What do caramel, almond and vanilla have in common? They are all signature notes in the smell of the Tonka bean, a natural ingredient found mainly in Venezuela and Brazil that is used in various luxury fine fragrances. Venezuela also produces high quality copaiba balsam, a resin used to support rich base notes of fragrance. Conservation International and Givaudan, the world’s leading fragrance and flavor company, have recently expanded their partnership for a further three years to support a conservation agreement project in Venezuela’s portion of the Guyana shield. This project focuses on work with communities and Phynatura, a local NGO, to protect natural habitat while improving the supply of non-timber forest products (NTFPs) such as tonka beans and copaiba oil.
CI and Givaudan began working together in March 2007 in an initiative with 64 families from the community of Aripao in Venezuela’s Caura Forest Reserve. Important to biodiversity, this area is threatened by illegal mining, timber extraction, and uncontrolled hunting, fishing and agricultural expansion, but a conservation agreement put in place with the Aripao community has helped improve management of the forest. In 2011, the community rangers recorded 567 key species such as the yellow-spotted Amazon River turtle; nearly five times the number recorded in 2010!
For Milagros Pérez, a leader of Aripao, conservation agreements
involve commitments made by community members that are used to
strengthen and help local communities. According to Pérez, “the
agreements are established to protect an area for the future of our
The community members have also seen tangible benefits. “The
project has helped the community a lot,” Pérez said. “Since the
project was established it has become an economic alternative for
the community. Many families have benefited from the project. Some
of them receive the patrolling incentive, others sell food to the
rangers during the patrolling campaigns, and others can sell tonka.”
Aripao’s Conservation Committee strengthened the Community
Council´s role in the supply chains of tonka and copaiba oil through
a closer working relationship with Venezuelan export firm
Photo: © Phynatura/Lizmar Gruber
Milagros Perez, a leader of the Aripao
Community, extracts Copaiba oil, a
resin used to make perfume and other products.
Cerbatana. In 2011, Cerbatana also signed the conservation agreement, demonstrating their commitment to support the initiative through closer interaction with the community and by setting favorable prices for the non-timber forest products. Furthermore, with support from the agreement the Community Council created a fund that is being used by the Aripao community to build a storage facility that will improve their ability to respond to Givaudan’s and Cerbatana’s demand for tonka. This fund has also been used to provide micro-credits to community members involved in the initiative.
Over the next three years, the objective of the partnership is to ensure sustainability by focusing on three pillars: conservation of the protected area, community empowerment and sustainable use of natural products. Underpinning the collaboration is the aim of conserving the lower Caura Basin and improving the collection and commercialization of tonka beans and copaiba balsam. Under the new agreement between CI and Givaudan, the initial project area of 88,000 hectares will expand to 148,000 hectares, and the partners will engage at least two indigenous communities in addition to Aripao, providing income opportunities for at least 40 additional families.
This new agreement was signed at a ceremony in New York in mid-November with Jennifer Morris, Eddy Niesten and Juliette Crepin from Conservation International and CEO Gilles Andrier, Cosimo Policastro and Kate Greene from Givaudan.
According to Jennifer Morris, “This is a truly pioneering partnership, a great example of how a private sector company can partner with communities to conserve areas from where products are sourced. It demonstrates a strong link between market demand and community-level conservation and livelihood development. We look forward to the next three years of collaboration to achieve strong conservation and community benefits in the Caura Basin.”