Community Resilience and Biodiversity conservation

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I was lucky to co-facilitate the Second Dialogue on Finance for biodiversity of the Convention for Biological Diversity held in Quito, last 9-12 April 2014. A variety of national and international experiences in dealing with biodiversity and ecosystem services, including views from intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations, development agencies, social movements, farmer organizations, indigenous and local communities organizations, scientists and the private sector enriched the understanding about mechanisms to finance biodiversity.

In my opinion discussing the variety of mechanisms to finance biodiversity is necessary: taxes, compensations, offsets, paying for ecosystem services, all very interesting, BUT, are we really mainstreaming biodiversity in the development agenda? or are we just planning development at the expenses of biodiversity as usual? how can we make sure that the interconnections between biodiversity and human communities, are at the heart of all sustainability discussions? The reality is that the links between human beings and the nature we depend upon, are not yet respected and not even recognized as fundamental.

For me it is clear, biodiversity is life, and life on earth shapes all the environmental, social and economic process. Losing biodiversity means to weaken the basis for sustainable development by reducing ecosystems and community resilience, and the capacity for adaptive responses in a rapidly changing world. Biodiversity should be mainstreamed in all discussions of the new Sustainable Development Goals and the agenda post 2015. When we discuss about poverty eradication, food security, disaster risk management, health etc… we are intrinsically depending on biodiversity to meet these goals. Acting in biodiversity IS development!

Finally, how do I think we can contribute to biodiversity conservation?, well…inspiring, leading by example and INNOVATING! We need to get more creative in finance and legal mechanisms to make this happen. Many initiatives around the world have shown it is possible to preserve biodiversity and at the same time improve people´s livelihoods. Better application of  evidence and technology, working with others outside the environmental sectors, empowerment of local communities in decision making and good governance, private sector partnerships in financing biodiversity conservation are some examples of the things we can do.

“We are the first generation to understand the harmful impact of our lives and our actions on the planet. This knowledge comes with great responsibility that cannot be delegated to anyone. Everyone should take their own responsibility from the area where they work,” Christina Figueres

The Web of Life World Tour: Ecuador

Do you remember what is “The Web of Life world Tour? ” mmmmmm… nop? a quick reminder for everybody. While in Germany at D&F Academy, the 13 fellows (including myself) of the Engage in Conservation Project mentored by Jane Goodall, organized the “The Web Of Life World Tour: Hamburg” to share our findings from collaborating at D&F Academy and to engage in an open exchange with guests from our host city Hamburg. We aimed to raise questions about the nature of the Web of Life and what can be done to preserve and restore it worldwide. We dreamed of organizing the Web of Life in our countries and encourage all Roots & Shoots groups to do the same. That is how The Web of Life World Tour: Ecuador was born. I decided to organize with the community of El Malton an event on the 27th of July 2012 to offer a variety of activities to engage community members and guests in biodiversity conservation, providing a space to discover the community’s needs and assets and meet youth talents. A traditional community fair provided a framework for many conversations and allowed guests to interact with community members and understand their social and economic situation. There we had the chance to taste delicious traditional snacks from the area, including pineapple mermelade, sugar cane syrup, home made cookies, green plantain chips and more.

Then, we all had the chance to experience the unique ambiance created by the theatrical performance of the Council of All Beings, which was hosted by children from the school of El Maltón. Children represented many animals from the Otonga forest and speak out from their perspective. They shared their concerns with their human fellows.

The bees, the armadillo, the golden beetle, the frog and many more raise their voice during the event.
Finally, to close The Web of Life World Tour: Ecuador, a professional group of acrobates and theatre performers, engaged everybody in a highly interactive discussion about biodiversity conservation.

Childen, youth and adults shared a beautiful moment and committed to protect the Otonga cloud forest. People live the forest, respect the forest and help each other to build a better future for their families.

Thank you to all Vivamos al Bosque Team, Giovanni Onore and to Otonga Foundation for their support! It was an unforgettable day 😉

Time time time to catch up! Photography workshop 1

I can finally take a deep breath and share with you all about the last two months of Vivamos el Bosque! July and August have been very intense, busy and really great for the project!

As planned… Vivamos el Bosque team has organized and completed successfully its first photography workshop in collaboration with our friends from Tropical Herping. From July 24th to July 29th, 11 participants received 6 hours of theory in Quito about the basics of photography; and they spent two days in the Cloud Forest, where they discovered the magic of the Otonga Forest and had the chance to share a special time with the community of El Maltón. It was a pleasure for me to receive 9 participants from Quito and two special guests from Chile that were travelling in Ecuador when they found out about the workshop. Thank you very much to all the participants, the instructors and our friend and volunteer Celina Perez-Beck for getting involved with Vivamos el Bosque fundraising activities.

The photography workshop had three main objectives. To raise awareness about the importance of protecting the cloud forest in Ecuador; to engage more people in biodiversity conservation through Vivamos el Bosque and to fundraise for the project. I am glad that our 11 participants had the chance to learn from the experts about nature photography while getting to know about Vivamos el Bosque initiative and its close connection with the communities surrounding the otonga cloud forest.

Thank you to all of you for your support and keep in mind that more workshops are coming soon!!

Here, a picture taken by one of our participants, Alejandro Miranda.

Bridging Hearts, Opening Minds and Doing Things Together

Tertulia Científica with Giovanni Onore

Yesterday, we shared a wonderful moment with about 30 friends of Otonga at the “Café Libro” coffee shop in Quito. The objective of the night? to grab a cup of coffee and be part of a lively discussion about the Value of Biodiversity. Giovanni Onore was the perfect ingredient for a fun and informational night full of inspiration, annecdotes, and great insights.
“It is like going back in time and been in one of his lectures” said one of the participants. And it really was like going back in time! Dr. Onore has an amazing power to bring people together and inspire youth. His particular style keep people’s attention and touches everybody’s heart. The message of the night was really straightforward and clear. Ecuador has an incredible biodiversity which make us all proud BUT most important Ecuador has an enormous responsibility to manage and preserve such important biodiversity. How to do that? Onore strongly beleive in the importance of providing education and equal opportunities to everybody so new cutting-edge alternatives can emerge to improve the quality of life of people in total harmony with nature. As part of the night we shared experiences about how to help and how to work for biodiversity conservation. Some good examples of how inspired youth have started great initiatives is the case of FLOARE an enterprise started by Gabriel Iturralde, one of many Onore ex-students. Floare´s main iniciative is the commercialization of baby orchid plants presented as part of an original design, adaptable to urban spaces. Overall, the project is based on borrowing the richness of nature and adapting it to vanguard designs that will provide funds necessary for the social development and conservation of natural Ecuadorian species.
A great initiative with lots of potential considereing that Ecuador has near 4000 species of orquids wich are admired worlwide!!! Congratulations FLOARE!

Another inspiring example is the Centro Jambatu and Wikiri initiative. In one hand, Centro Jambatu is an institute dedicated to research and conservation of Ecuadorian amphibians. It has successfully been implementing the Strategic Plan to safeguard amphibians from extinction by conducting long term monitoring and research, managing amphibians at high risk of extinction in their natural habitat and in the laboratory, providing free access information about the status of Ecuadorian amphibians and promoting outreach and education initiatives. WIKIRI on the other hand, commercialize amphibians and other related products for the pet and educational markets, fighting the illegal wildlife trade and allocating its income to fund research, forest conservation, and education of children and youth in “frog-diverse” areas. Great job Wikiri!

It was a really nice night! Dr. Onore officially invited everybody the event at the communities for the coming 27 of July 2012. The event is called the “Web of Life World Tour: Ecuador”, and we really hope all our friends will come.
Finally, I would like to thank everybody for sharing with us such a lovely night!

A big Hug,

Caro