Exclusive interview: ArBolivia’s David Vincent and John Fleetwood

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Following the successful launch of the ArBolivia crowdfunder (over £38,000 in one day) we briefly caught up with the two inspirational founders of the high social and environmental impact project, David Vincent and John Fleetwood.

In a sentence, what is the ArBolivia project?

The ArBolivia Project is a partnership between investors in Europe and farmers in Bolivia, to tackle deforestation of the Amazon through sustainable agroforestry.

Tell us a little bit about your backgrounds?

David has a background as a financial adviser with 12 years experience in forestry investment. He began working with ArBolivia in 2008 and has developed a high level of experience of working in Bolivia, tropical forestry and land use management involving smallholders and the voluntary carbon market.  He has also been involved in forestry and agro-forestry projects in Brazil, Peru and the Far East.

John is also a former financial adviser and was a co-founder of the Cochabamba Project (the UK Society that funds ArBolivia) in 2009. Aside from his role within ArBolivia, he provides research on CSR issues to financial institutions engaged in promoting socially responsible investments and is the founder of 3dinvesting.com.

The Amazon rainforest encompasses Brazil, Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, French Guiana, Guyana, Suriname, Peru and Venezuela. Why Bolivia?

Bolivia is one of the poorest countries in South America and the potential for making a difference to the lives of smallholder farmers is that much greater than in wealthier countries.  It also has a history of farmers working in co-operatives which is key the successful implementation of the project.

Also migration, traditionally most Bolivians lived on the Altiplano but it is now too arid to farm and the mines have all closed down – so there have been resettlement programmes giving communities land rights in the tropical lowlands.

What’s your proudest moment with the project to date?

Seeing the difference that the project makes to the lives of poverty stricken farmers, and sharing the experience with some of our investors.  Seeing the trees grow is also a highly emotional thing.  There’s a tremendous satisfaction from growing beautiful things that will enable very poor people to break out of the cycle of poverty.

You launched your crowdfunder this weekend. Where was it and what was the highlight of the launch event?

We launched at the Anglo Latin American Foundation Fair & Fiesta held at Kensington Town Hall, London.  The highlight was the the Premiere of our new documentary film called ArBolivia.

What will you be able to achieve if your crowdfunder is successful?

This will enable us to fund the project through to breakeven, when timber revenues will more than meet operational costs.  In turn, this will secure the future of more than 1,000 families for generations to come, as well as enabling us to prove a pioneering new model of plantation forestry that can be replicated elsewhere.

There’s the option to donate or invest – can you explain the main differences and who should be considering what option?

The investment option is only available for amounts of £250 or more.  Its really for people who want the potential for getting the capital back plus some return.

What should people do next?

Go to our crowdfunder page where you can read about the project and our share offer – and invest or donate – and help us spread the word on social media etc.

Any final comments for our readers?

We’ve come a long way over the past six years, but we need this funding to complete the job and make the project a success.  Please join us if you can.