Preserving the world one acre at a time
Richard Cuthbert, Director of Conservation at the World Land Trust, on the charity's Buy an Acre initiative.
Words by PELORUS
Conservation is a keystone to all the experiences we design at PELORUS. When working in the most remote and untouched regions on Earth, from coral reefs in Indonesia to rainforests in Guyana, it is vital that clients appreciate the environment and understand its fragility. We are privileged to be able to operate in these stunning and biologically diverse habitats, and this should never be taken for granted.
One of our official partners is World Land Trust, a conservation charity that aims to protect and sustainably manage natural ecosystems around the world by providing finance and technical support to local NGOs.
Since its launch in 1989, World Land Trust and its overseas project partners have been instrumental in the purchase and protection of more than 600,000 acres of tropical forest and other threatened habitats, and together ensure that more than four million acres of land is managed under active protection worldwide.
The money donated to the World Land Trust through PELORUS goes towards their Buy an Acre scheme, an initiative that aims to protect the world’s most valuable land one acre at a time. We sat down with Richard Cuthbert, the Director of Conservation, to shed some light on this scheme and the positive impacts it is having.
When was the Buy an Acre scheme launched, and how did it come about?
The concept of buying an acre to protect threatened land was initiated with the World Land Trust’s first appeal in 1989, which was to secure area of forest in Belize in Central America. The success of this appeal, which with the support of other organisations created the 254,000-acre Rio Bravo Conservation & Management Area, resulted in Buy An Acre becoming one of World Land Trust’s most successful fund-raising schemes – it is now in its 30th year of operation.
How does WLT protect and maintain the land once it has been purchased?
All of WLT’s projects are undertaken through local partner organisations and land purchased through Buy An Acre or other mechanisms is subsequently owned by these partners who are best placed to conserve it. WLT’s first appeal was undertaken with Programme for Belize and this conservation organisation with its team of staff and rangers still looks after and protects the Rio Bravo Area.
How do you choose and prioritise where to buy land for the scheme?
Prioritising where WLT directs its efforts is a real challenge, as globally there is so much threat and need for biodiversity conservation. Typically we support conservation work in developing countries, which often contain the highest biodiversity and fewest resources to protect it, and always ensure that land acquisition is meeting an identified conservation priority, such as expanding or connecting to an existing protected area.
Crucially, we carefully review and select partner organisations that have the capacity, skills and commitment to manage and protect the land. Today we work with over 30 such partners in over 20 countries around the world.
How do you educate local communities about the importance of conserving these lands?
Local communities are usually the first to be aware of the importance of conserving their land as it is crucial for their livelihoods, such as through providing water and other resources, however they often lack alternatives and may sell or unsustainably use their land. WLT’s partners always work closely with local communities to ensure that conservation initiatives also provide benefits for these stakeholders.
Have you seen encouraging results already?
I have seen many positive results of WLT’s work, from the wildlife rich forests in Belize that stand in stark contrast to deforested land adjoining these reserves, to the restoration and reforestation of bare pasture to forested land in Brazil and Kenya.
I have also just visited Northeast India to see a long-term project that WLT has been supporting through our local partner, the Wildlife Trust of India (WTI), and where engaging with local tribal communities is crucial for securing land for conservation. In this project local communities are now voluntarily placing their land into village forest reserves because of the trust and relationship between these communities and WTI.
How can people get involved?
The Buy An Acre programme is an easy way for people to support real conservation work with WLT, and for £100 we will be able to purchase and safeguard one acre of land. There are also many other options to support WLT’s conservation work, such as funding our partner’s rangers, supporting tree planting and forest restoration, or through offsetting your carbon footprint through WLT’s project.
For more information on how to get involved, visit the World Land Trust website.