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EditPhoto Title:Harvesting Sustainable Tonka Beans in Venezuela
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EditImage Description:close up, tonka beans
EditPhoto Credit:© Mecredis / Fred Benenson
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Illegal mining, timber extraction, overfishing and agricultural expansion all threaten the natural resources — and the people who depend on them — in Venezuela’s Caura River basin.

Spanning more than 4.5 million hectares (over 11 million acres) in southeastern Venezuela’s Bolivar State, the Caura River basin boasts diverse forest ecosystems. Among the tree species is the cumaru, whose seeds — called tonka beans — have generated income for generations of creole and indigenous communities. Tonka beans contain signature notes of caramel, almond and vanilla, making them a popular ingredient used in luxury perfumes.


Our role

Since 2007, Conservation International has been working with Givaudan, a leading company in the fragrance and flavor industry, to provide alternative income-generating opportunities, support local livelihoods and protect the region’s important natural resources.


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Edit Item Title:Empower local communities
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Edit Item Text:We are helping improve forest management through a conservation agreement between the Caura River basin’s Aripao community and CI’s Conservation Stewards Program. In an incentive-based conservation agreement, local communities commit to conservation actions that protect their natural resources in exchange for benefits that address their development needs and priorities. So far, 64 Aripao families have committed to control hunting and illegal logging in exchange for wages, equipment such as GPS and cameras, training and better access to international markets to sell their harvested tonka beans.
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Edit Item Title:Provide financial assistance
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Edit Item Text:Support from the conservation agreement has helped the Aripao community build a storage facility to maintain a stable supply of tonka beans to sell in the years of low harvest. The funding has also been used to provide micro-loans to community members involved in the initiative. A small percentage of the money earned for the tonka beans is held in a bank account managed by the community. Funds from this can be used as a line of interest-free credit to help people invest in equipment, seeds or promotion of small businesses.
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Edit Item Title:Expand impact
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Edit Item Text:Givaudan supported the launch of CI's conservation agreement project in Venezuela and recently renewed its support through 2015. The new agreement engages two additional indigenous communities, La Colonial and El Cejal, and provides income opportunities to 40 more families. It also promotes the development of a supply chain for another non-timber forest product — copaiba balsam, derived from the trunk of South American trees and used in perfumes and cosmetics. In addition, the project area has grown from 88,000 hectares (217,000 acres) to 148,000 hectares (366,000 acres) — securing important habitats for wildlife, including the tapir, jaguar and spectacled caiman, among others.
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EditTitle:By the numbers
EditSubtitle:> 100 families
EditText:By 2015, Conservation International and Givaudan plan to provide income opportunities to 40 more indigenous families, bringing the total number of conservation agreement participants from that community to more than 100.
EditPhoto Credit:© Givaudan
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    More of Our Work Links

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    First Image

    EditTitle:Climate
    EditImage:/SiteCollectionImages/ci_30785027.jpg
    EditLink:/what/Pages/Climate.aspx
    EditImage Alt Text:Night falls over Rio de Janeiro. © Nikada

    Second Image

    EditTitle:Science and Innovation
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    EditLink:/how/pages/science-and-innovation.aspx
    EditImage Alt Text:Scientists set a camera trap. © Benjamin Drummond

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    EditTitle:The Ocean
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    EditLink:/what/Pages/oceans.aspx
    EditImage Alt Text:Coral reef in Viti Levu, Fiji, Oceania. © William Crosse