Rainforest Concern was established in 1993 to protect threatened natural habitats, the biodiversity they contain and the people who still depend on them for their survival. Central to Rainforest Concern's philosophy is the establishment of strong partnerships with small yet dynamic organisations in the countries where it operates.
At present the organisation has 18 conservation projects in 12 countries, and the methods of conservation include registration of ancestral indigenous territories, creation of private reserves through land purchase, alternative income projects and environmental education for local communities. The charity also facilitates academic research and volunteer opportunities at several of its projects.
TWF supported Rainforest Concern over a period of three years to facilitate development of sustainable economic alternatives in local communities that directly support long-term conservation and reforestation of the Paso Alto Protected Forest Reserve in the Chocó Andean Rainforest Corridor of northwest Ecuador.
Rainforest Concern has been working in this area for almost ten years. In 2003, the regional coffee growers association (AACRI - Asociación Agroartesenal de Caficultores ‘Rio Intag’), the Institute for Ecological Regeneration, ALLPA (Ecuadorian applied ecology research organisation) and Rainforest Concern formed an alliance to obtain protected forest status for the 5,000 hectare area known as Paso Alto. The Corridor aims to create habitat connectivity that aids species survival by linking the last unprotected primary forests between the Cotacachi-Cayapas Reserve to the north and the Maquipucuna, Mindo y Pululahua reserves to the south. After a three-year process, the alliance signed an agreement with the Ecuadorian Ministry of Environment (MAE) to create the Management Plan for the Paso Alto Protected Forest Reserve with participation of local governments and communities.
The project’s activities incorporate an area of 2,417 hectares as a buffer zone to the protected area. The main objectives are to ensure local communities have access to financial streams through sustainable production activity and provision of environmental services. Rainforest Concern is therefore working to develop environmental services initiatives, such as strengthening agroforestry through commercialisation of products, micro hydro power and carbon financing, in order to guarantee sustainable funding sources for the long term protection of Paso Alto.
TWF awarded the funding on the basis of Rainforest Concern’s integrated approach to addressing and solving the problems of local drivers of deforestation, with communities integral to and benefiting from the management plan for a specified area of tropical forest.
Forest Peoples Programme (FPP) is a registered charity which advocates for an alternative vision of how forests should be managed and controlled, based on respect for the rights of the peoples who know them best. FPP work with forest peoples to help them secure their rights, build up their own organisations, and negotiate with governments and companies as to how economic development and conservation are best achieved on their lands. FPP was established in 1999 and works with forest peoples in South America, Africa, and Asia.
TWF awarded FPP a grant for their work with the Bagyeli people in Océan department, Cameroon. In line with the requirements in the Convention on Biological Diversity which Cameroon ratified, the Cameroonian government decided to revisit the division of Cameroon’s forests into concessions. Officially this was to improve the management of forest, soil and resources, however many stakeholders viewed this process as an opportunity to expand their concessions and strengthen their control of these areas. Large areas of three to-be-reclassified concessions (FMU 09-026, 09-027 and 09-028) overlap with the ancestral customary lands of the Bagyeli indigenous people. For example, more than a dozen Bagyeli villages are situated within FMU 09-026, but these are not visible on official government administrative maps because mainstream society views Bagyeli villages as ‘temporary camps’.
TWF’s grant was for FFP’s collaboration with the Bagyeli people to enable them to produce detailed maps of their traditional lands. These maps will be used to recognise their free, prior and informed consent in the re-zoning of a number of forest management units in Cameroon, and potentially protecting large areas of rainforest from being re-classified into logging zones.
FPP’s local partner organisation OKANI will take the lead in this phase of mapping, consultation, and training. The project will ensure that the Bagyeli communities are better informed about the new zoning of forests that they traditionally occupy and use; their views and opinions on the new zoning of these 3 concessions, and their ideas on the impact it could have on them, will be documented, making them better equipped to defend their rights in the zoning procedure, and to participate in discussions with the government and other involved parties.