The Bosawas Biosphere Reserve is one of the largest contiguous forest in Latin America. It is a rich landscape with 21 different ecosystem types and is home to 13% of known species worldwide. There are numerous rare and endangered animals like Jaguars, Giant Anteaters, Baird’s Tapir, and more than 200,000 species of insect. The reserve stretches across the Nicaraguan-Honduran border and is an integral part of the Mesoamerican Biological corridor – which connects 8 countries and provides free movement for biodiversity.

Indigenous groups – like Campesinos Mestizos, Miskitos and Mayaganas – collectively own the land: the Bosawas Biosphere Reserve is part of the North Atlantic Autonomous region. This is a legal framework to ensure land remains under the protection of the proper and traditional custodians. By law land may not be sold, bought or exchanged. Yet due to external pressure, land grabbing and weak governance, the legal status of the biosphere has deteriorated in recent decades leading to serious environmental and social degradation: more than 600,000ha have been cleared since the creation of the reserve in 1987.

Living in the Bosawas

The Bosawas is a protected biosphere as recognised by UNESCO. Meanwhile international mining companies are pushing to secure land titles in order to extract natural resources within the buffer areas and protected core. Within this struggle, the indigenous communities that call the Bosawas home have to feed and fend for themselves. Yet without proper access to clean and sustainable energy, people are left with no choice but to harvest wood fuel from the forests on their doorstep. This is not an easy decision to make. Especially as well-known rain patterns move from predictable to unpredictable; intense devegetation means that the short water cycle is disappearing. If this continues, there will be a major threat to already vulnerable food production in the region.

 

Growing bioenergy to restore the Bosawas

Inspiring community, learning together, mobilizing people, partnering, regenerating farms, restoring nature
Bioenergy: empowering indigenous communities and feeling landscape restoration

The Ecopower initiative is working with 32 Campesinos Mestizos indigenous communities (APDECOMEBO) with a mandate to recuperate 31,000 hectares of destroyed rain forest in order to curb the unsustainable extraction of wood fuel and offer alternative forms of energy. Over the past 8 years, the Ecopower team have been developing biofuel from Castor bean (Ricinus Communis). This offers the potential to provide locally produced energy for local communities while preventing further degradation of rainforests. Thus, tackling the UN SDG 7 – “Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all”.
Intercropping castor bean with food production makes efficient use of land resources and acting as pioneer trees, castor grows fast and plays a vital role in providing protection during the establishment of indigenous tropical trees. Castor pioneer trees stabilize soil, improve soil aeration, prevent erosion provide organic matter/nutrients, give canopy and shade, which enables understory plants to become established.

So by empowering communities, tackling energy poverty and alleviating food insecurity, it becomes possible to kick-start the reforestation of the Bosawas reserve while laying the groundwork for a local, independent and alternative energy industry.

Location

20 year vision

Indigenous communities are empowered with knowledge and technologies. After years of intercropping castor with food crops and indigenous tree species the buffer zones of Bosawas reserve is a more resilient landscape and offers better protection for the core of the Bosawas biosphere reserve.

We would like to restore the Biosphere Bosawas back to 100% health, starting with the first 5% in 2021 and over the next 20 years restore over 600,000 hectares of destroyed rain forest with both Castor and Tropical Indigenous trees. In 2041, established the indigenous trees will be on their way to a long healthy secure life that should see the next 200 years green and alive for future generations to thrive and all natures species to endure in prevention to extinction.

  • 100´s communities source energy from castor

  • 600,000 hectares growing castor together with tropical indigenous trees.

  • Castor production aligned to rainforest conservation

  • 100,000 rural and indigenous Northern Nicaraguan families using bioenergy derived from regenerative castor oil

  • Benefits of castor oil approach to landscape restoration is well-demonstrated and applied in similar landscapes

  • Castor supports oil and techi-based industry in Central America creating multiple industry related jobs working together with our indigenous and rural populations.

Castor grows and heals the earth fast. This photo shows degraded land regenerated into food and biofuel production in just 18 months.

4 Returns

Uniting communities around a single objective that benefits all creates grounds for change. By connecting the objective to immediate catastrophes and how they connect with each individual, their families and the wider community, cooperation will be galvanized and lead to a greater outcome.

When there is desire for change, it will happen.

A healthy community that operates independently breeds security and freedom. With reduced energy and food worries, members of the indigenous community may focus on furthering their own personal development, skills and tertiary education.

First you sow your seed, then you reap the rewards! Seed, Oil, Energy.

Trees are the source of life. Establishing indigenous tree species will attract and retain rain clouds, produce oxygen, capture carbon monoxide and draw carbon into the soil. Reforested areas prevent soil erosion while securing water reserves and maintaining water quality. A healthy and cared-for environment will retain natural biodiversity and sustain many life forms.

The Bosawas Biosphere reserve is alive with rich nature and biodiversity.

Landscape restoration based on castor bean production provides biofuel an independent local energy industry. As well as the potential for marketing biofuel, bioenergy and biodegradable consumable products to an international market. This creates regenerative jobs around regenerative living.

Processing castor oil provides communities a resilient and prosperous income.

3 Zones

In the Natural Zone, we will be working towards the establishment of indigenous trees in order to establish a future where the beauty and richness of Bosawas shines.

In the Combined Zone, we will develop regenerative agriculture and agroforestry techniques so the local communities have access to healthy and nutritious food while an enhanced soil health creates a solid foundation for a resilient future.

The economic zone is where we process regeneratively produced castor bean into biofuel.

Approach

  • Castor bean & intercropped food

  • Converting degraded land within 6 months with castor to allow for food crops and tropical trees to thrive where once were lost but now regained.

  • Castor will kick start the growth for the first 5 years to allow tropical and indigenous trees to take off, thereafter the tropical trees will supersede in height and surpass the castor trees, thus the castor trees will become the secondary coverage level allowing for full 100% secure tree coverage creating a micro climate and regenerating the biosphere using intelligent regenerative reforestation as our basis.

Role of business

  • Local industry of biofuel produced from castor provides local jobs and income.

  • Regeneratively produced castor oil sold on international market

  • Potential to use regenerative castor oil for multitude of applications and products.

Achieved so far

  • We are working with 32 indigenous communities in the Bosawas Reserve

  • After 8 years of local development, we developed a strain of castor which is drought-resistant and well-suited to the challenge of kick-starting a bio-energy industry and establishing indigenous trees

  • A contract has been signed to begin work across 31,000 ha

  • We have launched a fundraising campaign.