BirdLife’s Local Engagement and Empowerment Programme focuses on the individuals and organisations that work with BirdLife Partners to deliver conservation at the local level. BirdLife Partners work with these groups, known as Local Conservation Groups (LCGs), to ensure the sustainable provision of environmental goods and services, and help them develop secure and sustainable livelihoods, while at the same time conserving the rich biodiversity for which Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas (IBAs) were identified.
An initial study of LCGs in 12 countries in the Americas in 2005 revealed that there were 209 local groups active in 12 countries (Kerry 2005). In recent years, the number of LCGs had expanded to 220 LCGs spread over 17 countries.
Grupo Jaragua (BirdLife in Dominican Republic) worked with a group of local individuals concerned about their environment who established the Jaragua Community Volunteers Local Conservation Group at Jaragua National Park in 1995. There are now eight LCGs active in and around the Jaragua-Bahoruco-Enriquillo Biosphere Reserve, which includes three IBAs. Their activities include research and monitoring, environmental awareness and action, and exploring alternative sustainable income-generating activities including agroforestry. The LCGs are taking the lead in developing the ecotourism potential of the Biosphere Reserve, and 24 LCG members have been trained and equipped as guides.
Aves & Conservación (BirdLife in Ecuador) helped establish LCGs at three IBAs in Western Pichincha, Ecuador. With the support of local government and the Ministry of the Environment, the BirdLife Partner and LCGs jointly prepared and published a conservation plan for the IBAs. Local authorities now include IBA and biodiversity considerations in policies, strategies and actions, while the communities have strengthened their capacity to influence decision-makers responsible for land use planning, sustainable development and local environmental management.
Pronatura Sur (BirdLife in Mexico) is working with people from five ejidos in the Sierra Madre de Chiapas to restore the Palma camedor (“parlour palm,” Chamaedorea spp.) to its former place in the local economy. The project covers 15,000 ha in the El Triunfo IBA, and over 5000 ha in La Sepultura IBA. With Pronatura’s support, the five community-based palm organisations have created a regional body to give them greater weight in negotiating land concessions, and advocating changes in the law favourable to palm farming.