The Need for Community Involvement
Conservation is a complicated process. Multiple factors need to be considered: dominant environmental pressures, local habitat types and availability, and what species are most in need of support. Yet one animal is often overlooked despite being involved in almost every environment on the planet—humans.
It can be tempting to label local communities as “the problem” when they use traditional knowledge to overharvest and overhunt on a commercial scale, but these actions are done with pure intentions. In developing countries such as Panama, natural resources are important sources of income and a way for people to support their families. Traditional practices have long taken advantage of these resources in a sustainable way, but their application on a large scale can have very different consequences.
The secondary effects of large-scale habitat loss and degredation, particularly extreme weather such as droughts and floods, can be devastating. Deforestation practices then have to be increased to balance out monetary losses. If a severe flood damages the soil quality, for example, local farmers will be forced to clear new sections of forest to plant their crops.
Including local communities in the conservation process supports a robust environment while also stimulating the local economy.
Protecting land by purchasing it and declaring it “hands-off”, such as in the creation of new national parks, is unsustainable in the long term. Many communities have lived together with nature for centuries or longer, and it is not right to deny them access. By working together with locals in conservation, their traditional knowledge can help establish effective methods for the sustainable use of these ecosystems while improving our understanding of the habitat characteristics and behaviors of threatened species.
This knowledge can be further applied to careers in research and ecotourism to benefit everyone. As ecosystems become healthier, they improve the local economy. As the economy improves, there is less pressure put on natural resources. Finally, as habitat loss and degredation stops, environmental threats like extreme weather will also be reduced. It’s a win for everybody!
The Bigger Picture
Communities come in many sizes, from small towns to the global population. Although we usually focus on local communities with our projects, the environment is not constrained by human borders. Conservation is a global issue. Every healthy ecosystem helps to reduce the influence of global climate change, improves the availability of clean air and water, and supports increased biodiversity around the world.
The world depends on conservation efforts, but conservation efforts also depend on worldwide support. Wide ranging species, such as migratory birds, need more than a single country or organization’s help. That’s why ADOPTA partners with other organizations to support healthy ecosystems that span borders.
What We’re Doing
ADOPTA helps bring members of the public into contact with the environment in a positive way with community events promoting conservation. Fun activities for kids, such as art projects, are a great way to foster an appreciation for native flora and fauna in a safe environment. Adults attending these events gain a stronger understanding of current conservation work being done and why this work is vital.
All of our projects depend on the assistance of volunteers of all ages. Whether planting trees, monitoring local wildlife, or working at educational events, our volunteers are empowered to become community leaders for conservation.
ADOPTA is very supportive of sustainable ecotourism practices, particularly in indigenous communities throughout Panama. When individuals take the initiative to experience Panama’s unique environment, it fosters a respect for these ecosystems while supporting local communities who protect the environment.