When Rare Pride Program Managers traveled to China’s Gaoligong Nature Reserve, the biggest threat to the region and to Hoolock gibbons was obvious: too many communities collecting too much fuelwood.
To mentor Pride campaign managers and support active campaigns throughout the world, Rare staff regularly travel to each Pride campaign site to monitor a campaign’s progress against its scheduled benchmarks. In February 2009, Rare Pride Program Managers Yu and Zhiyong visited Gaoligong Nature Reserve, where Rare, the Gaoligong Mountain Nature Reserve Management Bureau and The Nature Conservancy in China recently launched a Pride campaign led by Campaign Manager Duan Honglian. They were amazed to see the dramatic impact fuel wood collection had on this site, which provides habitat for many threatened species including the Hoolock gibbon. The gibbons are restricted to small patches of remaining habitat and are estimated at less than 150 individuals. With each family in the community collecting enough fuelwood to fortify massive piles (illustrated in the attached photo), it is easy to understand the abundance of barren areas on the hillsides of the reserve.
Yu and Zhiyong reported: “On top of a small hill, we could see the corridor reserve very well. The forest in this area was degraded due to rampant fuel wood collection. The three communities in this region -- Simenqian, Lizhai, and Shatian -- do not have any other available forest. They have to collect fuelwood from the reserve, despite the area being established as a nature reserve. Due to weak enforcement of regulations, the nature reserve staff cannot penalize these communities if they collect wood from the reserve.”
Local experts are so familiar with the biodiversity in the reserve that they can identify each of the gibbons based on their calls. They witness how destroying the forest impacts the wildlife, specifically the Hoolock gibbons. They report that gibbons have changed their seasonal habits, forfeiting movement to certain areas of the reserve since there are no more big trees to climb and hide in. This is a direct result of the forests being cleared for fuelwood.
Thanks to this Pride campaign’s supporters, Honglian finished conducting a threat assessment of her site, which identifies the site’s top conservation threats and issues as a result of extensive interviewing and group discussions with various community members, leaders and groups. She then ranked the threats that jeopardize Gaoligong’s resources and met with local leaders to gain their support of her Pride campaign. With input from partner organizations and Rare staff, Honglian is exploring strategies to reduce fuelwood collection as the campaign moves into its implementation phase. Utilizing alternative forms of energy including biogas is one option, but Honglian will consult with local experts for a suitable long-term solution to protect the communities’ environmental resources, and to protect the environment itself.
Honglian needs help from conservationists like you to continue inspiring conservation of natural resources and protect the Hoolock gibbon in Gaoligong Nature Reserve.
Alejandro’s campaign is progressing right on schedule. As the Rare Pride Campaign Manager for La Sepultura Biosphere Reserve, he has completed the first university phase of Rare’s training curriculum at the University of Guadalajara, one of the largest and most respected institutions of higher learning in Mexico. Participants in this program come from all over Latin America.
This phase included nine weeks of classroom training and hands-on activities that prepared Alejandro to build a comprehensive project plan, including use of concept models, threat ranking, and stake-holder engagement strategies.
Alejandro is now back in the field in the communities of La Sepultura for his Pride campaign planning phase. He has facilitated the stakeholder meeting and threat ranking, produced a draft barrier removal analysis, and is now starting his community survey where he will survey nearly 1,000 people (and a control group) on their knowledge, attitudes, and behavior about forest fires and their agricultural practices- many of which have been passed down from generation to generation. This information will help Alejandro form specific conservation objectives for the campaign.
He will then return to Guadalajara on June 2nd, where he will participate in the Rare alumni event – a first time celebration of the Rare Pride campaign manager alumni network that emphasizes supporting and mentoring fellow conservationists for long term conservation sustainability worldwide. Afterward, Alejandro will start five weeks of training in the second university phase before returning to the field where he will implement his campaign.
Here’s a brief recap of Alejandro’s campaign and goals for preserving natural resources in La Sepultura:
To reduce pine-oak forest being destroyed by uncontrolled forest fires La Sepultura Biosphere Reserve, local farmers and producers will be trained and mentored to implement fire management practices (burning calendars, firebreaks, community plans, natural fences etc) along with sustainable productive alternatives (organic agriculture, agrosilvopastoral systems, sustainable grass production). Producers will learn about of the effects of forest fires and the environmental and production benefits that can be obtained through these alternative practices. CONANP along with other agriculture related entities will provide technical assistance and financing. The Pride Campaign will be deemed successful if 50% of annual hectares (ha) damaged by forest fires is reduced by 2012 (2500 ha instead of 5000 ha).
These three campaign managers are a part of a cohort that has affectionately named themselves “Metamorfosa” (= metamorphosis). A blog posted by their Pride Program Manager in Bogor explains: "as they are working to create changes, they themselves is in the process of being change, in a Pride program that is also had changed – for a better life, better environment, better world to live in."
These Indonesian campaigns are beginning to thrive! Rare’s first university training phase in Indonesia, which lasted nine weeks, ended December 19, 2008. The campaign managers Eddy, Bobby and Ade have returned to their sites and are working on a comprehensive threat assessment in their sites, whose results will serve as the basis for planning their year-long Pride campaigns.
The campaign managers are also hosting a series of stakeholder meetings to assess the opinions, interests and behaviors of various groups, such as farmers. By working at this local level, the campaign managers not only gain first hand information and build relationships with the local people, but they engage community members in the process of communicating about conservation.