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Get Them Talking: Conservation Dialogues for Southern Mesoamerican Corridor NGOs
What can a large and well-established nongovernmental organization (NGO) based in Panama City learn from a small grassroots group based on the Caribbean coast of Nicaragua? You’d be surprised.
Bringing diverse NGOs together to share experiences and discuss priorities for ensuring the success of conservation projects and objectives were major goals of the “Conservation Dialogues for Projects in the Southern Mesoamerican Corridor” hosted by the Rainforest Alliance March 24-25.
Appropriately, the participants from 36 large, medium and small groups met in the middle, in San José, Costa Rica.
One thing each had in common was financial support from the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF). Too, they are all working to conserve biodiversity in high-priority areas within a biological corridor that stretches along the eastern coast of Nicaragua south to Panama. And they all are already sharing information about their projects via the Rainforest Alliance’s Eco-Index, a multi-lingual, virtual reference of conservation projects in Latin America and the Caribbean, which also has CEPF support.
During the workshop, the conservationists discovered just how much they could help each other by revealing lessons learned, challenges and creative solutions. For example, during a discussion of project monitoring and evaluation, led by Richard Margoluis of Foundations of Success, they agreed that it was important to include local communities in all project evaluations and debated how to measure local stakeholders’ increases in knowledge and changes in attitude toward natural resources management.
Another session focused on how groups can try to make different kinds of projects such as research, ecotourism and ecosystem conservation self-supporting. One conclusion: it isn’t possible to focus only on economic sustainability—which often can take many years to achieve—without also considering and seeking funding for social and environmental impacts.
Ernesto Ponce, of Panama’s National Association for the Conservation of Nature (ANCON for its name in Spanish), said that thanks to the Conservation Dialogues, “we saw that everyone, even those with a great deal of experience, needs to adopt new approaches, share information and learn from one another.”
Zayra Ramos, of the Agronomy Center for Research and Education (CATIE) in Costa Rica, applauded the opportunity to meet with NGOs that “usually don’t have access to this kind of event, because we are geographically far apart. We had a chance to come together to see what we can do together.”
Michele Zador, CEPF grant director for Mesoamerica; Manuel Ramírez, Conservation International’s Director for Southern Mesoamerica; and CEPF regional coordinators for southern Mesoamerica Alejandro Alvarez and Luis Murillo led a discussion to elicit ideas on how the CEPF funding process could be improved and a final exchange of ideas about next steps for consolidating the southern Mesoamerican biological corridor.
A full report on the conference, in English and Spanish, will be featured on the Eco-Index next month.
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Roder García talks to colleagues at the Conservation Dialogues about the challenges faced by the CEPF-funded project he helps manage in Nicaragua: "Ecosystem Restoration of the Agricultural Frontier in the Cerro Silva Nature Reserve"