Training to Support Ecosystem ConservationThe Río Plátano Biosphere Reserve, established in Honduras in 1982, is a prime site for ecotourism.1
La Moskitia, Honduras
A non-profit organization called Rare includes the Río Plátano Reserve among a wide range of conservation projects it has undertaken in Africa, Asia, the Caribbean, Latin America, and the Pacific in which Rare pursues its mission "to conserve imperiled species and ecosystems around the world by inspiring people to care about and protect nature."
A major element in Rare's efforts is training of local people in effective promotion of conservation, including through sustainable tourism.
For instance, Rare runs a Nature Guide Training Program for local residents of areas visited by ecotourists such as the Río Plátano Reserve. The guides' training involves "three months of coursework, learning the natural and cultural history of the region and gaining the necessary skills to translate their knowledge to visitors from around the world."
A similar program has trained guides employed by La Ruta Moskitia, "a locally-run ecotourism operation launched in early 2006, which includes six indigenous communities from the Río Plátano Biosphere Reserve ..." This training involved "eight weeks of intense classes and field study in ecosystems ranging from coastal lagoons to highland cloud forest to learn about the dramaticaly different ecosystems and natural history of the areas in which they will be leading their visitors."2
Rare's general approach to promoting conservation is to use marketing techniques to achieve the attitudinal and behavioral changes needed at the local level for conservation objectives, such as rainforest preservation, actually to be met. You can read more about Rare's social marketing approach here.
Of particular interest are the details of the Masters in Communication program that Rare offers to individuals who undertake two-year Pride Campaign projects. The curriculum, accredited by the University of Texas-El Paso, is impressive in its comprehensiveness, as you can see by reading the program brochure (pdf).
Rare assesses project success by monitoring relevant metrics. In general terms, the organization watches the "3 C's": the capacity for conservation that a project builds, the constituency that is built, and the conservation that is actually achieved.
1 As defined (pdf) by UNESCO, "Biosphere reserves are areas of terrestrial and coastal ecosystems promoting solutions to reconcile the conservation of biodiversity with its sustainable use. They are internationally recognized, nominated by national governments and remain under sovereign jurisdiction of the states where they are located. Biosphere reserves serve in some ways as 'living laboratories' for testing out and demonstrating integrated management of land, water and biodiversity. ... There are over 500 biosphere reserves in over 100 countries."
"Each biosphere reserve is intended to fulfil 3 basic functions, which are complementary and mutually reinforcing:
- a conservation function to contribute to the conservation of landscapes, ecosystems, species and genetic variation
- a development function to foster economic and human development which is socio-culturally and ecologically sustainable
- a logistic function to provide support for research, monitoring, education and information exchange related to local, national and global issues of conservation and development