Foundation Beyond Belief usually chooses four beneficiaries to receive grants each quarter, but one quarter a year we feature a single, game-changing grant for one innovative organization. The Compassionate Impact Grant Program is an open, competitive process intended to identify organizations with projects that are innovative, evidence-based, and solve community problems. Foundation Beyond Belief is excited to announce that the 2017 Compassionate Impact Grant will be awarded to EcoViva to expand its groundbreaking and vitally important work to restore and preserve mangrove forests in El Salvador.
EcoViva has worked for decades with multiple community-based organizations in the region of Bajo Lempa in the coastal communities on the Bay of Jiquilisco in El Salvador. These organizations ensure both the preservation of local livelihoods and the conservation of the ecosystems they depend on. EcoViva will expand efforts to halt the destruction of an additional 15,000 acres of critical habitat in the largest coastal mangrove forest in Central America, which currently faces an increased onslaught of threats from unregulated coastal development, overexploitation of natural resources, and climate change.
The proposed project will reach eight additional communities to develop capacity to implement a series of projects to enhance their communities ability to co-manage their natural resources. Over 300 community leaders will work with the residents of the village to plan and develop focus groups and community meetings while developing the management plans. In addition, sixty fisherman will be instructed in safe, sustainable fishing practices. The specific numbers do not indicate the true impact of this community based project, as much of the program is designed for peer to peer learning and improvement, as well as word of mouth success to other villages and fisheries.
The backbone of EcoViva’s approach to effective mangrove ecosystem resource management within local communities is called PLAS (Local Sustainable Use Plan). PLAS recognizes that the residents of each community are important stakeholders in the conservation of the mangrove ecosystem. The PLAS tool empowers residents to become stakeholders and to work alongside scientists, government officials and conservationists to create management policies based on the needs of the local community. By managing species quotas, the fishers, shrimpers and crabbers are able to provide a high quality catch to sell. Important species that are harvested in the Bay of Jiquilisco are fish stock, shrimp, shellfish, and large land crabs. All of these species need the mangroves to survive.
The activities of EcoViva are based in two principles, natural resource management and environmental education. Both of these aspects are needed for wide community buy-in of the management system. EcoViva’s local partners will use strategies to design and implement management programs. Resources such as conducting community forums, feasibility studies, training for local groups on mangrove management, citizen science monitoring and radio based environmental education. The scope of the environmental education includes a campaign on an existing popular FM radio program, and workshops to teach fishers, crabbers and shrimpers environmental ways to achieve better results for their livelihood.
The management principle will bring the community-based organizations together for meetings, focus groups and development of their PLAS management system. The members of the communities will also become citizen science monitors to aid in the implementation of the project; document compliance and effectiveness of the plan, including registering fishers who change to more sustainable practices. These actions are designed to meet the final goal of healthy managed mangrove ecosystems and increased and sustainable livelihoods for residents.
Foundation Beyond Belief is awarding the Compassionate Impact Grant to EcoViva as much for the importance of mangrove ecosystems as for the thoughtfulness of EcoViva’s approach. Mangrove ecosystems are a vital but fragile natural resource. Mangrove forests play a critical role in climate change mitigation and adaptation. Mangroves sequester and store three to five times more carbon than tropical forests, and their dense networks of roots and surrounding vegetation stabilize shorelines and provide natural barriers against storm surges, not to mention providing an essential habitat for many important species. In the past 40 years, over 35% of the world’s mangroves have been destroyed, and the rate of habitat loss is accelerating.
EcoViva’s program builds bridges between our four beneficiary areas, Poverty and Health, Education, Human Rights, and the Natural World. The community management of mangroves enables fishers to make a more sustainable livelihood, creates environmental education opportunities across age groups and media, protects the rights of indigenous peoples with respect to their land, and preserves mangrove ecosystems that are vital to environmental and human health. Thus, our 2017 Compassionate Impact Grant recognizes a project that truly spans all of our beneficiary categories.
For more information about the Compassionate Impact Grant and the Humanist Grants program please visit our website. EcoViva was our Natural World Beneficiary in Q4 of 2015 when they received a $9000 grant from Foundation Beyond Belief donors.