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Savimbo scales conservation and reforestation with Google Cloud

November 14, 2023
Drea Burbank

Co-founder and CEO, Savimbo

Jhony López

Co-founder and Biodiversity Lead, Savimbo

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Savimbo was founded to facilitate a better way to help stop deforestation of the Amazon rainforest by directly paying small farmers and indigenous groups to be good stewards of the land. Smallfarmers control 80% of the world's tropical forests, guarding 70% of its carbon stores. Indigenous groups are 5% of the world's population guarding 80% of its biodiversity. Our goal is to employ one billion small farmers within ten years to support our mission.

Our company, a B Corporation, was started by and for indigenous small farmers in the Colombian Amazon who have responsibly conserved their privately held lands for generations. To support these efforts, we take advantage of the latest technologies including Google Cloud so that small farmers can better preserve and replant the rainforest, retain biodiversity, and protect wildlife, while earning a fair income.

In addition to working with small farmers, we provide a product that large global corporations need: premium-quality and high-value biodiversity, water, tree, and carbon credits that are audited and reliable. All of these things come together to further corporate environmental, social, and governance (ESG) commitments.


Drea Burbank, Co-founder and CEO, Savimbo

Removing intermediaries with direct payments to small farmers

Our fair-trade biodiversity credits are a win-win for large corporations and digitally under-represented indigenous peoples alike. We eliminate the middlemen and complexity for small farmers. Standardizing on the best technologies makes our streamlined approach possible, both managing the biodiversity credits, as well as handling small farmer land enrollments, direct-to-farmer payments, and tracking and certification for reforestation and wildlife preservation.

For example, we will be using Firebase Realtime Database to store tree-tracking data we gather from our small farmers and other sources. Changes to the data, such as when a new native tree is planted, are logged on smartphones, even while offline in rural areas of Putumayo, Colombia. Realtime Database SDKs sync the data automatically when the mobile phones connect to the internet later.

It needs to be easy for indigenous peoples and local communities to participate directly in our programs, eliminating the intermediary cost burdens that most other programs entail. That means that the methods need to be straightforward, with any complex calculations automated in code. We use Google Earth Engine for that, including access to satellite imagery and geospatial data that inform our analytics for tracking progress.

With BigQuery and Looker Studio we will use AI and ML for predictive analytics, cultivate insights using real-time data, and prepare visualizations of our findings. This helps us continue to improve our approach to promoting biodiversity richness and offer a premium product that improves protecting the Earth.


Savimbo team members

Empowering self-sufficiency in ecological silviculture

A big part of Savimbo's mandate is to train local talent with trustless verification methods instead of relying on outsiders to come in and manage projects. We have a core group of very bright, talented young people. Some of our team members who are doing Google Earth coding today were pig farming about six months ago.

We also have a consulting network of hundreds of people in 27 countries that speak 15 languages to advise Savimbo, many of them working pro bono. These include the five indigenous taitas (local medicine doctors) that were the genesis of our company, a Nobel Peace Prize winner, and a rocket scientist. Getting these diverse perspectives have allowed us to continue to be thoughtful as we build out our company.

Our three founders are Jhony, an animal rights activist and jaguar expert who has worked with the World Wildlife Foundation and in conservation for two decades. Drea has a background in science, medicine, and technology, plus experience in the field as a ‘hotshot’ wildland firefighter for the US Forest Service and for the British Columbia Ministry of Forests in Canada. Our third co-founder, Fernando Lezama, has been an indigenous rights activist and taita for 30 years.

We now have leaders from eighteen indigenous groups, 300 small farming families, and several governmental and non-governmental agencies partnering with us to protect 16,500 hectares so far. And we’re exploring expansion soon to Ecuador and Mexico.

Launching our company with support from the Google for Startups Cloud Program was really helpful. We received cloud credits that gave us a jumpstart on building our infrastructure. We also just joined the Google Startups for Sustainable Development program and are very excited about the mentorship, funding connections, and technology support it provides. We appreciate that Google Cloud understands our impact metrics and is on board with the idea of doing good while running a successful business, and we appreciate working with the cleanest cloud in the industry.

We hope to be a role model for planetary consciousness. If we are going to address the climate challenges in front of us, we have to think and collaborate beyond national borders and work together to be smarter about resources on a global level.


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