The Andes cohort is made up of a series of twelve campaigns run throughout Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru. Because both prominent urban areas and rural lowlands communities rely on the water coming from the predominantly agricultural highlands, deforestation and overgrazing has a disproportionate effect on the water supply. Additionally, these regions contain over 15% of all plant life, despite covering only one percent of the world’s land area. The watersheds are of great value both to the human inhabitants and for the natural diversity they contain. Rare’s campaigns seek to preserve this value by interfacing with local farmers to provide acceptable alternatives to currently unsustainable practices. The campaigns will encourage and offer support to farmers who are willing to reduce overgrazing and deforestation. Preliminary surveys in a sampling of the affected areas indicate that a full two-thirds of farmers are already open to the idea of a compensatory scheme for the purposes of watershed protection and of those 87% prefer technical support to monetary incentives. This technical support will make efforts more sustainable as the benefits can last well beyond the duration of the incentive structure and can help to build sustainable practices into the habits of the upstream farmers.
The Rare Conservation Fellows, who run the individual campaigns, are currently finishing up their eighth week at Rare’s university in Guadalajara training and prepping their campaign methodology for the field. They are learning effective social marketing techniques for promoting behavior change around conservation issues and are becoming practiced in producing a coherent message across multiple media – brochures, billboards, and live workshops, among others. When they finish their training in a few weeks time, they will begin to move out into the field to run the campaigns that will help preserve water access for an estimated 260,000 people while also conserving the rich natural biodiversity of the tropical Andes.
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