December 18, 2012
Runa, an Ecuadorian company that is creating markets for guayusa — an indigenous tea product that generates livelihoods as an alternative to deforestation — won for the "company" category. Planting Empowerment, a small Panama-based outfit that runs agroforestry projects, won for the "startup" category. Both projects have substantially increased local incomes from activities that avoid deforestation in areas where forest clearing is often the only option for poor farmers.
"Runa is tremendously honored to be chosen as the Company winner of the WWF Switzerland Tropical Forest Challenge,” said Runa co-founder Tyler Gage in a statement. “We hope that our model can inspire other entrepreneurs to take up sustainable conservation solutions.”
"We are excited to have won the startup category," added Andrew Parrucci, co-founder of Planting Empowerment." We look forward to developing more sustainable agroforestry projects with small landholders and Indigenous communities in Panama and throughout Latin America as a result of the WWF Switzerland Tropical Forest Challenge."
WWF Switzerland said the Tropical Forest Challenge received 306 nominations and 74 applications from Latin America, Africa, Southeast Asia and other regions. The winners were selected via an online public vote as well as a panel of experts and jury members.
Finalists include Ecoplanet Bamboo, Wildlife Works, Rainforest Expeditions, Chicza, Floresta Holdings Ltd, Ecotech Timber, Maya Mountain Cacao and Eco-Fuel Africa.