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UN’s International Day of the World's Indigenous Peoples, 9th August 2014.

We believe that it’s not too late to save the world’s rainforest.

Sourcing deforestation free commodities – like soy and palm oil – plays an essential role.  Ensuring timber products are FSC certified also makes a huge difference, as does helping producers learn about sustainable farming.  Supporting people who live in the rainforest to protect their trees is the final piece in the jigsaw – and that’s where Cool Earth come in.

This simple approach to saving the rainforest caught the eye of Marks and Spencer. And so began a unique partnership with fifteen indigenous villages from the Ashaninka tribe in the Ene Valley of Peru.

Cool Earth have found that for rainforest conservation to be successful you need to start in the right place.

That place isn’t Brasilia or New York, Jakarta or Geneva. It is a bamboo meetinghouse in Cutivireni, an indigenous village on the front line of the western Amazon’s arc of deforestation.

This is where the charity Cool Earth started talking to local people about the decisions that lead to trees being felled or trees being saved. This is where it became crystal clear that the best custodians of the rainforest are the people who live there.

“We’re here to protect the forest, for the good of our children and for their children to come.  We want to protect our forest, not to sell it to the loggers. Our forest is not for sale. We will not be destroyed by logging.” Julián Quispe Carbólico, Ashaninka Project, Peru.

All around the world, people who have lived in the rainforest for countless generations are now finding their homes on the front line of deforestation. With the loggers on their doorstep and their families in poverty, they have little option but to sell their trees.

Payments end up lining the pockets of a few. The village remains destitute but now without their biggest resource – the forest.

Cool Earth works to support villages before they are forced to sell their forest.

If communities are selling off trees to loggers because they have no other way of buying rice or getting their children to school, surely the best way of saving rainforest is to provide an alternative. By developing livelihoods that depend upon the forest remaining standing, Cool Earth can out-prices rainforest destruction.

Thanks to the incredible support of Marks and Spencer, 5,000 acres of the world’s most endangered rainforest is now being protected.

“Thanks to Marks and Spencer’s support of Cool Earth, the Ashaninka are halting the advance of the deforestation frontier whilst also building family incomes, children’s education and village health. It’s making a real difference - keeping the forest safe and sound in the hands of people who need it most.” Matthew Owen, Director Cool Earth.

For the UN’s International Day of the World's Indigenous Peoples, Cool Earth will be celebrating its 113 village partners from as far afield as the Amazon and Congo Basin to Papua New Guinea. Together, these indigenous partners are protecting more than 400,000 acres of rainforest from destruction. And all of it comes down to their wish to keep the forest standing.

Cool Earth has 81 communities queuing up to work with them. It’s a nice problem to have and with supporters like Marks and Spencer we’re trying to work with every single one. But it’s also a reminder that harnessing local resistance to forest destruction can make a real difference in challenging  deforestation and the tragedies that follow.    

M&S Plan A 2020 has a number of commitments addressing the issues associated with deforestation. In later blogs we will hear from our raw material technologists on how our detailed sourcing policies on palm oil, soy and timber ensure we are sourcing responsibly and protecting forests and communities.

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