An IÉSEG student gets involved in Phoenix Forest to protect the South American forest
Passionate about environmental issues, Noé LEFEBVRE, a Master’s student in the Grande École program at IÉSEG, decided to get involved in a humanitarian project in Latin America, with an ecological and social objective, thanks to the Phoenix Forest association, with two childhood friends.
What is the objective of the Phoenix Forest association, of which you are currently the president?
Phoenix Forest is an association under the French law of 1901 which was created in 2019 and whose mission is to support reforestation projects and the preservation of the biodiversity of the South American forest. I took over the association in 2021, with the help of my two childhood friends: David and Oryan, who have the same interest as me in protecting the environment. With the association, we wish above all to raise public awareness on the subject of ecology, and particularly deforestation, while supporting concrete projects led by local humanitarian associations in four South American countries.
Before undertaking anything, we obviously took the time to get information from local organizations to make sure we had the knowledge required to get involved in such projects. Indeed, some associations sometimes launch reforestation projects which, in the end, harm nature because the techniques used are not suitable for the environment in question. We also collect donations for our partner associations in Latin America. Finally, in order to make all of this even more concrete, we will soon be going on site as volunteers to lend a hand to these associations and help them carry out their various projects.
Soon you will be travelling to 4 different countries, what projects will you carry out there?
The three of us will take advantage of our gap year to carry out various local humanitarian projects. We are leaving on January 4, 2023, starting with Colombia, to help the association “Envol Vert” Colombia. We will be near Cartagena, in the Caribbean area, to do agroforestry through nurseries while working for the emancipation of local farmers. The nurseries are small plots of land where we will start a plantation to develop it in a rather intensive way in order to relocate it later. After Cartagena, we will go to Socota in the Amazonian forest, where we will work again on agroforestry. There, we find both an environmental and social stake because we will also train farmers (after having been trained ourselves, of course) to a sustainable agriculture by presenting them ecological, sustainable and economic agricultural models in order to improve the well-being of the inhabitants of this area. Our mission is therefore both ecological and social.
We will then go to Ecuador, to Puerto Misahuallí, a city located near the Rio Napo, at the entrance of the Amazonian forest. There, we will help the association Trésor de Nature which is creating an ecological, biological and educational farm. The goal of this farm is to develop its own cultures and to succeed in living from them, while training local farmers to carry out these plantations. We will also work for the preservation of the fauna, flora and the forest by building natural reserves and shelters for wild animals. Finally, we will participate in the creation of a drying center for cocoa and vanilla and help local families with the agro-forestry plantation.
After that, we will go to Peru, in partnership with the association “Envol Vert” Peru. There we will split up: David and Oryan will go to Pichanaki and I to Tingo Maria, in the Amazon. The goal is to meet local people while helping an agroforestry project. There, we will train farmers on coffee and cocoa crops and on economic alternatives to be autonomous while respecting nature. The people living in the Amazon have a special relationship with the forest, which they consider a living being in its own right, almost like a member of their family. So we think we will learn a lot from their way of living in harmony with nature.
Finally, we will arrive in Bolivia, in Coroico, with the association “Coeur de Forêt”. It will be a community reforestation project. We will take the plantations out of the nurseries to replant them in the forests. We will also do beekeeping. Finally, we will work on the production of essential oils and aromatic and medicinal plants.
All in all, we will carry out very complementary missions related to many different issues. Each mission contributes to the development of local trade and has a double impact: environmental and societal. Obviously, to get to Latin America, we will have to fly, but once we are there, we will try to limit our carbon footprint as much as possible during each of our travels, and we are committed to modeling and calculating our negative carbon footprint (mainly our travels) and our positive one (our contribution to the field) to make sure that this project is ecologically profitable.
And after this journey?
We will each go back to our studies. Personally, I am going to do my internship at the end of my studies so I will not be able to continue to take care of the association for the moment. We are therefore looking for people interested in taking over the association so that it can continue in the future. This cause is very important to us and we would like to see it keep going and evolving.
Why did you choose this association in particular?
First of all, I am very sensitive to ecology and the environment, and I wanted to participate in a large-scale project that is useful and sustainable. I am particularly attracted by the unknown and therefore, being able to discover this manual and agricultural world in distant territories with cultures that are different from ours, appealed to me particularly. Before diving into the professional world, I wanted to discover the world and all that it has to offer, especially in terms of environmental projects. I always knew that I would do humanitarian work during my gap year. In fact, it was after the collective project I did in my second year that I really became interested in humanitarian work. Moreover, the opportunity to manage the association myself, with my friends, and not just act as a volunteer, seemed particularly interesting. Indeed, the project is divided into two parts (management, fundraising and contribution to the field) which allows me to have a 360° vision of what an association can offer.
How do you operate within the association?
Since the three of us have known each other for a very long time, we know each other’s strengths and weaknesses. So we divided the tasks according to our strengths. I take care of the budget and cash flow, the administrative tasks, especially the contracts and subsidies from the State, and the communication. David manages the relations with the bank, the bank account and the donations, as well as the relations with our network of associations. As for Oryan, he mainly deals with sponsors. For charity events and fundraising, we manage it together.
Speaking of fundraising, how does it work and what is your objective?
We regularly organize events (breakfasts…) and we have opened a HelloAsso fund for tax-free donations. We set ourselves a goal of 10,000€ and we are now at 75%. Reaching this goal is essential, because the money collected will not be used to finance our humanitarian trip to Latin America (which we finance by our own means), but will be entirely given to our partner associations (2,500€ per association). This will allow them to finance their large-scale projects, such as:
- In Colombia, the financing of 4 nurseries;
- In Ecuador, the implementation of the computer system of the ecological and organic farm;
- In Peru, the organization of an awareness-raising event (“Sumate al Bosque”) for the citizens of the major South American cities on the issues of deforestation;
- In Bolivia, the purchase of 10 melipona beehives.
To learn more about Phoenix Forest, visit www.phoenixforest.fr