Forest Fund‘s story began in a Harvard dorm room in October of 2014. For Sophia Watkins and her roommates, this marked the beginning of seven months of conversations with only one reliable theme: cows and conservation. Sophia had been studying soy and cattle production in the Brazilian Amazon for two years and was in the midst of writing her Economics thesis on cattle supply chains in the Amazonian municipalities of Mato Grosso, Brazil. She would soon learn that one of the hardest things to shake is a good idea, so she was left with no other choice than to embrace it and run with it. For Sophia, the next six months were dedicated to developing the idea further with her professors and peers.
Cecilia, a Brazilian engineer and entrepreneur, joined Sophia and together they started building their company structure that consists of a Florida Corporation and a local LLC in Juína, Mato Grosso. Her colleagues Weishen and Steve, fellow Harvard grads and Computer Science majors, would join soon after and begin laying the groundwork for Forest Fund’s online platform. They then joined forces with field technicians Higor Maraia and Jocemir Correa in Juína, both trained in agricultural surveying and having extensive experience working with local producers. Most recently, André Ynouye, also a Brazilian entrepreneur, has joined the Forest Fund team, bringing along his expertise in founding and managing web-based companies.
How They Work
The Forest Fund team focus on doing. Their projects start locally, allowing them to learn and improve their projects’ effectiveness in achieving scalable impact. They work in three areas: standing forest conservation, forest restoration, and reforestation products.
Forest Fund’s Forest Recovery projects focus on forest restoration in high impact areas. Namely, they focus on reforesting hydrologically sensitive areas, restoring wildlife corridors, and improving climate change resilience in the communities where they work.
Forest Fund’s focus in reforestation is to develop and encourage financially viable reasons to bring back forest cover. One of the most exciting prospects is the integration of tree crops (for their wood, resins, fruits, and nuts) in land used for pasture.
Forest Fund’s conservation targets privately owned forests in the Brazilian Amazon. By understanding local economic pressures, they can estimate how valuable a hectare of land is to a landowner if the owner were to convert the forest to pasture or agriculture. This means Forest Fund’s system can, feasibly, pay a landowner a fair and competitive price for their land to be maintained in forest, monitor and make sure the landowner keeps the forest standing, and transparently show Forest Fund supporters that the forest is still standing.