A Yale program that aims to restore tropical forests and the livelihoods that depend on them has received a six-year, $5.5 million grant by the Arcadia Fund to continue its work in Latin America and Southeast Asia.
The Environmental Leadership & Training Initiative(ELTI) for Biodiversity Conservation in Tropical Forest Regions trains environmental managers and local decision-makers to support conservation efforts where forests have been cleared and exploited in Borneo, Brazil, Colombia, Panama, the Philippines and Sumatra.
“With Arcadia’s renewed support, ELTI will continue to empower and inspire conservation leaders in the tropics to restore and conserve forests and biodiversity in transformed landscapes,” said Mark Ashton, ELTI’s principal investigator and a professor of forest ecology at the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies.
Yale has directed the program in collaboration with the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute and the National University of Singapore since 2006. The Arcadia Fund grant will extend the life of the program to 2018. Since its launch, ELTI has trained 2,293 people in the Neotropical countries of Brazil, Honduras, Panama and Peru, and in the Southeast Asian countries of Singapore, Thailand and the Philippines.
Although the global rate of deforestation has slowed over the past decade, the tropics have been transformed by the industrial farming of soy, oil palm, tea, sugar cane and beef cattle, unsustainable logging, oil exploration, mining, infrastructure development, land cleared for subsistence farming and colonization, and forest fires caused by these activities.
The grant will train government ministers, indigenous peoples, farmers and representatives of international conservation nongovernmental organizations to rejuvenate forests, which provide water, wildlife habitat, carbon sequestration and climate mitigation, open space and recreation, food and shelter.
The program also will restore and conserve thousands of hectares of remnant natural and secondary forests in the Philippines, Panama, Indonesia and Brazil, rehabilitate marginal agricultural lands with native tree species, and implement sustainable land uses, such as agroforestry and silvopastoral systems, in agricultural and cattle-ranching areas of the Philippines, Colombia, Brazil and Panama.
“These restored areas will be used to improve the connectivity between remaining patches of natural and secondary-growth forests and create riparian corridors that protect waterways and resources,” said Ashton.
ELTI will also launch an online training program that will significantly expand the program’s audience of university students and professionals worldwide on tropical forest restoration and conservation on transformed lands. Web-based training is increasingly being used to reach people who are unable to take part in formal academic programs or who are better served by programs that provide greater flexibility.
Beginning next April, the program will add more than 40 courses, workshops and conferences in the Neotropics and tropical Asia, reaching 2,500 more decision-makers and practitioners. ELTI will also support more than 50 alumni of the program to put into practice forest restoration and conservation initiatives.
“We’re grateful for the Arcadia Fund’s support, because it will allow ELTI to rehabilitate lands that are critical to the health of the planet and whole societies,” said Peter Crane, dean of the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies.
Arcadia is the charitable fund of Lisbet Rausing and Peter Baldwin. Since its inception in 2001 Arcadia has awarded grants in excess of $200 million. Arcadia works to protect endangered culture and nature.