RUNA: A Social Enterprise Worth Knowing About

October 5, 2016

Guayusa (ghwy-you-sa) is an Amazonian super leaf packed with caffeine and antioxidants that has been providing focused, mental energy to Amazonian hunters for years.  In 2009, the beverage company known as RUNA was created, and together with local Ecuadorian farmers, they brought guayusa to the international market. Their “clean energy” drinks provides all of the organic, natural caffeine from guayusa to provide a healthy energy high. More than that though, RUNA has created two other branch organizations that focus on their true mission in the Amazon: to promote the sustainable growth of the Amazon ecosystem, while improving the lives of the people who live in those areas[1].

The non-profit branch of RUNA, named “Runa Foundation” is running numerous projects in both Ecuador and Peru that are focused on creating a new value for Amazonian plants that benefit the local people and ecosystem. In Ecuador the focus is on the sustainable production of guayusa with local farmers. Currently, RUNA purchases the plant from over 2,300 local Ecuadorian farmers[2]. This not only provides better economic livelihoods to these communities, but RUNA has been able to put guayusa on the international market to share it with the world. Runa Foundation conducts research on the plant with farmers to understand the impacts and benefits this production has on the local environment. Along with research, they provide technical and agricultural assistance, financial literacy, and environmental education programs to those communities where they work and grow.

In Peru, the second branch of RUNA, called “Rios Nete” is conducting research on medicinal plants and traditional healing practices that are used in the Amazon. Rios Nete wants to protect the Amazon by showing the rest of the world how important and practical these plants can be for practical medicinal purposes. Their brand new health center will open in 2015 in the rural community of Huapo, deep in the Peruvian Amazon. Here, scientific clinical testing will go on that will aim to document traditional and spiritual healing practices used with plants from the Amazon. Local healers say that there are countless medicinal plants in the Amazon that provide remedies for common ailments such as colds, fevers, arthritis, but also have possible application for stronger diseases that the world has been fighting forever- like tuberculosis and cancer[3]. This health center will work with these Amazonian plants to both save the traditional medicine of the Huapo community and make modern approaches more readily accessible to these people.

RUNA has become more than a company, it has become a social enterprise project in Ecuador and Peru. Its organizations are working to show the rest of the world things that they know are certain: the Amazon has amazing potential and its people are the key to accessing it. You cannot have one without the other, and RUNA does not intend to leave either behind. Their research and commitment to this ecosystem is being shared by volunteers and interns who are traveling from around the world to participate in this type of ground-breaking projects and research. They have created a mission that is easy to understand and even easier to support, but more people need to hear and learn their cause and see the actual work that they are accomplishing. To purchase RUNA clean energy drinks, look for them onwww.amazon.com or in free trade stores in the US. To learn more about RUNA check out their website, it is a great collaboration of all the voices who make them unique and special: http://runa.org/impact/#SocialImpact


References:

[1] Runa Clean Energy. (n.d.). Retrieved March 24, 2015, from http://runa.org/our-story/

[2] Building Knowledge. (n.d.). Retrieved March 24, 2015, from http://www.fundacionruna.org/building-knowledge.html

[3] Rios Nete. (n.d.). Vision. Retrieved March 22, 2015, from http://www.riosnete.org/vision.html

About Author(s)

Brianna Duhaime
My name is Brianna Duhaime and I am a first year graduate student at the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs. I am studying International Development, focusing on Non Governmental Organizations in an urban atmosphere. I am also pursuing a certificate in Latin American Social and Public Policy. I am from Boston, Massachusetts and got my BA from the University of Maine, Orono. I play rugby and am a crossfit athlete. I will be interning this summer with the nonprofit, The Runa Foundation in the Peruvian Amazon developing a medicinal garden project for local community development.