Word Environment Day, a celebration since 1972 of positive action for the environment, is commemorated every year on 5 June. In keeping with its aim of raising awareness of environmental issues and inciting action, we have assembled a selection of notable projects flagged by our local partners that showcase how things can be done.
Guarding the Gateway to the Amazon
Mamirauá Sustainable Development Reserve came into being in 1996 and has the distinction of being the first sustainable-development reserve in Brazil. Located west of Manaus, in the northwest state of Amazonas, the reserve is the largest protected area of flooded forest in the Amazon and the only place where várzea flooded forest is actively conserved. This fragile and unique ecosystem boasts incredible biodiversity, including many endemic plant and animal species.
The reserve staff work together with local communities to promote sustainable resource management; this pioneering work means that native populations now know which trees they can cut down for wood and how much they can fishing without depleting endangered pirarucu populations.
Many locals actively participate in the ecotourism initiative, acting as kitchen staff and guides. Their vast knowledge and passion for their home mean that the chances of glimpsing some of the area’s more elusive inhabitants, such as the once-endangered black caiman and the notoriously shy uakari monkey are greatly improved!
Fortifying the Fringe Communities of Mole National Park
Covering an area of 4840 square kilometres, the park is surrounded by 30 fringe communities with a population of around 30,000. These communities are overseen by Mole National Park’s Collaborative Resource Management Unit, the aim of which is to involve the local people in the sustainable exploitation of the park’s resources and to promote a collaborative approach to conservation.
One exemplary community has developed into an eco-village, where visitors can enjoy tours, homestays, cultural performances, canoe safaris and visits to the traditional medicine man and weaver. The creation of the Mognori Eco-Village has led to dramatic decreases in poaching in the surrounding area as villagers can make a living without destroying the park’s natural resources. The education initiatives set up to teach villagers about the importance of conservation have also been crucial.
Conserving the Kings of the Namibian Desert
The Cardboard Box Travel Shop, the former whl.travel local connection in Sossusvlei and South Namibia has long supported the Desert Lion Conservation Project, launched in 1998 to protect the hardy felines that make their home in the harsh Namib Desert.
Created and run by Professor Stander, an expert in big cats who spent 23 years working for the country’s Ministry of Environment and Tourism, the project is designed both to protect the desert lion species and to reduce threats to human communities living in their midst.
The desert lion is a big draw for the Namibian tourist industry, but local communities have never had a shared in the financial benefits, even while lion attacks on their livestock have led to poisonings, shootings and trapping. Stander’s work includes the tracking and monitoring of desert lions and the implementation of human-lion conflict management plans in the local communities. The development of lion eco-safaris has brought new opportunities for locals, who can now profit directly from efforts to protect and conserve this national treasure.
Accommodation with Conscience in Southern Uganda
Mihingo Lodge, on the outskirts of Lake Mburo National Park in Uganda, is a luxury hotel with heart. Not only is the accommodation environmentally friendly, but the lodge has also set up the Mihingo Conservation and Community Development Foundation (CCDF), which aims to “improve the living conditions of the surrounding communities and improve conservation efforts on the eastern side of Lake Mburo National Park.” There are currently plans to expand their remit to include other areas of the park.
Mihingo CCDF has so far instigated a number of successful initiatives, including the Mihingo Leopard Project (the conservation of predators in the park through education of local communities to reduce human-wildlife conflict, and the compensation of farmers whose livestock were killed by leopards or hyenas); the Mihingo Education Project (sponsoring secondary education); and the Mihingo Craft Project.
The foundation has set up each project with sustainability in mind. As a result the initiatives either finance themselves or receive continued support through the fundraising efforts of the foundation itself.
Galvanising Greece’s Green Belt
Greece is still recovering from the extensive fires that ravaged the Attica region, close to Athens, in August 2009. Attica is a densely forested area and the local tree populations were all but decimated by blazes that scorched 210,000 stremmata (the Greek measurement for square metre).
This was but one of several wildfires over the years that have left forests unable to regenerate themselves. Green Belt, a Greek environmental nongovernmental organisation has therefore intervened with a plan to plant 60,000 trees in the next five years. The first stage of reforestation already took place in November 2009. Green Belt aims to improve the durability of the region’s sylvan spread by planting trees with fire-resistant properties, such as oak, as well as trees that are able to hold the soil together and prevent erosion, such as willows.
The initiative has rallied participation from schools in the Attica Basin, and garnered support (both fiscal and physical) from the US Embassy as part of its educational environmental programme.
Trumpeting Conservation Efforts on the Melanesian Island of Tetepare
The Solomon Islands, an archipelago east of Papua New Guinea, are celebrated for their rich biodiversity and endemic flora and fauna. Today, though, to protect against the blighting effects of worldwide environmental degradation, numerous environmental-protection initiatives are being put in place. One of them, created by the Tetepare Descendants’ Association (TDA) on Tetepare Island, has seen it heralded as “one of the conservation jewels of the Solomon Islands.”
Established as defence against commercial loggers keen on the island’s dense, pristine rainforest, the TDA’s efforts have paid off grandly; the area remains wild and untouched and is now both an internationally acclaimed conservation area of archaeological significance and a popular ecotourism destination.
Accommodation is available at a locally run ecolodge, from which visitors can enjoy snorkelling in one of the largest Marine Protected Areas in the Solomons, home to dugongs, dolphins and three species of turtles, and study rare and endangered bird and animal species. Although Tetepare is mostly as it was centuries ago, thankfully there are no more headhunters!