We have invested $25 million in international bird species protection, recovery, and management over our 20-year history — and we don't leave it to chance that these efforts will be permanently maintained by our in-country partners.
Building capacity of partners in our Latin American Bird Reserve Network is central to our mission. In fact, we invest a significant percent of our annual budget in our partners, helping each one become stronger financially, organizationally, and programmatically than the year before. Now, the sustainability of their organizations and reserves are at the core of the decision-making process for our partners.
We work with partners in many ways. We train their executive, administrative, fundraising, and conservation staff to achieve lasting results. We also help them develop and diversify funding sources, including sales of shade coffee, honey, and other products. In addition, we introduce our partners to new donors and grant opportunities.
Since our bird reserves are such an important component of our work, we help build guard houses, erect fencing, establish trails, and pay for guards at new reserves until our partners can better sustain themselves. Our work with Fundación Jocotoco on the Tapichalaca Reserve in Ecuador and with ECOAN on the Abra Patricia Reserve in Peru are great examples.
Our Conservation Birding initiative encourages birders and nature travelers to “see it, save it” by visiting reserves in our Latin American Bird Reserve Network as tourism income contributes to ongoing reserve management costs. Tourism visitation is increasing at many of our reserves. For example, since 2011 tourism profits have doubled each year in Colombia, including at the El Dorado Reserve, enabling our partner Fundación ProAves to reinvest money into the reserves and conservation.
In partnership with the March Conservation Fund, we launched the Latin American Reserve Stewardship Initiative in 2015. This funding source will help organizations managing reserves in our Latin American Bird Reserve Network to improve their financial systems and business practices — and ultimately their conservation results. Each year, $300,000 will be disbursed.
We held a Partner Summit (shown) in Minca, Colombia in 2014, enabling more than 30 participants from 17 organizations and 10 countries to come together. The summit focused on tools for organizational sustainability and ways to diversify funding. Partners also presented information on their institutions and reserves, facilitating discussions on successes, challenges, and potential solutions to common problems.
We developed the “Reserve and NGO Self-Evaluation System,” a bilingual, web-based sustainability toolkit to help ABC partners (including ECOAN’s Tino Aucca, shown) manage projects and especially nature reserves. Users anonymously perform a self-assessment on funding and organizational management, then receive feedback on how to improve.