Monday, July 02, 2007

It Takes a Village to Save a Forest

Featured Speakers: Jean Marie Benishay, BCI and Michael Hurley, BCI

Event host Professor Richard America of Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business welcomed the attendees and gave a brief introduction about the work of Bonobo Conservation International (BCI). BCI is a program that aims to protect the bonobo – the rarest species of the great ape – and also to promote development in the area through:

· Conservation and creation of wildlife corridors
· Innovative financing (mainly micro credit)
· Gender equality programs that build women’s capacity
· Creating new economic models in a forest community, including advocacy for a small-scale, integrated economy

The first speaker was Michael Hurley, the executive director of BCI, and he explained BCI’s conservation approach. Mr. Hurley explained that BCI focuses its efforts on protecting one species in order to increase their chances of success because they know that protecting one species’ habitat will benefit other species in the area. Most animals in an ecosystem are tied together in often unstudied ways; therefore, damage to one species can cause the collapse of an entire ecosystem. Mr. Hurley also explained BCI’s conservation method, which works to promote community development by helping people in the area find ways to live sustainable lives with their environments. Mr. Hurley closed by outlining the dire situation the bonobo is facing – the UN estimates that because of deforestation, by 2020 only 4% of their habitat will remain.

Jean Marie Benishay detailed the practical implementation of BCI’s mission. She explained that BCI bases their programs in local communities, taking an on-the-ground approach to build local support. Through this approach, local communities recently created a 16,000 square kilometers “community-based reserve.” Mr. Benishay emphasized that working at the community level was effective because people it draws on the human pride and concern for the environment in which they live.

Sponsor: Society for International Development
Location: Chemonics International
Date: June 20, 2007
Time: 12:30 – 2
Approximate Number of Attendees: 30
Intern Attending: Peter Laidlaw

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