The all-women company’s mission is to grow and sell quality forest seedlings to be used for wood cultivation, ornamental use, silvopastoral agroforestry (an integration of trees, forage, and the grazing of farm animals), and environmental conservation.
They chose to produce a variety of trees specifically to support their mission of improving conservation efforts, making sure each tree they sold would make a positive impact, survive in Guacimo’s unique tropical climate, and provide conservational benefits.At the beginning of their project, the team connected with environmental foresters, government, and private programs to determine how to best promote the cultivation of wood with their seedlings and to align themselves with established organizations in the field. These strategic alliances had multiple benefits for the team: not only did they learn how the national forestry system works and what is happening in the industry, they were also able to learn who in the area might be interested in purchasing their seedlings. The team had an initial goal of selling 6,500 – 7,000 trees in a year and they have nearly met it!
An important element to each entrepreneurship project is a plan to alleviate environmental damage. Each team is required to bring balance to their resource usage by giving back to the community and/or restoring the resources they have used, or be required to pay a portion of their earnings as a fee for resource usage. The ASUFOREST team tried several environmentally friendly options to transport and hold their seedlings, but the only product the ultimately worked was a small piece of plastic on the bottom of their seedlings. To mitigate this, the team worked hard to save water and cut costs by using river water and collected rain water to wash tools and hands, and to water their seedlings. They constructed all the boxes they needed using resources they found in nature, such as bamboo to keep the seedlings in place.The team’s primary goal was to grow and sell seedlings, but they also wanted to motivate people to see the importance behind their work and to get involved. They led three events over the course of the year to bring awareness about their work and to get others engaged. First, they spent a day in a small, rural community to plant trees and share the importance of planting these trees to fight erosion, provide resources for the communities, and preserve local species. They also sold their seedlings at the campus’ annual multi-cultural festival to promote awareness of the importance of biodiversity conservation, and sold 400 trees in one day. Finally, they partnered with EARTH’s values campaign and sold 300 trees to the University for staff members to plant. As the team enters their third year, they agree that running the business together was an incredible learning experience. Despite the occasional difficulties in communicating or reaching a consensus, they worked well together and recognized how important it is to have a positive attitude. The teaching and learning process at EARTH University is dynamic and participatory and the students are active participants in generating knowledge, not simply passive receptors of information. This learning, through practical experiences, allows EARTH students to gain a comprehensive understanding of how to be socially accountable and what it takes to succeed in business while benefiting society. By building their knowledge, developing their skills, and fortifying their ethical values, EARTH prepares students to be effective leaders and agents of change upon their graduation.