Earth Love Fund Conservation Projects

ELF Project Focus:
Kilum Mountain Forest, Cameroon

The Kilum Mountain Forests form the largest and most biologically rich area still remaining of Cameroon's montane forest ecosystem. They support a unique and globally threatened selection of plant and animal species.

Between 1963 and 1983, half the Kilum forests were destroyed. When a representative of BirdLife International visited Mount Kilum in 1987, it was estimated that all the remaining forest would disappear within 10 years. Local people, concerned about the effects of deforestation, talked about a time when rivers were twice as full. During the dry season, farmers rely on water stored in the forest above the village, so it was clear to everyone that deforestation was responsible for the water shortage.

A series of measures were proposed to the villagers. A boundary was agreed around the remaining forest and a halt called to further clearance above that line. Each village elected two people to patrol the forest, checking for fires or infringement of the delineated area.

In order to reduce the need to clear more forest for agriculture, extension workers trained by BirdLife helped farmers to build contour hedges to hold the soil. Tree nurseries run by women's cooperatives provided the seedlings.

Locals also used a variety of products from the forest, such as honey and traditional medicines. The project encouraged these activities, for example by halping honey-gatherers to form cooperatives for more efficient marketing. This added to the value of the forest in the eyes of the local communities and thus increased the chance that protective measures would be upheld.

Ultimately, the success of the project will depend on reducing the local population growth. If that can be achieved, the future of the Kilum Forest will be assured -- because the forest gives direct benefits to the local people.

Earth Love Fund has supported a number of projects where local people are working to establish and maintain protected areas.

ELF contributed a grant in 1993 to BirdLife's Kilum Mountain Forest project for environmental education.

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ELF Project Focus:
The Value of the Forest from the People's Perspective
Amazonia, Brazil

Throught Amazonia, loggers and ranchers show up on the doorsteps of peasant farmers, cash in hand, negotiating for land and timber rights. The farmers often sell their trees or land in emergencies -- to buy medicine for a sick child or food when crops fail, or for payment on debts. Huge tracts of land and trees are sold for trifling sums, the original forest is destroyed and with the loss of the goods they provide, poverty and hunger increase. To combat this trend, people need clear information on costs and benefits of selling trees versus making use of the standing forest.

Five years' research by Patricia Shanley of the Durrell Institute of Conservation Ecology has come up with powerful data in favour of keeping the standing forests. For example, the price a logger offers for one tree equals the market price of just seven fruits from that tree. Similarly, one hectare of forest sells for timber at $40, whereas its fruit and game is worth $220 per annum. In one month, some families consume the equivalent of $300 worth of forest fruits, and capable hunters can contribute over $200 to their monthly subsistence.

Communities who realise, in cash terms, the great benefit they gain every day from standing forests are far less likely to sell those forests to loggers. Since 1995, Earth Love Fund's grants have allowed these results to be shared with hundreds of rural farmers.

How's It Done?

Following invitations from community leaders in Para state, in the northeastern Amazon, scientists and grassroots activists joined together to organise a series of Forest Value Workshops. The workshops reached over 600 farmers, 45 community leaders, representatives of unions, extensionists, women's group leaders and health specialists. Programme collaborators used travelling forest theatre, posters, songs and role-playing to present concrete numbers proving the value of non-wood forest products such as fruit, game and vines compared to the prices being paid for timber. The conclusions shocked and sobered many of the community members who were participating.

Programme collaborators assisted several communities in their first attempt at marketing forest fruits. Through the workshops, a forest pharmacy was also created and technical training was provided to help community members learn skills for forest inventories and mapping.

Results In The First Year:

ELF has supported a number of projects where a small injection of cash has allowed villagers to keep their forests by improving the management of a range of forest resources. This type of support is central to ELF's philosophy of helping communities to help themselves.

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ELF Project Focus:
"Wokabout Somils" In Papua New Guinea

One of the tragedies of commercial logging is that large areas of forest are damaged or even cleared completely in order to extract only a very small number of trees -- those of the most valuable timber species.

However, it need not be like this. It is thought to be possible to manage tropical timber on a sustainable basis, by limiting the damage caused to the forest by the felling and extraction of individual trees, and planning a careful rotational harvesting schedule. In the last ten years, interest has grown in the West to encourage such practices through consumer pressure. As a result, communities which practice ecologically sound management can apply for eco-labelling of timber and gain higher prices from consumers.

Since 1993, Earth Love Fund has been supporting the Village Development Trust (VDT) in Papua New Guinea in their efforts to help communities develop ecologically sound timber management. At the beginning of the project, the Zia tribe in Morobe province were about to sign a contract to allow the clear-felling of about one hundred thousand acres of virgin rainforest in return for much-needed quick cash. However, with help from VDT and ELF, the community started selective logging themselves, using a portable sawmill and a careful fifty-year logging cycle which will keep the forest intact.

Rainforest is damaged during extraction of timber mainly through the construction of access roads, which often upsets drainage systems and by damage caused as a tree actually falls. However, using portable sawmills, it is possible to minimise the need for access roads. Careful control of each tree-fall, including pre-cutting of any creepers attaching the tree to its neighbours, is effective in minimising damage.

The use of portable sawmills is particularly suitable for communities since it allows them to plank the wood on site and head-load it out to the roads. The sawn timber from one tree brings in an average of $500 USD (before expenses), as opposed to the $32 per tree paid by logging companies.

Rural communities in Papua New Guinea still use many products from the forest in their daily lives -- rattans for thatch and baskets; fruit and nuts for food; leaves and bark for medicines, and animals for meat, to name but a few. The great advantage of community forest management is that the community no longer has to choose between income from timber or the continued use of a much wider range of resources -- they can keep the forests and still earn more money than before, by planking a few carefully selected trees.

To help avoid the high cost of transport, an Eco-home project is being established, where timber from the portable sawmill operations will be used to build 80 high quality homes in five villages in the region over the next two years.


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ELF Project Focus:
Rainforest Medicines From The Ashaninka In Peru

The rainforests of the Ene valley in Peru are surrounded by peaks reaching up to 3800 metres and can be reached only by light aircraft or several days' boat-ride or hiking. The Ashaninka Indians have lived there for generations and hold the title to much of the land along the valley bottom.

Ashaninka with Cat's Claw seedlings Four thousand of the thirty thousand Ashaninka in Peru have been killed by terrorists and cocaine barons since 1989, and most of the people of the Ene valley fled into the surrounding mountains in the early 1990s. It is only since 1993, when the political situation improved, that they have been able to return to their homes and try to pick up the pieces. But to do so, they need new sources of income to replace coca, which was being grown on their land by colonists for the cocaine trade.

Since early 1995, ELF has been funding research and the establishment of market links for the commercialisation of local medicinal plants. One of the main plants selected for commercialisation is "Una de Gato" or Cat's Claw (Uncaris Tomentosa), which is used in the treatment of arthritis, rheumatism, AIDS and cancer. Cat's Claw is a vigorous climber and grows best in primary forest so its use is an incentive to forest preservation. The Ashaninka now produce Cat's Claw for sale throughout Peru and in the southern USA. For every plant cut, two offshoots are planted. Studies are being done to check the rates of regeneration from these offshoots and make sure that the number of plants is not being reduced. Work has also begun on a range of other medicinal plants.

Results In The First 18 Months:

Since Earth Love Fund's initial support, the project has secured funding from the Rainforest Foundation.

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ELF Project Focus:
Community Workshops On Oil Exploration, Peru

In March 1996, Mobil Oil signed a contract with the Peruvian government to look for oil in the southern Peruvian Amazon. The oil exploration blocks included a proposed National Park; a proposed Communal Indigenous Reserve and the Las Piedras valley, home to up to three different ethnic groups of isolated Indians.

The local Federations for Indigenous Peoples and small farmers requested funds to visit their member communities in order to inform them of the imminent arrival of Mobil and hold workshops to discuss what action should be taken. Their concern was very great, since a similar operation by Shell in the 1980s had resulted in contact being made with remote communities in neighbouring Manu National Park, and the subsequent death of hundreds of people from Western diseases such as chicken pox and pneumonia.

Earth Love Fund's quick response to an urgent appeal for funds allowed immediate preparation to visit remote communities and make them aware of Mobil's impending arrival in the area. Both organisations found a high level of concern when the communities learnt of Mobil's proposed activities.

Following the workshops, a Forum was called by the mayor of the state town of Puerto Maldonado. Funds given by ELF and others through the Tambopata Reserve Society (TReeS) allowed representatives to come down river from almost a hundred rural communities and voice their concerns. In a flurry of local and international press coverage, Mobil began to negotiate seriously with indigenous representatives. Since then, Mobil have moved their proposed exploration lines out of titled community land and paid compensation to one community whose land they used. The local Federations have now set up a programme for independent monitoring of Mobil's activities.


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ELF Project Focus:
Peace Trees In Kenya

Since 1993, ELF has supported one of the most celebrated examples of community tree-planting in the world -- Kenya's Green Belt Movement, headed by Wangari Maathai. Green Belt Movement is a women's organisation in Kenya which works to set up tree nurseries at the village level, providing both protection for the soil and an income for the women who grow the trees. By 1993, the movement involved 50,000 women and had planted over 10 million trees. Earth Love Fund has given funds to help the movement to spread their message to new countries in Africa.

In 1996, ELF gave an additional grant to Green Belt Movement for "Peace Trees," a new project which seeks a joint solution to deforestation and ethnic tensions. Village youths from different ethnic groups are rewarded for planting and tending 100 trees with membership to a sports club -- and provision with sports gear. Young people from different tribes are in daily contact at the club and the project is working to bring together their parents to oversee its activities.

The Peace Trees project provides a way to work for ethnic reconciliation in a widely accepted way, by encouraging both tree-planting and the improvement of sports facilities.

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ELF Project Focus:
Jajarkot Permaculture Project

Permaculture is a new name for a very old set of principals, many of which are found in ancient farming traditions all over the world. The ideal permaculture plot needs minimal external input, because it recycles water, organic matter and nutrients almost indefinitely using existing systems; in practice, this means mimicking natural systems and vegetation types. Since 1996, Earth Love Fund has been supporting an exciting permaculture project which is regreening the hillsides in Nepal.

In the past forty years, deforestation in Nepal has been devastating. The steep slopes at Jajarkot, in the middle hill are of Nepal, mean that the effects of deforestation on the soil are acute. Soil fertility and water retention are poor and crop failures are frequent. Villagers were aware that many of their problems came from deforestation, but saw no alternative to cutting more trees for essential firewood, timber and new farmland.

The Jajarkot Permaculture Project began in 1988 when Chris Evans, a British forester with experience in the region, bought half a hectare of land to start a small demonstration permaculture farm in Jajarkot. Nine years on, this is one of thirteen "resource centres" with a rich variety of fruits, vegetables, herbs, spices and fast-growing nitrogen-fixing trees. The original demonstration farm stands out from many miles' distance as a fertile oasis against the surrounding degradation, and through its success has enthused over 50 local villages to participate.

The success of the project depends on high levels of local participation. The teachers are all farmers themselves. Furthermore, rather than offering the farmers wholly new techniques, the project aims to help farmers improve existing practices by making appropriate new technologies available. Issues being tackled in this way include beekeeping, weaving, fruit and vegetable propagation, tree seedling production, plantation and land rehabilitation techniques, leatherworking and drinking water systems.


Earth Love Fund made a grant to the Jajarkot Permaculture project in 1996 towards costs of the 13 resource centres, beekeeping and weaving, establishment of water systems and a farmers' field trip. ELF's grant triggered the release of funding from the European Union.

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