Cuipo(pron. â€śKwee-poâ€ť) is a social enterprise whose mission is to preserve and protect the worldâ€™s endangered rainforest one meter at a time through green education, brand activation and product licensing. In 2007, realtors Tom Murray and Gus Hurst witnessed deforestation first-hand in Panama and decided to save the rainforest in a novel way. They created Cuipoâ€™s Save a Meter web platform, which empowers individuals to purchase, protect, and view one square meter sections of the forest through a $1 donation. John Oswald, co-founder of Paul Frank Industries, joined Cuipo in 2010 and expanded its vision to include an eco-friendly product line where each purchase also protects one square meter of rainforest. Cuipo donates the land protected through the Save a Meter program and the eco-friendly products to its non-profit foundation, One Meter at a Time.
Cuipo purchases resource rights along with rainforest land to ensure that timber and minerals are never exploited. In Panama, logging companies are often the only buyers of parcels of remote primary rainforest not suitable for dwelling, agriculture, or development due to mountainous terrain. Cuipo offers an alternative. It covers the legal costs families may not be able to afford to secure a title for their land, pays fair market value for the land, and teaches skills involved in preservation so that locals and indigenous peoples can work as park rangers and stewards employed by One Meter at a Time. To date, Cuipo has acquired 13,354,600 square meters (3,300 acres) of rainforest to set aside for preservation at the Cuipo Rainforest Preserve in Chepo, Panama.
Cuipo never buys from indigenous groups or in areas that are already protected. In fact, through the pilot project Argan Nuedi, Cuipo works with the indigenous Kuna of Ubkisukun village in Panama to market their traditional and handcrafted products. The purchase of every Kuna product both protects one square meter of rainforest and also helps improve the economic conditions of the village. Cupio hopes to scale the project in the fall of 2012. Through these and other avenues of protection, Cuipo has the potential to expand its reach beyond Panama to rainforests in other countries where the endangered Cuipo tree, after which the organization is named, may also grow.