Thursday, December 31, 2009

Poncho the Capybara
I am very pleased to announce the launch of the web site for our Reserva Natural La Pedregoza in Vichada, Colombia. The founders are Dexter Dombro, Dr. Kochurani Dombro and Dilmun Dombro. At present this natural reserve consists of two old growth forests, both of which are inundation forests (riparian forest), being naturally flooded for almost 5 months a year. The natural reserve also features considerable river bank along the Rio el Bita, as well as two beautiful morichals (heavily treed drainage ways across the savannah). This is the first part of the reserve, with plans to add further areas in the near future, once proper surveys and legal title issues allow La Pedregoza to expand. We regard La Pedregoza as the anchor to our afforestation and reforestation efforts around the natural reserve.

Cocomono Flower
La Pedregoza Natural Reserve is dedicated to the conservation of native tree species and the preservation of endangered wildlife using those native trees for expanded habitat. To that end there are plans to establish native tree seed collection programs and a native tree nursery. On the wildlife side we have exciting plans to build a river turtle hatchery. Using boats we will collect turtle eggs up and down the river before poachers can get to them and then bring them to the natural reserve where they will be hatched and then released into a magnificent, protected river inlet within the park boundaries. Besides jungle trails ending at dry season beaches, we are also going to erect platforms for nature observers and artists wishing to sketch or paint the inundation forest during the wet season.

Native Tree Nursery
The other significant element we have planned is an Interpretive Center providing locals and visitors alike with knowledge regarding the importance of the gallery and riparian forest, the rain forest, the savannah and the wildlife that depends on them. Reserva Natural La Pedregoza is meant to protect a unique eco-system while providing endangered wildlife with a refuge while moving along the Rio el Bita and on to the El Tuparro National Park. Completing the picture are our partnerships with the University of Alberta’s Faculty of Agricultural, Life & Environmental Sciences, who will no doubt make use of this natural reserve when conducting their research and studies, and with the world renowned Omacha Foundation, who are our partners in the turtle hatchery program and for doing a biological inventory of the natural reserve. Please visit http://www.pedregoza.org/.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Tree Ranching instead of Tree Farming...

Plantation Eucalytus pellita
One of the practical problems associated with tropical tree plantations is tree maintenance and value enhancement. Though not official terms, I like to call the act of planting trees and letting them grow tree farming. However, to really maximize one's opportunities with tropical trees requires a more hands on, diligent approach, something I call tree ranching. This secondary approach is much like a rancher looking after the calves in a herd, it requires that a lot of tender loving care is directed towards each tree in the plantation. In contrast, tree farmers take a "let it be", let nature take it's coarse approach. The difference between the two can cause a sigificant impact on the bottom line over a 10 year period.

Plantation nursery getting prepped
Tree ranching includes the following actions for maximizing returns on investment: (1) using tractors and deep ploughs to loosen the soil before planting, as tropical trees set deep roots, (2) liming the soil to balance pH and to soften it for planting, (3) applying boron for healthy tree growth, and (4) fertilizing as required. In the nursery, tree ranching starts with (5) the use of certified, climate adapted seeds, not just any seeds one happens to get at liquidation world, and (6) the use of misting sprays as opposed to large drops or heavy sprays that may damage seedlings. (7) Seeds are sprouted before being transplanted into planting bags, allowing for early deletion of poor quality seedlings, meaning that once planted there is a very high rate of survival and a healthy plantation.

Pre-pruning Acacia mangium
As the trees grow, (8) some species require pruning in their first year of growth. Acacia mangium, much like teak, needs to have all secondary branches pruned within 10 to 12 months of planting, so that only the principal stem is left. This allows the tree to grow with a nice trunk that isn't full of knots, greatly improving the value of the wood at harvest. Some species, like Eucalyptus pellita, do not require pruning as they grow naturally with a tall, knotless trunk. (9) A foreman inspects every tree in the plantation at least once a month, and if (10) a tree is leaning or crooked ropes or cords can be applied to try and straighten it. Inspection also allows other problems to be identified early, (11) including pests or disease, or trees that (12) have fallen or are affecting the growth of others. All of these points are just a small sampling of what it means to be a tree rancher for better profits and more valuable wood. Please visit Amazonia Reforestation at http://www.myreforestation.com to find out how you can help with our tree ranching efforts.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Why plant native tree species?

Orinoco basin rain forest
Several people have asked me what value there is in growing native tree species instead of common plantation species. At first blush common plantation species lend themselves to a quick turn around and a fast buck. The question obviously ignores the environmental impact of not conserving native tropical tree species, the loss of which would be disastrous to our common genetic heritage on this planet. There seems to be no shortage of people who are happy in the shallow end of the gene pool. Those of us engaged in tropical tree afforestation and reforestation efforts initially grow common plantation species like Acacia mangium because they fix nitrogen in infertile and depleted soils, but we always have an eye on the native tree species that have evolved to make the most of their environment. Many native trees offer not only exquisite wood with excellent commercial potential, but also a myriad of other wonderful by-products that are of great benefit to humans and animals alike.


Capybara between trees
Since most wildlife is niche dependent, native tree species are part of the habitat that sustains that niche. The fruits, nuts and seeds of numerous native tree species sustain endangered and other wildlife and insects. There loss is not just a disaster for the trees, but also for the animals that depend on them. However, by commercializing various native tree species, we are able to expand habitat for endangered wildlife, as well as reap an almost endless list of other benefits and by-products, not to mention their valuable cyclical harvest and the replanting of those trees for wood and fuel. It is this use of native tree species that often supports the concept of community forest. So what are some of the other benefits besides wood, fuel and charcoal?

Saladillo tree leading into gallery forest
This is not an exhaustive list, but many of the tropical native tree species that Amazonia Reforestation works with provide directly or indirectly a large variety of natural medicines, cures and treatments, for both humans and domesticated animals. The trees or their saps can be used to make effective natural insecticides and pesticides, tannins for curing leather, soaps that are environmentally friendly, tonics and fermented drinks, sugars and syrups, chewing gums and candies. They can provide renewable roofing products, ropes and woven materials for textiles, baskets, mats and other uses. Many native tree species provide an amazing array of dyes and colors used in cosmetics, paints, foods and folkloric art. Their fruits, nuts and seeds feed people and animals, but also find use in jewelry, musical instruments, kitchenware, decorations and more. Some produce gums and resins for glues, tars, boat building, sealants and other everyday uses. Their leaves and twigs often provide fodder for domestic animals, or they can act as living fence posts, wind breaks and erosion controllers.

Perhaps one of the most popular uses is shade, not just in villages and around homes, but to protect crops that would otherwise suffer from too much direct sunlight. The concept of agro-forestry is all about growing food crops between native trees adapted to local environments. Needless to say there is also the benefit of carbon sequestration, something virtually every tropical tree is very good at doing. Think about that the next time you rev up your SUV! Programs like CO2 Tropical Trees, designed to help consumers make their car carbon neutral by planting tropical trees, don't care what tropical trees they plant as long as they sequester carbon effectively and quickly. I could keep on going, but I think you get the idea.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Six Groups of Profitable Native Tree Species

Native flowering Cocomono tree
One of the exciting aspects of tropical tree plantations in the Orinoco basin are the many native tree species that have commercial value and potential. These tropical trees can be divided into 6 basic groups that lend themselves to profitable commercialization. In the case of Amazonia Reforestation, commercialization means collecting seeds from many of these native tree species, some of which are endangered, and discovering the best way to germinate them, how to sprout them in tree nurseries, how to prepare the soil for them, and when the best times to transplant them are. Some groups, like the world renowned Omacha Foundation, have already been experimenting with some of these issues, and Amazonia Reforestation is proud to be partnered with them as we establish our own natural reserve for the conservation and preservation of these wonderful native tree species. So what are the 6 groups?

Harvesting native Saladillo tree
The first group are those trees that can provide sawn lumber for both light and heavy construction, and for wood products like flooring, decking, plywood, crates and other common uses. The second group are those that are of such fine quality and grain that they are ideal for fine furniture, cabinetry and instrument making. The third group are those tropical trees that provide chips or pulp for paper and cardboard, excelsoir (packaging material), fibreboards, cement boards and similar uses. The fourth group are tropical trees that have a high calorific value, making them ideal for charcoal, briquets, and home heating and cooking. The fifth group are tropical trees that provide human food like fruits, nuts, seeds or saps, or fodder for animals, and which have local uses such as arts and crafts, tannin for curing leather, pigments, roofing materials (palms leaves etc.), dugout or canoe materials, and more. The sixth and final group are those tropical trees that offer natural, ayurvedic, naturopathic and aboriginal medicines, fragrances, insecticides, soaps and oils. All of the many diverse species in the Orinoco river basin have one thing in common, they support an amazing variety of endangered and other wildlife, birds (both local and migratory), insects, reptiles and amphibians.

Transition from Savannah to Gallery forest
Many of these tropical tree species are extremely fast growing (10 to 15 years to maturity), making them very attractive for commercial use. They provide additional benefits, because they are already adapted to poor soil conditions, nutrient depletion and high soil water content. They occur in both gallery forests found between the savannah and the riparian flooded forest or inundation forest, and the latter. Gallery and inundation forests are common to the Orinoco and its tributaries, like the Meta and the Rio el Bita. Sustainable and profitable socio-economic development must therefore include conservation, preservation and expansion of these forests, something our entire family is dedicated to achieving. Using native tree species in our afforestation and reforestation efforts will have a huge impact on local and migratory wildlife and birds, and can provide an essential gene pool for the future bio-diversity of our planet, which is rapidly diminishing due to mono-culture agro forestry practised in many other locations.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Key Land Factors for Tropical Tree Plantations

Typical tropical savannah land
Last posting, I discussed the 3 key climate factors for tropical tree plantations. This time I want to comment on the 3 key land and soil factors affecting tropical tree plantations. In the tropics there is a wide variety of vegetation specific to different land types. By far the largest tropical vegetation area is savannah (42%), followed by rain forest (30%), semideciduous and deciduous woodland (15%), and finally desert areas (13%), with desert shrub and grasses or even with no vegetation. These numbers are changing as deforestation continues unabated and deserts are growing. From a plantation perspective the ideal areas for afforestation and reforestation programs are savannah, because of reliable rainfall and ease of access. Amazonia Reforestation is doing extensive planting in the savannah areas of the llano oriental or eastern plains of Colombia.

Lush rain forest but poor soil
Despite the lush and profuse vegetation found in most rain forests, that abundance is not an indication of high soil fertility. In fact, most rain forest soils are infertile, but the forest itself  has evolved to make extremely efficient use of nutrients by recycling everything, thanks to rapid decay and absorption of litter, dead fall, old leaves, fallen fruits and nuts, and atmospheric sequestration of gases like CO2 and nitrogen. This is why deforerstation for subsistence farming and ranching has produced such poor results, with crops failing within a couple of years of clearing the rain forest, and ranching producing eually poor results because of the low nutrient value of grasses that have replaced the rain forest.  In contrast, poorly vegetated savannah often has superior soil fertility. Only 7% of the soil types found in the Amazon basin have agricultural potential. CO2 Tropical Trees plants in savannah areas with superior carbon sequestration potential, as part of their "Make your car carbon neutral campaign!"

Tropical tree planting in the savannah
Tropical tree plantations also favor savannah and steppe areas, because the cost of land is lower in those locations. The majority of the world's unused but potentially arable land is in tropial savannah and semidesert areas. Since these areas generally correspond with countries in development, they suffer from under-use or inefficient use, or from environmentally bad use, such as mono-cultures of oil palms. Tree farms see these areas as having great potential for timber by making improved use of the land and by implementing modern forestry practices and environmentally sound  programs. Amazonia Reforestation, for instance, is active in planting native tree species for conservation and preservation of endangered wildlife. This goes hand in hand with the final reason why tropical tree plantations like these areas. They have human populations that require the resources for economic and social development, something that afforestation and reforestation programs offer.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Key Climate Factors for Tropical Tree Plantations

Posting sign of new planting area on very hot day
Temperature: Temperature extremes increase away from the equator. This means that there is greater certainty regarding temperature in the tropics, which is important when selecting the types of trees one might consider planting. Amazonia Reforestation is presently planting in areas that are 6° degrees north of the equator. While there are daily variations in temperature, the important factor is the annual mean average. Amazonia Reforestation relies on a mean temperature of around 25° degrees Celsius or 77° degrees Fahrenheit.

Sun beating down on cashew plantation
Solar Radiation: In the tropics the daily solar radiation levels are approximately double those of temperate zones. This is caused by the fact that there is less variation in the angle of the sun’s rays throughout the year. The result of this is of course that tropical trees receive more energy for photosynthesis than their temperate or boreal counterparts. Another aspect of the sun’s angle is the fact that tropical trees enjoy a constant average of 12 hours of daylight or photoperiod. Plantations like Amazonia Reforestation avoid locations that are shaded, like valley bottoms, which could reduce daylight hours.

Farm animals waiting for tropical downpour to end
Rainfall: Tropical trees respond well to consistent rainfall. Approximately half of the tropics receive seasonal or monsoonal rainfall. Amazonia Reforestation can count on an 8 month wet season and a 4 month dry season. The definition of a dry season is not an absence of rain, but less rain meaning that evapo-transpiration exceeds rainfall for those 4 months. Intensity of rainfall is also an issue. A lot of rain in a short period of time tends to be water that runs off the surface rather than being absorbed in the soil.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Why invest in private reforestation and afforestation?

Deforestation in Bolivia
It is popular in some sectors to blame the free market for deforestation, which in turn causes high lumber prices and wood shortages. This blame game probably deters some people from investing in reforestation and afforestation by the private sector, because they feel that harvesting the trees later is somehow not “green” or environmentally friendly. But what if in fact the exact opposite is true? The economics of growing plantation wood may in fact be much more environmentally sound than the alternative. Let us consider some examples. In Germany, Spain, Colombia and a number of other countries, there are many privately owned forests. How is it that those forests aren’t permanently clear cut? After all, doesn’t a capitalist want to maximize his or her profits in one sweep of the chainsaw?


The blogger with a Pino Caribe
The answer is really quite simple. A tree farmer or plantation owner with property rights does not log everything in sight, because it is in their best interest to preserve the sustainability of the plantation for on-going, long term profit. Their profit and the sustainability of the land is greatly reduced with a quick one-time windfall. A well managed forest or woodlot provides profit over the length of the tree farmer’s tenure. Common sense says that as markets and prices fluctuate based on supply and demand principles, selling only a few trees at a time while replacing them makes good economic sense. Contrast this with government-owned or community-run forests. When there are no property rights involved loggers tend to maximize their take, simply because they have no certainty for the future. There is no reason to act in a sustainable manner, because what one logger doesn’t take the next one will. For instance, the destruction of the Amazon rainforest can in many cases be traced to a lack of property rights in Brazil. The same can be said for the destruction of forests of Indonesia, India and Africa.

Saladillo after a selective cut
Selling only some trees at a time while replanting guarantees that there will be trees for future profits. Smart plantation and woodlot owners know that demand continues to grow for wood products, meaning that as lumber prices rise they will enjoy even greater profits in the future. A clear cut doesn’t continue to make money, but a sustainable forest does, because the tree farmer can have other on-going revenues, like eco-tourism or paid hunting on private land, or revenues from alternate harvests like fruits, nuts, seeds, saps like maple syrup or latex for rubber, to name just a few. It is hardly surprising that if people can have long term sustained income they will choose that over one short-term windfall cheque. In the case of Amazonia Reforestation, we are counting on our afforestation efforts to provide numerous spin-off industries for the benefit of local communities, like rainforest honey production, eco-tourism thanks to expanded wildlife habitat, and ever healthier soil, allowing the planting of greater varieties of hardwood trees, each with even greater cash values, for future harvest. So if you are thinking about a green investment, then afforestation and reforestation of tropical trees is not only profitable, but sustainable and beneficial in numerous ways.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Why is timber investing so profitable?

Aerial view of Amazonia Reforestation planting area 2009
Sometimes it is a good idea to review why tropical trees have become such a good investment. It has only been in the last 70 years, starting in the 1940’s, that the idea of growing trees for sale and profit in international markets has become a major business. Since then, forestry companies, plantations and investors have been planting, buying, selling, harvesting and processing trees in an organized manner, making timber a recognized commodity that has managed to consistently outperform world stock markets. The attraction for many investors was seeing the pulp and paper industry panic after World War Two, as it had invested in pulp mills around the world. There was a sudden recognition that timber supplies were shrinking. Human and urban expansion, pressure from other industries like building materials, ranching and agriculture, and increased environmental awareness meant that the pulp and paper industry needed to start planting trees to feed their mills if they were to survive. The days of recklessly logging natural forests had come to an end.

Dexter Dombro with 2 month old tropical tree
The result of this recognition was an industrial approach to forestry. People could see sophisticated machinery clear cutting woodlots and processing plantations of all ages to feed not just the pulp and paper industry, but also providing lumber for the post-World War Two building boom and for the myriad other uses timber is known for. If anything, this pressure was even more noticeable where tropical trees were concerned. Many developing countries were slow to protect their natural resources, like Brazil where much of the Amazon forest has been devastated, or Haiti, where the forests were used for cooking fuel. Yet others have gone the other route, like India or Costa Rica, with strict forestry laws, huge national parks, and other wood management regimes which have drastically reduced access to timber. All of these factors proved themselves to be the signs investors were looking for. Busy timber markets and increased pressure on planetary forests signalled healthy demand, while evidence of huge resources being spent to plant trees meant that wood processing industries and woodlot owners were confident of their markets and profit margins. Investors correctly deduced that demand at the very best equalled supply, but more probably surpassed it. Years later trees, and especially tropical trees and hardwoods, are now recognized as extremely profitable investments.

Tropical trees are constantly monitored in a plantation
As if that were not enough, investing in timber means more than just profit. Timber is also one of those rare commodities that protects against inflation. Tropical trees grow even when they are not cared for. Using modern forestry practices and management techniques means plantations can produce non-compounded returns on investment of 30% to 40% a year over a 10 year period from biological growth alone, without even considering the value of the land or the fruits and other products that are profitable spin-offs. For example, the wood of rubber trees is valuable in its own right, without taking into account the value of the latex those tropical trees produce. The ability of tropical trees to absorb or sequester large amounts of CO2 on an annual basis from the atmosphere is a whole new and evolving industry in the fight against climate change. Best of all, tropical trees grow much faster than their temperate and boreal cousins, often leading to profitability in as little as 10 years time. Amazonia Reforestation represents all of the benefits mentioned here, so what are you waiting for? Make a green investment today!

Monday, November 2, 2009

Agroforestry Marketing and News


Earlier today I registered Planeta Verde Reforestación S.A. with a new agroforestry trading service out of Serbia, with a representative in Argentina. They call themselves Agrofood Planet and have ambitious plans to become the one and only true internet based agricultural portal for suppliers and buyers. I like this approach to marketing, because it allows suppliers like ourselves to be found by potential buyers anywhere on the planet. Since the market for tropical hardwood lumber is international, this is a very cost-effective and efficient way of making trading contacts. While they get started buyers and suppliers can register for free. Their new web site is located at http://www.agrofoodplanet.com/.

Studying nutrient uptake by plants
A very interesting technology has been invented by Gary Lewis, a Canadian farmer and Alberta rancher. This technology has experienced several years of testing in places like the UK, Australia and China, and promises to revolutionize some aspects of agriculture. What Mr. Lewis discovered is that if one injects the CO2 emissions from one's tractor directly into the soil, the mineral rich emissions seem to act as a catalyst that breaks up soil nutrients and minerals in such a way as to boost whatever one is planting. All farmers testing this technology state that they have not had to use fertilizers now for several years, a savings that can often run into the hundreds of thousands of dollars. The other intriguing aspect of this process is the fact that the emissions are held in the soil where they can become part of the biomass of the plant or tree, and are not discharged into the atmosphere. This makes the process a win win win for the farmer, the customers and the environment.

Tractor Exhausts are injected into the soil
Two former Agriculture Canada scientists turned consultants, Dr. Jill Clapperton and Dr. Loraine Bailey, have stated that the exhaust emissions have had a positive effect on crop growth, yield and quality, and may have positively enhanced soil nutrients and chemistry. The process results in a significant release of soil nitrogen (N) and stimulates crops to take up that nitrogen. There is also a small increase in the uptake of phosphorus, potassium and sulphur. The World Health Organization published a Volkswagen study that seems to confirm the potency of diesel exhausts. A light duty Volkswagen diesel engine emits by weight 75 per cent nitrogen, 15 per cent oxygen, seven per cent carbon dioxide and 2.6 per cent water vapour. Several other substances are also emitted in quantities of less than 0.1 per cent. Needless to say this offers amazing opportunities for tropical tree afforestation projects on marginal land. By reducing or eliminating the CO2 emissions caused by the tractors and reduced fertilizer costs, together with the carbon sequestration capacity of tropical trees and a promising excellerated growth rate, this becomes a very attractive situation for Amazonia Reforestation investors.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Compare stock market to direct tropical tree investments


I suspect many of you didn't know that you can invest in tropical trees on the stock market. The issue for me, however, is whether that is the best approach for smaller investors or for people who are not watching the market diligently on a daily basis. If you have purchased tropical trees through a broker please don't take this article the wrong way, as I applaud you for making a green decision. However, I want my comments to provide people with some food for thought, especially given the 2 spectacular stock market meltdowns we have witnessed in the past decade alone. I suspect many of us make investment assumptions that are not really based in fact or reality, so maybe these 3 comparisons will be of assistance. Whichever way you choose to go, you should have the opportunity to compare your options before making an investment decision. A good article on the subject can be found here.

Practical Considerations

If you are going to invest in the stock market you need a brokerage account. This automatically puts a middle  man between you and the companies in which you may wish to invest. That middle man or broker is going to take a commission for every transaction he or she handles. In addition, many brokerages don't even want to talk to you or open an account if you have less than $50,000 to $100,000 to invest. If you look for cheap solutions like on-line brokerages, then you lose the service factor. A frequent issue is conflicted advice. Many brokers will recommend stocks that are questionable simply because the brokerage has a special deal with the company in question. In those cases the brokerage hopes to move the stock price in the short term by piling people into that stock without any consideration for the long term capacity of that company to produce results. None of these considerations affect people who invest directly and privately in tropical trees with a plantation or forestry company.

Due Diligence

Other people assume that because the SEC or securities commission has licensed a business for public trading due diligence is no longer a factor. They are dead wrong. First off, it is not the SEC's responsibility to evaluate the business model a company has, nor can they mind read to ascertain whether someone is lying or not. The result in the past decade has been less than comforting. Recently we had the fund fiasco with Bernie Madoff, the spectacular frauds of Enron, Worldcom, Bre-X and barrels of others, and the incompetence of banks (Lehman Brothers et al.) and insurance companies (AIG et al.) around the world investing in assets that were value-less and unsupportable. Regulation is not a guarantee of anything, and government has shown itself to be an extremely poor arbiter of market place malfunctions, though government seems to have no problem using taxpayers money after the fact to try and bail out CEO's who deserve no leniency. In contrast, a direct investment in tropical trees with a plantation or forestry company makes for easy due diligence. You can ask and answer these questions yourself: Do they own or control the land on which my trees will be planted? Are they actively planting tropical trees at present? Can I visit and see where the trees I want to purchase are being planted or have been planted? Answers to these questions are usually right there on their web site or just a phone call or visit away.

What Am I Buying?
Dagan Dombro in a newly planted Eucalyptus pellita plantation
If you invest in the stock market you are buying shares in the company that is promoting the green  investment. That can be a problem if they are not actually the plantation that is growing the trees. Shares can be problematic when companies keep on selling shares to raise money, which means that the stock you hold is being continuously diluted, with your percentage of ownership declining as time passes. Despite these problems publicly traded timber stocks have managed to average a growth of about 13% non-compounded a year for investors, which is pretty good. However, consider that if you invest directly with a plantation by owning some tropical trees, you are secured against the primary asset of the business. You are not sharing in any dilutions of the stock, or other risks. If you buy 100 tropical trees on day one, you own 100 mature tropical trees on the maturity date in 10 years time. It becomes a matter of low risk but high return. For example, Amazonia Reforestation investors earn a return of between 30% to 40% per year non-compounded over the 10 year growth cycle of their tropical trees, depending on the amount they invest. $4,000 invested becomes $17,000 in just 10 years time, way better than anything the stock market can offer, and in my opinion with a lot less risk.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

MOU with University of Alberta

Dr. Davidson, Dr. Dombro and Renny Khan
I am extremely pleased to announce that the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between Planeta Verde Reforestación S.A. representing Amazonia Reforestation and CO2 Tropical Trees and the Faculty of Agricultural, Life and Environmental Sciences at the University of Alberta (U of A) in Edmonton, Canada, was formally signed today at the U of A. Dr. Kochurani Dombro signed on behalf of Planeta Verde, while the university's Provost and the faculty's Dean signed on behalf of the University of Alberta. Also participating were Dr. Debra Davidson, one of the professor's planning a study using our tropical tree farm as a base, and Renny Khan, the Director of the International Centre for the university. Dr. John Spence is another professor planning a carbon sequestration study based on the tropical trees we are planting in Colombia.

Dr. Kochurani Dombro after the signing
The MOU is a way of setting in place a collaborative effort between our two entities. Specific contracts will be signed on a case by case basis in the future, for each study, research or program, as it is mutually agreed upon. Planeta Verde for its part has offered the use of its facilities, infrastructure and land for U of A studies and research. We are also hopeful that the natural reserve we are establishing in Vichada, Colombia, will provide further opportunities for zoological and botanical studies in the future. This signing comes hot on the heals of another MOU we signed with the world renowned Omacha Foundation of Bogotá, Colombia, who will be doing a biological inventory of our natural reserve, will assist us in the establishment of an endangered river turtle hatchery, and will work with us for the conservation of native tree species.

Friday, October 2, 2009

I'm off to Colombia

H.E. President Alvaro Uribe
If you are worried about investing in tropical trees in Colombia, don't be. President Alvaro Uribe, now completing his second term in office, has done an amazing job of stabilizing Colombia. The country is now rated with Brazil and Chile as one of the top Latin American economies. In fact, Business Week magazine has rated Colombia one of the top 3 investment jurisdictions in the world. There are still problems with drug traffickers, thanks to the insatiable demand for drugs in the USA and Canada, but these days those problems have been isolated by the Colombian armed forces along the Ecuadoran border in the country's South. Most tree planting occurs in the interior and out in the eastern plains, or llano of Colombia, well away from the coca growing areas.

Old and new mix in Bogota
I am flying into Bogotá, the capital, an exciting and modern city of 8 million. I am  going to be meeting with the world-renowned Omacha Foundation and their executive director, Fernando Trujillo, Ph.D.. I am also meeting with the local Kubota representative to talk about getting more tree planting equipment on the job. Numerous airlines fly into Bogotá's Eldorado airport, but I usually take Taca, as they seem to offer excellent service with connections throughout Central and South America, the USA and up into Toronto, Canada. On Monday morning I'm catching the local Satena flight to Puerto Carreño in the eastern departamento or province of Vichada, some 55 KM from the plantation. Puerto Carreño is a spectacular town on the banks of the mighty Orinoco River, just across from Venezuela.

Monday, September 28, 2009

More amazing Acacia mangium facts ...

Africanized bees in Acacia mangium tree
One surprising fact about Acacia mangium is its honey production. Africanized and other bees are attracted to Acacia mangium, because its petioles or leafstalks exude extra floral nectar year round, which allows for ongoing honey production. The bees also enjoy the flowers and are the primary pollinator for the tree. Beehives in Acacia mangium plantations produce up to 110 kg or 242.5 lbs of honey per hive per year, which is important for local economies and employment. The only disadvantage is the aggressive nature of Africanized killer bees, which means plantation workers and others need to take extra care when gathering honey or confronting bees.

2.5 year old Acacia mangium in erosion controlIt has been suggested that Acacia mangium may offer a partial solution to ecological and human problems in sub-Saharan Africa due to 2 factors. The first is the tree’s long history of doing well in reclamation and erosion control projects with poor soils. The second factor is its food value. The germinating seeds can be cooked and eaten as a vegetable. Studies indicate that the seeds are high in crude protein content. Acacia mangium shoots and phyllode leaves have also proven themselves as a crude protein fodder source for sheep and goats, though with low in vitro dry matter digestibility, so best eaten fresh. Together with honey production this offers opportunities for rural subsistence economies.

Acacia mangium log
The tree’s versatility can be determined from other facts as well. As a fuel Acacia mangium has a calorific value of 4,500 to 4,900 kcal/kg (8,098 to 8,818 Btu/lb). This makes it an excellent source for charcoal briquettes and artificial carbon where ecological fuels are required. Where paper making is concerned, the pulp is easily bleached to high brightness levels. The pulp and paper industry considers Acacia mangium ready to harvest after only 6 years of growth. Acacia mangium has a bright future in a number of other industries as well. It is already proving itself ideal for both high and medium density fibreboard products. Other studies suggest that using Acacia mangium wood wool (excelsior) is an environmentally friendly solution for organic packing materials. The tree's sawdust offers a good quality substrate for the profitable gwowing of shiitake mushrooms. The wood has a high tannin content (18% to 39%), meaning that it may become an important source for organic dyes as well. Yesterday's and today's blog tell the story of why investors with Amazonia Reforestation are enthusiastic about Acacia mangium.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Acacia mangium - an investor's miracle tree!

9 Year old Acacia mangium
Acacia mangium is a miracle tree in terms of fast growth. Since investors don't want to tie their money up indefinitely, a 10 year turn around is only sustainable if the tropical hardwood trees being planted produce rapid results. Acacia mangium lives up to that promise. It can go from zero to a 50 cm (20 inch) diameter bole or trunk in just 9 years. Since wood is sold in cubic meters in much of the world, another way of expressing this increase is in cubic meter growth per hectare (2.47 acres). Acacia mangium can add 35 to 50 cubic meters of wood per year per hectare in a good location, such as the plantation managed by Amazonia Reforestation. A 9 year old tree will be 21 meters of 65.5 feet tall. When planted for pulp and paper purposes Acacia mangium is often harvested after just 6 years of growth, a factor popular with that industry.

Beautiful Acacia mangium wood
Equally important to an investor are the potential markets for a hardwood. The obvious primary use for Acacia mangium is wood. This straight trunk tropical tree is a hardwood with an extensive product range, including sawn or hewn building timbers, heavy construction uses, beams, boat building, containers, crates, boxes, industrial and domestic wood ware, tool handles, brushes, turnery, furniture, cabinets, flooring, decking, veneers, wood based materials like particleboard, fibreboard, medium density fibreboard, wood wool or excelsior, pulp and paper, charcoal and firewood. Acacia mangium’s density and fibre length allows the wood to be sawn, polished, drilled, glued and washed.

Field of fast growing Acacia mangium
Besides its timber value, Acacia mangium's fast growing nature is ideal for carbon sequestration programs like the one offered by CO2 Tropical Trees. As we saw from its significant annual cubic meter growth this means that Acacia mangium can sequester an average of 50 lbs or 22.6 kg of CO2 per tree per year. Since more than 50% of the average tropical tree’s woody biomass is carbon, this is an excellent long term storage solution, as the carbon remains trapped in the wood even after harvest for uses like building material and furniture. Industries like oil and gas requiring carbon offsets, regardless of where they are located, can make use of Acacia mangium’s excellent carbon sequestration properties. Atmospheric carbon is a global problem that can find a significant partial solution with tropical trees like Acacia mangium.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

What have others said about investing in timber?

I thought these excerpts would be of interest to new tropical tree investors. Get involved now and buy some tropical trees at Amazonia Reforestation. The sooner you invest, the sooner you collect your gains.

9 year old Acacia mangium
The Economist, February 5, 2007 - “He plants trees to benefit another generation” said Caecilius Statius, a Roman comic poet. The sentiment remains admirable, but modern investors are putting money into trees to reap benefits in the nearer term. A growing number of rich individuals, endowments and pension funds are including timber as a “hard asset” in portfolios. No wonder. Average annual returns on timber—meaning managed preserves that are eventually harvested—have outstripped those from leading global stock indices, property, oil and gold for the past decade. Worldwide, timber has attracted more than $20 billion of investment from institutional investors. Advocates say managed timber reserves are good for the environment too, preserving biodiversity on lands that might otherwise be logged recklessly.

Getting seedling bags ready
Smart Money - Since the days of Robin Hood and King John, the wealthy and powerful have owned woodland. But about 20 years ago, a few insurance companies and big pension funds started buying forests as a hedge against inflation. For the first time, economists began evaluating timber in terms of total returns and risk/reward ratios. The track record of early investors — and a slew of recent academic research — indicate that timber is a near-perfect asset. Studies show that a diversified timber portfolio would have returned 13.3% annually over the past 40 years, compared with 11.6% for the S&P 500. Impressive, but that's just the beginning. Timberland is also remarkably low-risk, with volatility more like bonds than stocks. And it tends to perform best when stocks and bonds go down, making it a neat counterweight.

Brand new cashew tree plantation
Money Week - China is crying out for timber. Until recently, China had far less forest (roughly 18%) covering its land than other countries. Beijing imposed restrictions on harvesting timber and has thrown its weight behind creating man-made plantations. In the meantime, China has relied on imports to make up for shortage of timber. Imports to China increased tenfold from $53bn in 1990 to $561bn in 2004, with the bulk in recent years coming from Russia. But just as the Kremlin is happy to use its energy reserves to hold economies to ransom, it is squeezing its timber customers as well. Russian export taxes on timber rose to €15 per cubic meter on 1 April and are expected to balloon to €50 next year.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

What happens when you plant 3.25 million tropical trees?

Freshly planted field of Acacia mangium
The reason I ask this question is because I did the calculations for an oil company the other day. It takes about 2,750 hectares or 7,200 acres of land to plant that many trees. That is a lot of land, so what impact would planting that many tropical trees have on global warming and climate change? Assuming the tropical trees in question were fast growing species like Acacia mangium, Caraipa llanorum and Eucalyptus pellita, to name just a few, then there should be a significant carbon offset thanks to the ability of tropical trees to sequester CO2. Since 50% or more of the woody biomass of a tropical tree is carbon, so it seems to me that anyone who is serious about reducing atmospheric carbon needs to take action and start planting.
Freshly planted field of Eucalyptus pellita
Since the average tropical tree absorbs about 50 lbs or 22.6 kg of CO2 per year, the number would have to  be enormous. Assunming the trees take a full year after planting to start sequestering that much carbon, then 3.25 million tropical trees should sequester 162.5 million lbs or 73.45 million kilograms of CO2 every year. Since tropical trees are most effective at sequestering carbon during their first 10 to 12 years of life, that means that if the trees were cared for and maintained for 10 years after becoming CO2 effective, 3.25 million trees would sequester 1.625 billion lbs or 734.5 million kilograms of CO2 during that 10 year period. That is 734,500 metric tons or 809,648 imperial tons of carbon. Clearly, this makes a lot of sense for industries like oil and gas that need to offset their CO2 emissions.


It would cost approximately $6 million dollars (including land, equipment, materials, labour and more) to plant 3.25 million trees.If one starts to factor in the other benefits, like oxygen for all of us to breathe, the removal of a large number of pollutants other than CO2 from the atmosphere by tropical trees, expanded habitat for endangered wildlife, socio-economic benefits to communities in developing countries, and the conservation of native tree species for better bio-diversity, then the price tag becomes ridiculously low. So why don't you call up your local oil and gas company or petro-chemical industry and ask them why they are not actively funding the planting of tropical trees? Send them to http://www.co2tropicaltrees.com.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Tropical trees are low risk high return!
An investment in fast growing tropical trees can return between 30% to 40% per cent non-compounded per year over a 10 year period. Can you say the same thing for your portfolio? The problem with many investors is that they think short term is one week and long term is two weeks. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that is an unlikely formula for success. What investors with that mindset are really doing is gambling with their money in hopes of some sort of a quick return. Let's call it the Vegas syndrome.

Flatline isn't just a medical term
On the opposite end of the spectrum are the people who buy government savings bonds and treasury bills, earning between 2% to 4.5% per year, a return on investment which rarely exceeds the inflation rate. Let's call it the Clueless syndrome. In the middle are the people who buy stocks, shares and mutual funds and then get defrauded by Wall Street, Bay Street and Fleet Street, while company CEO's get multi-million dollar compensation cheques for putting their company into the red. Let's call this the Mainstream syndrome.

Don't be a Mainstream syndrome victim!
With all the raped and pillaged IRA's, RRSP's and Pensions out there, one would think that people would be flocking to low risk high return opportunities like tropical trees. I used to be a victim of the Mainstream syndrome. I would deposit $200 a month to my RRSP and get a monthly statement from my mutual fund showing plus $200 for the deposit and minus $300 thanks to their investment savvy. Sound familiar? I first started investing in tropical trees in 1995, and I haven't looked back since then.