The following principles underpin the development and application of the Plan Vivo Standard and System:
Plan Vivo is about livelihoods.
Land-use change initiatives will only succeed and have permanent impacts where they meet local needs.
The Plan Vivo System ensures livelihood needs are considered and built into project design, and local income sources are diversified to reduce poverty and tackle root causes of deforestation and land degradation.
By introducing agroforestry systems, farmers benefit from more balanced agricultural systems, improve soil quality and can increase productivity through nutrient recycling and shade.
Plan Vivo is about transfer and continuous improvement.
Participatory, bottom-up planning and community-led design ensures projects build local capacity and have long-term impacts. The System and Standard are designed to be simple where possible, in order to ensure they are accessible to developing country organisations and practical to use. It is important for standards to achievement a balance between robust, rigorous technical requirements and standardised processes, and flexible, minimum standards that ensure projects can get going and improve as they develop and scale-up.
Plan Vivo projects always use native and naturalised tree species in planting activities, to promote the restoration of native ecosystems, improve biodiversity and protect watersheds.
Trees make the physical environment more resilient, helping communities to adapt and become less vulnerable to potential climate change impacts, such as drought or flooding. By embedding tree-planting activities in the local culture, projects help to reduce pressure on surrounding conservation of national parks and other protected areas, helping to conserve biodiversity.
Supporters of Plan Vivo projects can be confident that funds reach the grassroots level. Projects are monitored to check that an equitable proportion of project finance reaches communities, and that funds being held in trust are secure.
Overall, aid schemes are ill-suited to creating permanent land-use changes, as they fail to impose conditions or create incentives. Instead of empowering communities, they can create a dependency culture. By using a payments for ecosystem services model, the Plan Vivo System recognises that rural communities provide crucial environmental services.