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Latin America and the Caribbean contains over 50% of the Earth's biodiversity. However, the region has experienced the greatest biodiversity decline compared to any other region on the planet, with more than 90% lost since 1970.
To protect biodiversity in Latin America and the Caribbean, we need to think big — and that's where ABC's BirdsPlus program comes in.
BirdsPlus is an innovative program led by American Bird Conservancy (ABC) with a goal of incentivizing and catalyzing the implementation of best management practices among farmers and ranchers to land uses that restore and maintain habitat standards for healthy populations of birds. The program connects these working lands to finance and markets that can unlock large funding streams and scale up habitat conservation and restoration for birds and other wildlife. The program is also developing a user-friendly “Bird Index” tool for the private sector, investors, governments, and NGOs to measure biodiversity benefits of management practices using birds as indicators.
Well-managed grasslands and agroforestry systems can provide good bird habitat for many migratory and resident birds while providing sustainable livelihoods for Indigenous people and local communities. ABC promotes habitat standards to advance agricultural and ranching best management practices that will enhance and maintain habitat for birds and other wildlife, as well as help create economic opportunities for local communities that will incentivize long-term nature conservation at these sites. Some of these best practices include maintaining a certain percentage of shade cover from trees and guidance on how to graze cattle to promote healthy grasslands.
There is extraordinary potential to harness financial resources available from private-sector investment to scale up conservation efforts related to agroforestry and ranching and support Indigenous people and local communities. Such investment can leverage and supplement existing traditional sources of philanthropic and government funding. ABC's BirdsPlus Fund will catalyze investments to create and sustain a portfolio of investable, scalable, and replicable habitat conservation and restoration projects that will benefit nature and Indigenous peoples and local communities. Achieving habitat conservation, social benefits, and financial returns is a win-win-win scenario for biodiversity, communities, and investors.
Birds can serve as convenient, efficient, and cost-effective indicators of biodiversity in a landscape since they are diverse, conspicuous, and reflect much of the non-bird biodiversity where they live through their varied diets. ABC is developing a user-friendly acoustics-based “Bird Index” tool for the private sector, investors, governments, and NGOs to measure biodiversity benefits of land use management practices using birds as indicators. This Index will help verify that the implementation of our Habitat Standards at project sites is providing desired ecological benefits.
As part of its BirdsPlus program, ABC is developing investable, replicable, and scalable conservation projects among our network of partners in Latin America and the Caribbean to demonstrate that what is good for migratory birds can also be profitable for local people and generate financial returns for investors. Guided by science and working side-by-side with partners, we are implementing these conservation projects in vital landscapes — BirdScapes. Since 2018, ABC and our partners have piloted a pipeline of projects that enhance habitat for migratory birds and generate market-competitive returns in Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Guatemala, and Honduras. Read on to learn how these exciting projects are supporting bird conservation and transforming lives throughout Latin America and the Caribbean.
ABC's pilot investment is restoring 60 acres (24 hectares) of pastures with cardamom, along with nearly 30,000 native hardwoods and a tree from the pea family called Gliricidia sepium that will be used both for nitrogen fixation and to provide shade during the first three years of growth. We now have data on what it would take to scale this project to 3,700 acres (1,500 hectares) and create local jobs. We can provide those interested with a copy of the pitch deck for this investment opportunity. . Cardamom revenues will be used to pay back investors and will be reinvested back into the BirdScape to increase impact for migratory birds, such as the Wood Thrush, Kentucky Warbler, and Worm-eating Warbler.
Working with Rainforest Chocolate and ABC, the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center developed production and management standards for a Bird Friendly® cacao certification. The production standards were tested on 21 farms in the Septentrional BirdScape on the northern coast of the Dominican Republic, of which 16 qualified and met the Bird-Friendly® certification requirements. These 16 farms encompass 3,600 acres (1,460 hectares) of important bird habitat. This certification resulted in the world's first 160 tons of Bird Friendly® cacao. Buyers willing to pay above-market prices for Bird Friendly® cacao will be an important incentive for farmers to turn unsustainable sun cacao farms into shade-grown cacao farms, expanding the benefits of shade-grown cacao to potentially thousands more acres. Migratory species that will benefit from participating cacao farms include the Bicknell's Thrush, Northern Parula, and Cape May Warbler.
With our support, Asociación Calidris conducted a feasibility study to examine the possibility of generating and commercializing carbon credits from the conservation of nearly 36,000 acres of the Colombian Chocó rainforest. The study demonstrated that conditions exist to develop a REDD+ project, and we are now seeking seed capital to do outreach to land owners in the area and design a detailed work plan to generate and commercialize carbon credits that benefit communities, climate, and biodiversity (also known as CCB carbon credits). Migratory species that will benefit from the conservation of these forests include the Golden-winged Warbler and Cerulean Warbler.
ABC's investments in Cacao Miskito, a small, community-led cacao processing company in the remote Honduran Moskitia region, are strengthening the local value chain of shade-grown cacao and building local capacity to produce cacao and manage this growing business. Our investments, through working capital loans, allow Cacao Miskito to ensure that 100+ farmers have a buyer for their cacao at or above market prices. By investing in the sustainability of the local supply chain, we aim to improve farmers' livelihoods and prevent deforestation caused by farmers' inability to make ends meet and thus cutting trees for unsustainable cattle ranching practices. We are seeking venture capital to develop a business plan to scale this project to benefit 150+ cacao farmers on nearly 500 acres in the buffer zone of the Río Plátano Biosphere Reserve. Migratory species that will benefit include the Wood Thrush, Golden-winged Warbler, and Ruby-throated Hummingbird.
Working with the Chachi Indigenous People, we are developing a business plan to expand shade-grown cacao cultivation in the Ecuadorian Chocó rainforest. Cacao is a common crop in this part of Ecuador, but enhancements are needed to increase yields and secure a buyer willing to pay above-market prices. By improving the cacao supply chain, we will be able to conserve 1,000 acres of one of the most threatened rainforest ecosystems in the world. We are seeking seed capital to implement the business plan and secure a buyer for the cacao from the Chachi People. Migratory species that will benefit include the Olive-sided Flycatcher and Canada Warbler.
ABC and local partner Hevea are partnering to create a market-driven conservation program to increase forest habitat through the creation of rubber and native tree plantations in Costa Rica's Indio Maíz-La Selva BirdScape. A study supported by ABC in 2018 revealed that rubber and native hardwood plantations offer good stopover and wintering habitat for migratory birds. ABC will work with Hevea to incorporate native hardwood species into rubber plantations on an initial 156 acres, as well as build a “pipeline” of seedlings to further convert another 3,644 acres of degraded pasture to rubber and native hardwood plantations. This collaboration will increase forest availability and connectivity for neotropical migratory birds. Migratory species that will benefit include the Wood Thrush, Prothonotary Warbler, and Kentucky Warbler.