Panama: Helping the rainforest help the Panama Canal | Global Ideas | DW | 03.11.2020

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Panama: Helping the rainforest help the Panama Canal

Green investment in agroforestry is helping restore Panama's forests, and the country’s famous canal could benefit, too.

Watch video 07:11

Panama: Saving forests to save water

Project goal: To restore 1,450 hectares (3,580 acres) of degraded farmland on Panama's Caribbean coast through agroforestry, making the soil resilient to erosion and helping it retain scarce water

Project duration: The 1,450 Finca Cuango property will contribute to a target of one million hectares of degraded land that Panama plans to restore by 2035 through ist Allianza por el Millio initiative

Project budget: 12Tree Finance has invested 15 million euros in Finca Cuango 

Project partners: 12Tree, an investment firm based in Germany and Latin America, is co-founder of Initiative 20x20, which restores degraded land in Latin America and the Caribbean and is supported by the Germany Environment Ministry though its International Climate Initiative. 12Tree is also part of Panama's Alianza por el Million initiative


The Panama Canal is one of the world's most important shipping routes, and a vital source of income for the country. But with too little rain, climate change has contributed to a dramatic fall in its water levels, slowing traffic and cutting the country's revenues from the waterway in half. 

At the same time, livestock and illegal logging are putting Panama's forests and wetlands under extreme pressure, meaning forest rivers aren't replenishing the canal as they should. 

By investing in reforestation and land restoration, Panama's government hopes to invest in the future of its famous canal. Which ist where public-private partnerships with investors like 12Tree come in. 

12Tree Finance bought Finca Cuango, an old beef farm comprising 1,450 hectares, which it is reviving through agroforestry. Cocoa plants grow in the shade of plantain, almond and cedar trees, while areas of natural forest provide a home for howler monkeys, an array of birds and rare animals like the puma, anteater and ocelot. This mix of natural and cultivated vegetation helps the soil resist erosion and retain water, which in turn helps preserve wetlands and rivers.

A film by Detlef Urban.

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