Reforestation with yerba mate, ItabóGuayakí Yerba Mate is preserving the 12,500-acre Itabó Rainforest Preserve in Eastern Paraguay. Here, yerba mate, the national tea of Argentinians and others, has been replanted in its native habitat and serves as the primary income for the Preserve. Certified organic, the tea is shade-grown below its native rainforest canopy. Income from the 300 reforested acres is sufficient to protect the totality of the preserve and its incredibly diverse animal and plant life. The company has established other Atlantic Forest preserves with the Ache Guayakí native people and in Brazil. This forest, reduced 95% by recent ranching and soybean megaprojects, used to cover North Eastern Paraguay, North Eastern Argentina and Southern Eastern Brazil. It is one of the world’s top 5 biodiversity hotspots and one of South America’s highest priority sites for bird conservation. The Ache Guayakí people themselves were threatened by genocide in the 1970s.
Guayakí’s project has been singled out by the United Nations and environmental organizations as one of the best examples of medium-scale sustainable use in South America. Cambridge University researchers called the Preserve "an impressive example of sustainable forest use... It is crucial that the success of Itabó is widely publicized as a model to be duplicated.” Here is a recent study.
Itabó is home to over 330 species of birds, and 36 mammal species including giant armadillos, and jaguar. It includes threatened hardwood trees such as the Lapacho (Pau D'Arco). The Preserve also protects some of the last of the endangered Interior-Atlantic forest, a critical gene pool for future reforestation. The reforested yerba mate area is now habitat for most varieties of native birds-- a sign of a healthy ecosystem.
Greenpeace photo: clearcutting rainforest for Cargill soya plantation.
More information: La Soya Mata / Soy Kills on environmental and human impacts of clearcutting and GMO soy monoculture in Paraguay, World Land Trust study of biodiversity in the region, Greenpeace news and report Eating up the Amazon on World Bank and multinationals involved in soy clearcuts in neighbouring Brazil, Suzuki Foundation report on clearcutting for eucalyptus.