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Environmental Hotspots

February 25, 2003—A multinational corps of community educators will soon begin reaching out to millions of people around the globe with a single mission: to promote local pride in the environment in some of the planet’s most threatened ecosystems.

The Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF), a joint initiative of the World Bank, Conservation International, the Global Environment Facility, The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and the Japanese government, aims to invest at least US$150 million in biodiversity hotspots—highly threatened regions where more than 60 percent of terrestrial species diversity is found on only 1.4 percent of the Earth’s surface.

The project, called Building a Global Constituency for Biodiversity Conservation, is based on a methodology that has already been successful in protecting endangered species, and creating new reserves and environmental legislation in more than 30 countries.

The project is the result of an alliance between the RARE Center for Tropical Conservation and Conservation International. While RARE (Rare Animal Relief Effort) has successfully used "Pride Campaigns" for nearly two decades, CEPF recently committed nearly $2 million to expand the initiative to include 13 sites within priority conservation areas, or "Hotspots," in China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Southern and West Africa and Central and South America.

"RARE is the institution of choice when it comes to demonstrated leadership in the conservation awareness business," said Jorgen Thomsen, executive director of CEPF. "With this grant—the largest we’ve ever issued—we will not only help to take RARE to a new level but significantly increase the number of new conservation leaders that result from RARE’s awareness campaigns."

In the past, RARE’s strategy has been instrumental in generating concrete conservation results. New nature reserves have been created throughout the Caribbean, and the program – which focuses awareness efforts around a charismatic flagship species – has helped protect the St. Lucia parrot, Grenada dove, hawksbill sea turtle, great green macaw, giant swallow-tail butterfly and resplendent quetzal, among others.

"Pride Campaigns are effective because they can make an entire island, region, even nation excited about conservation, by helping people realize that their natural resources are worth protecting," said RARE Vice President Paul Butler, who created the Pride Campaign concept in St. Lucia.

One such Pride Campaign reached more than 95,000 people living in and around the nearly 300,000-acre El Triunfo Biosphere Reserve in Chiapas, Mexico. The campaign provided intensive outreach to encourage local indigenous farmers to switch to organic, shade coffee growing techniques and reduce forest fires in this highland cloud forest, while building support for the reserve. The campaign used the endangered resplendent quetzal as the symbol to rally local pride in El Triunfo.

Scattered among isolated villages, the majority of local people did not even know they lived in a protected area. In the pre-campaign survey, RARE found that only 27 percent of reserve residents were aware of the existence of the biosphere reserve. During the campaign, local reserve education staff traveled by foot and by mule for hours at a time to reach many communities for the first time ever.

They carried with them a six-foot tall quetzal mascot, a puppet theater, music, songs, games and an important message. The results were encouraging: the post-campaign survey showed that awareness of the reserve more than doubled among reserve residents (from 27 percent to 57 percent), and the level of understanding of the benefits of shade-grown coffee increased by nearly 20 percent among coffee growing communities.

The biggest success is perhaps the newfound commitment among the reserve staff for education. The campaign's manager has gone on to develop a new 10-year educational strategy, and has been actively implementing it since the initial RARE campaign concluded in mid-2001.

For more information about the RARE Center for Tropical Conservation, please visit: http://www.rarecenter.org.

For more information on the World Bank's work on the environment, click here.

 




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