Reporting from Quito on Birds and People

Bird conservation is as much about people as it is about birds.

Last week, BirdLife Partners from the Americas met in Quito, Ecuador to discuss the work we do with people that live in or near Important Bird Areas (IBAs). We call these very diverse partners “Local Conservation Groups” or “LCGs”. I shared Nature Canada’s experiences working with groups in IBAs across Canada, while my colleagues from Belize, Mexico, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Panama, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Paraguay and Uruguay shared the experiences of their organizations: a youth-owned and operated radio station in Paraguay; primary education and agroforestry in a Haitian community; indigenous sustainable forest management in Chiapas, Mexico…It was an extremely interesting exchange in which we learned about different approaches depending on different circumstances. The discussion focused mostly on our experiences working with people who depend on the natural resources of IBAs for their livelihoods. We talked about how we started these relationships, the successes we have had, the challenges we have faced and the different roles we play in each partnership. We talked about building capacity, respecting local values and cultures, and promoting sustainability. Even though many of the partners only started working with Local Conservation Groups a few years ago, our collective experience is surprisingly rich. This doesn’t mean we don’t have much to learn. We also identified topics for further discussion in relation to our work with local actors, including equity, gender and climate change.

The case studies presented at the workshop and the lessons learnt will be published by the BirdLife Americas Secretariat this winter. This should be an interesting and helpful guide for BirdLife Partners and other organizations that are beginning to work on conservation with local people. And it will also be the foundation of futher collaboration and discussion amongst the Americas Partnership and beyond to deepen our understanding of the linkages between livelihoods and biodivesity and to improve our practices and multiply our successes.
As a bonus, we enjoyed the warm hospitality of the Americas Secretariat staff and our colleagues from Aves y Conservación (BirdLife in Ecuador), stunning views of the Andes around Quito and great food.

My colleague Guillaume from Pronatura (BirdLife in Mexico) and I also had the privilege of exploring the wonderfully diverse habitats in the Mindo and Bancos IBAs
near Quito, where two local guides (Rolando and
Teófilo) and nine-year-old (Eduardo) who are part of a LCG, shared with us their knowledge and passion of the local biodiversity.
Photos: Workshop participants at the Quito BirdLife Americas office; view from the Alaspungo comune; Teófilo, Rolando, Eduardo and myself.