which are poor and unproductive. 

Most of the families settled in Tambopata National Reserve buffer zone, address their effort to cattle with low incomes, breeding of small animals, sowing for annual subsistence crops, etc.  Actually, farmers manifest that they destroyed forests because of cattle and now is difficult to get resources from it like fruits, firewood, etc., because they did not manage correctly the area, so now they are seeking for new activities which bring them economic benefits. The conventional system requires clearing new areas every year, having as a result forest loss and soil degradation. For that reason, this proposal is well receive by farmers, because it will recover their degraded lands, increase their productivity and secure the market for the commertialization of the agroforestry products (cocoa, banana, etc). Also implementing agroforestry systems will guarantee food security, short term incomes (banana, pigeon pea, manioc), medium term (cocoa and Inga sp. fruits), long term (cocoa and Wood) without the need of destroying forest.

For the implementation of this proposal, the following actions are mentioned:

Identification of farmers who have plots in the buffer zone  Is important to consider this activity because it allows the approach to population and the possibility to be part of the agroforestry plots implementation.  The farmer profile must include a land title or a possession document recognized by the official authority and not to have any legal conflict with the farm; have a minimum of three hectares of pastures for cattle, secondary forest with less than 5 years, areas to recover, and as a last requirement, the predisposition to work in an associative system and assume participation commitment with responsibility in the project.

Establishment of agroforestry plots of fine flavored cacao as a measure of climate change mitigation and adaptation, recovering degraded soils and generation of biological corridors.  At the same time, part of the establishment of the system includes the installation of banana, manioc and pigeon pea as temporal shadow with the objective of food security; production of forestry plants (permanent shadow), Inga sp (medium term temporal shadow) and cocoa as the main product.  In the last three cases, family temporal nurseries will be installed (provided with local material) and provision of materials and production inputs (as seeds, bags, fertilizer, tools, among others) will be given.

In addition, the establishment of the system involves another sub activities such as site preparation, plots measure, holes opening. It may be noted that the system allows to create an alternative ecosystem that can be used by wildlife as a corridor or food use zone.

Elaboration of farm plans to have the correct use of natural resources available at short, medium and long term that contributes for conservation and improving productivity and profitability.  Also worth highlighting that the elaboration of this plan, is made in balance with farmers so it allows to have a future vision of the plot.

Establishment of strategic partnerships with key organizations to strengthen farmer’s empowerment of productive activities related to the proposal.

Farmers capacity building, giving technical tools to have a good management of the plot through the technology transfer (demonstrative plots, field days, technical workshops), through the technical assistance (technical visits) and the training through courses, workshops, internship, etc.

Organizational strengthening focused in changing from individualistic attitude to an associative attitude which promotes a cooperative spirit to get more economic benefits.  Farmers must integrate to cooperative in order to sell their products (cocoa, banana, etc.), with great prices in the commercialization and lower costs buying inputs, equipment, etc.

Wild mammals monitoring through camera traps to measure the ecosystem functionality within the agroforestry plots installed to recover degraded areas.  Wildlife monitoring will be done through camera traps to evaluate the benefits of vegetal cover increasing, the development of a biological corridor which put in evidence that fauna could move into a bigger scope that being in a reduced place as a result of the land use change.

Environmental education. In areas such as solid waste management, integrated pest management, best practices on agroforestry system culture; and the conservation of the NPA. This action involves farmers, to be sensitized about the importance of NPA, generating conditions to get certified products.

Conservation agreements.  One of the actions proposed is to implement conservation agreements with the agrarian cooperative, with the objective to reduce agriculture expansion of monocultures and to protect small forests inside farms and where they have the commitment to not open primary forest to develop their agricultural activities.  

Production storage. With the objective to standardize the quality of product, the cocoa collecting will be focused in post-harvest equipment so it allows to have fermentation, drying, selection and storage uniformly. 

Market supply organization and market articulation.  Fine flavored cocoa production in quantity and quality will allow the supply to conventional and special market with differentiated prices.

Settled farmers in the NPA buffer zone as key actors to implement agroforestry systems, organized in an agrarian cooperative of services. 

Who will take these actions?

Natural Protected Areas National Service by government (SERNANP). Public institution in charge of administration and conservation of the natural protected areas.

Management Committees in the NPA. Bodies with join all settled communities in the buffer zone and who are responsible of their protection through community surveillance.

Regional and local government, which are public institutions in charge of administrating and promoting projects of public inversion that promotes protection and conservation of natural resources in their territorial areas. 

AIDER: the Project developer

NGOs which are private organizations without lucrative purpose, that make interinstitutional synergies and with local population to promote sustainable development in community benefit context.

Althelia Climate Fund, who finances the conservation activities (biological monitoring and research) inside the Tambopata National Reserva and Bahuaja Sonene National Park and the implementation of agroforestry systems with cocoa in the buffer zone. The guarantee on the investments are the VCUs (Verified Carbon Unit) generated by avoided deforestation. Also Althelia have a profit sharing agreement on the cocoa sales of the farmers cooperative.

Cooperation agencies (USAID, BID, CEE, Italo-Peruano Fund, Peru- Canada Counterpart Fund, GIZ, etc.) with donation funds or inversion which allows to implement sustainable production and environmental conservation projects, that contributes to climate change mitigation. 

Where will these actions be taken?

AIDER signed a partial administration contract with Peruvian government in biological monitoring and research components of Tambopata National Reserve and Bahuaja Sonene National Park within Madre de Dios region, for 20 years.

The Project is being implemented in the buffer zone of Tambopata National Reserve in Madre de Dios Region – Peru.  It promotes the installation of 4000 hectares of cocoa as the main crop under agroforestry systems, with the production chain which gives economic, social and environmental sustainability.  This project is in alliance with Natural Protected Areas National Service, AIDER and Althelia Climate Fund.

It has a suitable technical package which allows the incorporation of deforested areas and restoration of degraded areas by migratory agriculture, to reduce the pressure to the NPA.

This experience could be replied in the buffer zone of tropical forests NPA, in Peru and the world. 

How much will emissions be reduced or sequestered vs. business as usual levels?

The project places to recover 4000 hectares of traditional crops (85% of pastures, 15% of papaya and banana crops) through agroforestry systems with cocoa, which would capture 1,786,080 t CO2 , having a difference of 1,392,831.6 t CO2  with regard to the traditional crops. It contributes to climate change mitigation. 

What are other key benefits?

- Vulnerable population adaptation to climate change

- Degraded soils restoration (biomass incorporation, nitrogen at soil, increasing microbiological organisms at soil)

- Food security

- Forests conservation and hydric resource

- Generation of biological corridors

- Capacity building

- Natural Protected Areas (NPA) conservation

- Thermoregulation in areas within and without the project

- Increase of biodiversity

- Inputs diversification because of the agroforestry system in short, medium and long term.

- Forest lands pressure reduction 

What are the proposal’s costs?

The proposal has a cost of $ 5762 (per hectare) for 4 years. Around 59% of this amount is covered by the farmer, the remaining 41% is covered by financing source.

If winners, the prize will be used to supplement the biological monitoring using camera traps in agroforestry plots, in order to acquire more equipment and materials.

AIDER also considers to allocate a percentage for the promotion of research to substantiate the importance of the existence of biological corridors formed by the agroforestry plots.

Time line

- Short term: Farmers will have food security with manioc, banana, and pigeon pea, papaya and cocoa. In addition, soils will begin the restoration process.  Farmers will have inputs of the cocoa commercialization, banana, and local sales of another products. 

- Medium term: Cocoa will be in the best period for collecting fruits, and have a cocoa storage, having quantity and quality of the product.  Forestry species will be in age of timber and regeneration. Farmers will have inputs because of cocoa commercialization, forests will have less pressure.

- Long term: Regeneration, soils recovered. 

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- Cerda, R; Espin, T; Cifuentes M. 2013. Carbono en sistemas agroforestales de cacao de la Reserva Indígena Biribri de Talamanca, Costa Rica. Agroforestería en las Américas. N° 49:33-41