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Restoring the Rainforest.

A guest article from our Entrepreneur Stimulus series… from Alana Lea.

Rainforest ECO – A Story of Homecoming

rainforest project Alana LeaIn December , I returned to the land of my birth for the first time in 57 years. I carried with me the conviction that I was going to use my talents as a force for positive change in a land that I had only known from the stories my mother had told me as a child. As my airplane touched down in Sao Paulo, I didn’t know my end destination or the details of my purpose there.

Although I had spent nearly my entire life in the US, I retained my jeito, a Brazilian quality which connotes an ability to go with the flow and to get things done. My daughter, Leala Rose, was with me that day, and we both took a great leap of faith as we set off together on a journey of discovery in a foreign land. And Brazil responded…

Within a few days, I was pouring my enthusiasm into conversations with everyone I met. I had built a successful horticultural business in the United States and was a respected botanical artist. My passion for the plant kingdom poured into my work and my art. I had illustrated a small book on the healing plants of the Amazon rainforest and my watercolor renderings of orchids and pollinators were lauded as they went on display at the Smithsonian Institute. With a strong feeling that my work in Brazil was going to involve the rainforest, I made inquiries about traveling north, to the Amazon.

But I was surprised to learn that surrounding my birthplace in Rio de Janeiro was the most diverse and endangered rainforest in the world. It was the Atlantic Rainforest, known in Brazil as Mata Atlantica. And when I found out that from the time I had left Brazil until the day I returned, that millions of hectares of the forest had been decimated and converted into primarily cattle grazing land, leaving only 7% of the original forest intact, I paused for a moment.

My purpose at once became clear, and I embarked immediately to find a solution for this most precious region.

I realized that in order to implement truly sustainable solutions, I would need to engage local communities and find innovative ways to address fundamental economic challenges. Local leaders and change makers were invited to discuss possible solutions and a plan emerged.

In April of 2009 I filed the incorporation papers for Rainforest ECO, LLCLife Affirming Enterprises. Having drawn together a magnificent team in both the US and Brazil to create and sustain the life of the rainforest, through commerce, I have a new-found zeal for life.

IN THE HEART of the most diverse and endangered tropical rainforests on the planet, Mata Atlantica ––the Atlantic Rainforest of Brazil –– and the Amazon, a new business model is now being seeded. Initiating this process is Rainforest ECO, LLC, a US based company, founders of the Rainforest ECObank – ECObanco Florestal projects in Brazil.

The Brazilian ECObank works with local NGOs and community associations to create sustainable rainforest enterprises with the subsistence farm families of Mata Atlantica and Amazonia. There they learn how to create their own nurseries of rainforest trees from local experts, as well as other social enterprises, to phase out slash and burn farming and cattle ranching as the principal livelihood activities.

Rainforest ECO Life Affirming Enterprises is a social business, dedicating 33% of revenues to establish and maintain Rainforest ECObank projects in Brazil. Rainforest ECObank is a cooperative, community based micro-loan enterprise, operating in the states of Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, to help subsistence farmers transition from slash and burn practices to agro forestry.

Visit Alana’s BLOG for more great articles: http://rainforesteco.wordpress.com