Continuing to grow its sustainable forestry, agriculture and tourism programs over the past year despite the recent economic downturn as consumers demand more sustainable products, Rainforest Alliance’s certification of forests and farmlands grew by 23 percent in 2008. Thanks to the international nonprofit organization more than 131 million acres (52 million hectares) are managed sustainably, up from 107 million acres in 2007.
The Rainforest Alliance currently certifies forest lands in 64 countries and accounts for nearly half of all Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)-certified acres in the world. In late December, the Rainforest Alliance certified the largest forest management group to FSC standards with over 40,000 privately-owned forest parcels. The SmartWood program, which certifies forest land to FSC standards, has increased certificates from 1,840 to 2,458 in the last year.
In addition, Rainforest Alliance Certified farmland increased 57 percent in the last year to nearly 1.5 million acres (598,000 hectares). In one year, the number of certified farms increased from 25,640 to 31,156. In addition to staple tropical crops like coffee, bananas, tea and cocoa, new crops such as grapes, açai and chestnuts were added in 2008.
Sales of Rainforest Alliance Certified coffee in 2008 totaled 62,296 metric tons, or over one million bags, and sales of cocoa from certified farms grew from an estimated $4.5 million to $16.75 million in the last year.
The Rainforest Alliance has validated and verified forest carbon projects in the U.S., Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, England, Chile, Argentina, Brazil, Venezuela and Indonesia, and is currently working with projects in over 20 countries.
The Rainforest Alliance’s sustainable tourism activities have increased by 43 percent since 2007, increasing the number of businesses working with the program from 300 to 429. The organization also partnered with the United Nations Foundation, United Nations World Tourism Organization and the United Nations Environment Programme to launch the Global Sustainable Tourism Criteria in October 2008.