Nature Canadas work in Panama and Mexico
The globally significant Important Bird Areas of the Río Bayano mangroves in the Upper Bay of Panama and the Sian Kaan Biosphere Reserve (Sian Kaan) in Mexicos Yucatán Peninsula require immediate conservation attention. Both sites provide critical habitat for a diverse array of migratory song and shore birds, including the western sandpiper, the ruddy turnstone, the northern parula, the black-throated warbler and the northern water thrush. Nature Canada has worked for several years in partnership with Panama Audubon Society and Amigos de Sian Ka'an in Mexico to support very important local conservation initiatives in these countries.
Unsustainable land-use practices threaten the livelihoods of local people and the ecological integrity of these very special sites. Long-term conservation will only be possible if the people who live in or adjacent to the sites take an interest and get involved in protecting them.
Nature Canadas Mexico and Panama projects, therefore, set out to help participating communities diversify their economies (principally through ecotourism), and accordingly reduce poverty by enhancing conservation-based business opportunities.
In Panama, the Upper Bay of PanamaRio Bayano estuary has been declared a globally significant wetland under the Ramsar Convention. This declaration, made in October 2003, gave Nature Canada an extra incentive to get involved in projects that would engage and strengthen local communities in the region. We have helped to launch pilot projects in two Panama communities that offer adult skills development, training, and environmental education. As a result we see an increase in interest and skill in ecotourism in these two communities.
In the Mexico project, local participants received English-language skills and training as naturalist guides. They are now more able to earn a living as an ecotourism operator or guide and to support the environmental values of the region. Several of the people we trained are now leading international tours for the annual TOH Yucatan Bird Festival.
There have been other environmental and economic successes.
We supported an effort to provide garbage/waste management workshops in our target communities. Increasingly women in the community engage in cooking, nutrition and food service activities that cater to local ecotourists. Exchanges between tourism cooperatives in the region are building connections and capacity, allowing operators to share the lessons they have learned.