When we established the company in 2002 most families in the town of Cristóbal Colón and surrounding communities earned a small living by clear-cutting forests to create monoculture plantations. After a number of years without optimal soil conditions crops began to fail, land was converted for cattle-grazing, and people pushed to clear-cut more forest. Established as a community-owned enterprise with support from the Pinchot Institute for Conservation and the US Peace Corp., our aim was to reverse this cycle, stopping deforestation while helping families build a brighter economic future for their community.
We continue to collaborate with organizations on projects that help ensure the community's long-term prosperity. Working with Peace Corp. volunteers, a scholarship program was established. Construction of the area’s first health clinic and commitment to providing staff was supported in-part by members of the Pinchot Institute and the Ecuadorian Government.
The local founders of the community enterprise are now shareholders in Whole Forest. Predominantly managed by women, the business now employs 70 people, 64 are community members. Prior to working with Whole Forest, the majority of our employees were involved in illegal logging and agriculture. By providing an average annual salary of $8,200 (compared to the average annual salary in Ecuador of $5,736) these employees have been able to discontinue their involvement in deforestation. Thanks to the aspiration and devotion of Cristóbal Colón, employment is growing, standards of living are rising, and local businesses are flourishing.