Conservation Priorities for 2017
The Opwall projects are identifying a number of priorities for funding of conservation management which cannot all be supported at the same time.
Packaging forests for funding under the REDD+ scheme
The United Nations REDD+ scheme aims to fund governments in developing countries to ensure they slow or eliminate forest destruction and hence conserve carbon. This scheme has enormous funding from western governments, but has been criticised because of corruption and proper compensation to local forest-based communities. Large non-governmental organisations (NGO’s), with funding from the corporate sector, have therefore developed a parallel scheme but based on a bottom up approach (funding local communities rather than governments). The two best known of these bottom up approaches are the Climate Community and Biodiversity Assessment standard and the Natural Forest Standard. The Opwall Trust is funding the submission of all the Honduras forest data collected by the Opwall teams for funding under the Natural Forest Standard where after external verification, the natural capital credits that would be issued up to a value of $2 million can be sold in the private sector and used to ensure the continuance of the Cusuco Park forests for a 25 year period. In Indonesia where SE Sulawesi is one of the focus areas for 2015 under the REDD+ scheme, the Opwall data sets for Buton Island are being written up with funding from the Opwall Trust as a REDD+ application. These applications which are being completed by postdocs at Queens University Belfast and University of Hull, describe proposed management plans with financial benefits to local communities to ensure the long term protection of the carbon stocks and biodiversity of the target areas.
Restoring and managing overfished coral reef fisheries
The Opwall Trust has pioneered a scheme for sustainably managing severely overfished coral reefs. This involves registration of all those in the local community who fish, each of whom obtains a fishing licence on registration. Opportunities for other livelihoods are developed simultaneously, and people can then opt to surrender their fishing licences in return for assistance in establishing a new income stream. No new fishing licences are conferred, meaning both a gradual reduction in fishing pressure and a gradual increase in value of the remaining licences. Working with the Indonesian Government and part-funded by the UK’s Darwin Initiative, the Trust has brought this theory to life on the island of Kaledupa in the Wakatobi Marine National Park which lies in the centre of the Coral Triangle – the areas of reefs that are the most biologically diverse in the World. In that region the most promising income-generation method is the extraction of carrageenan (a food thickening agent) from seaweed, for sale to the global wholesale markets. The Opwall Trust has funded the development of an extraction process that can be done locally, allowing the key value-adding step to benefit the people local to the reefs. A scale plant utilising this process is now being built and assuming this confirms the advantages of the new process, there are a number of investors interested in building full-scale plants throughout Indonesia and beyond. The Opwall Trust are working alongside members of The British Chamber of Commerce in Indonesia and have formed a Special Project Vehicle (SPV) to ensure that any new plants that are built are linked to offering reef fishers, who surrender their fishing licences, shares in the carrageenan extraction plant. Thus those fishers who surrender their fishing licence will have an equivalent or greater income to that earned from continuing to fish. The full-scale plants should generate sufficient income to implement the reef fish licence ‘buy outs’ in exchange for minority shareholdings and reduce reef fishing effort to a level where the fishery can begin to recover.
Landscape level certification of products
Providing enhanced prices for products produced by communities who have agreed to protect their local environment is a potentially powerful way to ensure protection of forests. However, current ethical pricing schemes for products (eg Fair Trade, Rainforest Alliance etc) certify only the environmental impact on the farms on which products are grown. Within a community there can be farmers who are gaining enhanced prices for their products under one of these ethical pricing schemes yet the other parts of the community can be heavily involved in destruction of the surrounding forests. The Opwall Trust has been funding an extensive consultation process aimed at certifying products as being of Wildlife Conservation Value if those products are sourced from producers with a product certification scheme (eg Fair Trade, Rainforest Alliance, UTZ etc) but that the producing farms are also within areas encompassed by a forest certification scheme (eg REDD+, NFS, CCBA. The existence of an overlapping forest certification scheme ensures there is biodiversity monitoring of the surrounding forests. Products with both product certification (which applies to farm management practices) and forest certification (ensures the area of forest certified is maintained both in terms of carbon stocks and biodiversity value) could then be marketed as having Wildlife Conservation Value.
Inspiring students about tropical wildlife conservation
School students are the future of both conservation and business, yet the school curriculum evolves slowly and tends to lack inspiring examples of tropical biodiversity and conservation. Students typically have little knowledge of tropical wildlife, and of how conservation can be linked to sustainable development in the tropics (and beyond). The Opwall Trust has part funded the development of example data sets from real biodiversity research projects around the world that can be used as case study exercises in classes. These data sets, known as the Wallace Resource Library, are proving very popular with over 1,000 schools worldwide now using them in lessons – motivating more young people to get involved with wildlife conservation. Additional data sets are being added in 2015 so that there are multiple case studies on modules such as Ecosystems – Coral Reefs, Ecosystems – Rainforests, Ecological Survey Techniques, Animal Behaviour and Natural Resource Use & Sustainability. The data sets are further supported by a poster series designed by the Opwall Trust and provided free of charge to schools worldwide.