Melding a passion for art with this environmental pledge, Beyeler was inspired by Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s 1998 installation Wrapped Trees to found Art for Tropical Forests. Indeed, how nature influences and relates to the arts is a central tenet of the foundation: as Beyeler himself reflected, ‘Nature has given a lot to art. It is time for art to give something back to nature’. Thanks to generous donations, Art for Tropical Forests has been able to fund over twenty projects worldwide; 214 these recipients share a commitment to advancing sustainable conservation while also working to empower local populations. Together, these organisations promote a vision of tropical forests as valuable and vital, a mission of global necessity given the threat of climate change. Indeed, the efforts of Art for Tropical Forests are all the more crucial and urgent as the preservation of tropical forests is fundamental to maintaining the global ecosystem.
Since 1970, the number of forest animals has halved worldwide. Art for Tropical Forests is a necessary crusader for safeguarding this biodiversity. Moreover, forests provide oxygen and clean the air; reforestation efforts worldwide are imperative, and Art for Tropical Forests has ongoing projects in Paraguay, Burkina Faso, Togo, and Malaysia, among others.
In addition to these conservation programmes, Art for Tropical Forests also promotes an understanding of ecological sustainability as symbiotically linked to economic development. Working with the Association pour le développement de l’energie solaire suisse-madagaskar, or ADES, Art for Tropical Forests has helped to introduce inexpensive solar cookers in Madagascar. Not only do solar cookers reduce carbon dioxide emissions, they also decrease dependency on expensive, polluting resources such as wood and charcoal. A similar programme in Laos uses ecotourism to encourage forest protection; as Art for Tropical Forests notes, ‘Only if the landscape is of value to the local population can it be sustainably protected’.
Reforestation Project Tanzania / Kilimanjaro:
The Kilimanjaro Project www.thekilimanjaroproject.org is not only a project, but also an organization. The Art for Tropical Forests Foundation supports the organization’s agenda.
The starting point for the project is an important but endangered ecosystem in the Miwaleni area (20,000 inhabitants / area of 200 square kilometers). From its protected source, the Miwaleni River meanders through the countryside for 23 kilometers before joining the Ruvu River.
For various reasons (agriculture, coal extraction, primate habitat loss) the ecosystem is being rapidly destroyed by deforestation, especially along the river, which leads to erosion and drought.
The Art for Tropical Forests Foundation is funding the planting of 15,000 trees and thus the systematic reforestation of the riverbanks in order to save the ecosystem. The planting is carried out in cooperation with the local population and above all with schools. The population-based approach also has the effect of raising awareness for the entire belt of highly valuable ecosystems stretching across northern Tanzania.
The NGO responsible for this project is led by people who live on site and promote the project in cooperation with the Miwaleni population.