CI at 25: Changing Conservation From the Ground Up

boy on boat in Tonle Sap Lake, Cambodia

In Cambodia, a fish sanctuary on the Tonle Sap floodplain has been expanded to help safeguard the world’s most productive freshwater fishery — and the livelihoods of millions who depend upon it. (© Kristin Harrison & Jeremy Ginsberg)

Throughout 2012, as we celebrate CI’s 25 years of impact, Editorial Director Todd Christopher is recounting the ways CI has been changing the face of conservation. Today he focuses on field demonstration.

At Conservation International (CI), we’re fond of saying that we have our heads in the sky and our feet in the mud. This is more than just a colorful expression that describes our philosophy and approach to conservation — it captures the idealism and the pragmatism required to bring our vision to life.

It all starts on the ground, where CI strategically invests in the projects and regions where we can have the greatest impact. Virtually every success story — even the most sweeping policy change — can trace its roots to a successful model that demonstrates how valuing and conserving nature create positive impacts for people. We then build upon those successes, collaborating with the right partners to take those results to scale.

For example, CI’s efforts to restore wetlands in the arid Namaqualand region of South Africa have replenished local supplies of groundwater, helping one community reclaim 26,000 liters of water per day. In Cambodia, a fish sanctuary on the Tonle Sap floodplain has expanded to help safeguard the world’s most productive freshwater fishery — and the livelihoods of millions who depend upon it. And in Tanzania, CI is expanding from a pilot project focused on monitoring ecosystem services in smallholder farm landscapes to an open-source African monitoring system — and eventually to a global system — that factors nature and human livelihoods into agricultural development decisions.

Todd Christopher

In the decades ahead, CI’s field work will become even more vital, as the demands of a growing population place enormous pressure on nature’s ability to provide enough food and fresh water for more than 7 billion people. But our successes on the ground, like these, offer plenty of reasons for hope.

Todd Christopher is CI’s editorial director. Read other posts in our “CI at 25″ blog series.

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