Guayusa is grown in biodiverse agroforestry plots, or chakras. To the untrained eye, these ‘forest gardens’ look like pristine natural rainforest, though to the farmers who cultivate them they are highly managed agricultural plots. Guayusa is grown among lots of other plants and trees because it needs taller vegetation to provide it with shade. In the Amazon, it is lucrative to cut down trees and sell timber, and to clear the rainforest in order to raise livestock or sow monocrop plantations. Now that Runa pays farmers for guayusa, the farmers have a financial incentive to keep old, tall hardwood trees on their land so they can grow guayusa underneath. Guayusa grows well in biodiverse settings, and farmers frequently plant it interspersed with other cash crops, subsistence crops, and native rainforest species. The forest gardens allow for the maintenance of rainforest ecosystems and provide buffer zones around and corridors between less-disturbed areas, which are important for plant and animal dispersal.
Guayusa now provides an alternate income stream for Kichwa farmers. Diversified incomes are more stable, as farmers with several income streams suffer less if one stream falters. Because guayusa does not preclude the growth and sale of other crops, it allows for more stable incomes. Runa’s Ecuadorian subsidiary travels to farmers and pays them a third-party verified Fair Trade price for guayusa leaves on the spot. Additionally, Runa pays 15% on top of each sale into a social premium fund for the communities to use as they see fit. The more products Runa sells, the more guayusa is purchased from indigenous farmers and the more money is channeled into these communities. As guayusa is shared with more and more people around world, Kichwa cultural heritage spreads and money flows to the communities that cultivate this amazing plant.
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