Art and Conservation

“ Drawing strength and inspiration from Nature ” -Gunther Pauli-

How important is to understand that conservation needs to be tackled from all the possible angles you can think of. Conservation is by nature interdisciplinary but we still tend to believe that it can be achieved by hard sciences alone. The truth is that the issue is so complex, that it needs the understanding and the contribution  from all us, no matter the position you are in or the subject you studied at college.  Everybody can make a difference from wherever they are. I find that one of most engaging, colourful and fun approaches to conservation is through visual arts. From scientific illustration to photography, video, documentaries, street art to name a few.  The purpose is to  make conservation more inclusive. To make the matter visible to non-experts, catch their attention,  INSPIRE them and invite them to contribute. When these visual arts are combined with the intuitive wisdom from my female  entrepreneur fellows it becomes even more motivating to me 🙂 (sorry if I am biased)

Diana Troya

Diana Troya-Visual Communicator

I am proud  and happy to introduce you all to Diana Troya and Noemi Cevallos, ecuadorian biologists, artists, innate communicators and friends. They are both doing an amazing job by organising workshops to spread the word about conservation through visual arts in Ecuador.

If you want to know about their work, like their Facebook page and check out the videos about their last two workshops held in Quito.

Botanical Illustration

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Noemi Cevallos-Scientific Illustrator

 

 

 

 

 

Do NO Harm…

Lake Malawi Malawi

Lake Malawi-Malawi

Too many times I have heard that development aid implements millionaire programmes to tackle one issue and accidentally causes another problem. This time, I want to share with you the case of mosquito nets, lake Malawi and the endemic endangered Chambo fish. Imagine for a second this amazing lake full of fishes…. thousands of people  depending on Chambo as a source of protein and as a source of income. Imagine now,  a huge amount of mosquito nets impregnated with toxic pesticides (to kill the mosquito) been distributed in the country to prevent Malaria and other mosquito-transmitted diseases.  Not a direct relation between these two facts right? well, these facts are very closely related…. People are sleeping without mosquito nets and are using the nets to capture baby Chambo fishes in the breeding areas.  Such practice has almost driven the specie to extinction. Ooooops!!!?

Chambo Fish

Chambo fish

I am not saying that a strategy for preventing Malaria is a bad thing, because it is not! .. but c’mon people! let’s pay attention to the implementation process of such strategies. The solution is not to distribute mosquito nets without proper education and communication about how to use the nets appropriately.  Let’s always be aware and prepared to mitigate the unintended consequences of our actions in any field. Luckily some actions have been taken to conserve the breeding grounds of the fish and people are now actively involved in the process. Local people are aware of the importance of protecting the baby Chambo fishes to ensure their food security and their jobs.

Country-Views--Chambo

Namaste people!

Nepal

view from the Nagarkot Tower

From Kathmandu with love….

” Namaste: an ancient Sanskrit greeting still in everyday use on the trail in the Nepal Himalaya. It means “I bow to the God within you”, or “The Spirit within me salutes the Spirit in you” beautiful!

Today, I want to share with you some amazing lessons from Nepal’s approach to conservation, climate change and people’s livelihoods.

We have heard a lot of stories about the conflicts between people and wildlife in buffer zones of protected areas. And how challenging it is to find good measures to  deal with this. In Nepal, small holders in rural communities see their staple crops affected by deers, wild rhinos, elephants, monkeys and climate change. For these communities, wildlife is a constant threat to their lives, food security and economy.  An innovative solution to increase communities’ resilience to climate change and to mitigate human-wildlife conflict  is the cultivation of crops that are not appealing to wildlife. Yes!   Communities here plant mint, lemon grass, chamomile and other aromatic plants to extract essential oils and export them abroad. Wild animals seem to not like these plants very much and they stay away from this kind of crops. Isn’t it great? People practice this in between the cultivation of their traditional crops such as rice, wheat and maize, so their food is secured as well.  The result at the end, is an opportunity for small holders to increase their resilience to climate change by having an alternative source of income, a reduction of the conflicts between wildlife and people, and an interesting approach to conservation in buffer zones. Maybe, this could be an innovative solution for a better management of buffer belts around protected areas. This is my lesson learnt from Nepal… 🙂

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Business ideas for Conservation

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Otonga Cloud Forest

I’ve been called ‘idealist” several times in my life, especially when the discussions are around business, consumption patterns and biodiversity conservation. BUT I do believe that there are different ways of doing business, different ways of consuming…and more important I do believe that business can enhance the protection of the natural environment and that consumers have the right and the power of choosing sustainable and ethical products. Here are some of my ideas of innovative business models that might work…

Wild orange marmalade from Otonga- My business innovation idea for the conservation of the Otonga Cloud Forest- part 1

In a nutshell, the idea is to sell the best wild orange marmalade to the best restaurant(s) in Quito. The chef will prepare the best dessert based on wild orange marmalade and row sugar from the Otonga Cloud forest. The best-informed clients  will attend the restaurant and pay a fair price for eating a delicious dessert that has a social and environmental purpose. The owner of the restaurant, will invest part of its revenues in the sustainability of its source of production (wild oranges + row sugar + local entrepreneurs of the area). Sounds good right?naranja agria

Benefits:

– The environment is seen as an opportunity for investment rather than as an externality.

– Profit for the marmalade producers and the restaurant.

– Low-income communities in Ecuador can improve their livelihoods by running social enterprises compatible with biodiversity conservation.

– Protection of the cloud forest in Ecuador

– Awareness rising among consumers in Quito

Who’s joining me in my start-up? 😉

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Quito-Ecuador

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

Engaging youth in biodiversity conservation….

¨Education breeds confidence, confidence breeds hope, and hope breeds peace¨ -Confucius

Last Monday, I had the chance to present Vivamos el Bosque at the Catholic University in Quito to a class of undergrad biology students. One of the goals of the project is to raise awareness about the importance of biodiversity conservation in urban areas, and to invite more people to take actions to protect the cloud forest.
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As a guest speaker in a course of Biodiversity and Development, I presented Vivamos el Bosque from beginning to end…How did it started? The dream, the idea, the project… How did Jane Goodall Inspired me? How did Dekeyser & Friends Academy supported my venture? and How did I implemented Vivamos el Bosque this year….DSC_0869My goal was to show how small initiatives can have a positive impact in people and the environment. Students got really interested in the project. They asked important questions and gave good feedback to improve the project. Questions such as “how sustainable is the initiative in the long run” or “how self-sufficient are the youth entrepreneurs” made me rethink about certain issues of the project that still need to be taken care. For example, it is critical that Vivamos el Bosque initiative works well with me or without me and to attain that point there is still much to be done.
My hope is that my presentation inspired them a little and more youth take action to protect the environment with Vivamos el Bosque or with any other initiative they are interested in.

Thank you very much to Prof. Alvaro Barragán for giving me the chance to present the project to his class, for his friendship and ongoing support!

Social Entrepreneurship and Conservation Program

Finally started! After a long preparation, the first weekend of December 2012, “Vivamos el Bosque” held its first workshop under its Social Entrepreurship and Conservation program for youth at El Maltón Community.
Youth social entrepreneurs

I had the pleasure to host six youth from El Maltón community in Quito and two inspiring Social Entrepreneurs that work hard every day to conserve the biodiversity of Ecuador, Gabriel Iturralde from Floare, and Lola Guarderas from Wikiri. FloareTheir personal experiences leading a social business that aim to protect the Orchids and the frogs in Ecuador, gave as a clear overview of why, how and when to start such a business. Wikiri

The workshop was interactive and rich in information. We had lunch together and went visit some shops in Quito where products from other social business are sold. DSC_0145

The sessions help me with the later preparation of training modules and curriculum that will respond to the needs identified in the training need assessment, and we worked on the development of a curriculum and an implementation plan for a proposed mermelades business.