César Laura partners with Rare for the second time
Seven years ago, 75 percent of the people in Oxapampa, Peru did not know anything about their neighboring national park. Rare Conservation Fellow César Laura partnered with Rare to change that mindset. To help him sell conservation he enlisted the spectacled bear as an ambassador for the forests and called him Bromelio. Since then Bromelio has attended every community event. In 2010, UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) announced the creation of the Oxapampa- Asháninka-Yanesha Biosphere Reserve. Laura believes that the celebrity of Bromelio and the hundreds of field trips to the park with students and teachers contributed to the creation of the biosphere reserve.
Two years ago, Laura again partnered with Rare to help preserve critical watershed habitat in the area. Rare spoke to Laura about his experience running two social marketing campaigns with Rare.
The Alliance for Zero Extinction identified a frog species in Oxapampa so rare that its population is not even known to science. How did you introduce the frog to your community?
In Peru frogs mean witchcraft. I had to convince people otherwise. So, I had Bromelio present Anita the ranita (little frog) as his friend who lives in the highlands that provide water, but who has problems with deforestation and pollution from cattle.
Did it work?
The image of the flagship species is key. At the beginning my organization resisted using the frog. The frog is a bit ugly. On top of that, I am a bit ugly. But now, after a few months, you can tell that the people care about Anita. There is a group of farmers that live in the watershed that want to build a tourism trail and they asked me if they could include her in their souvenirs. And I tell them: “It is your species. It belongs to all of us. It is a source of pride about where we live.”
“The campaign not only makes people want to act, it creates a path for action.”
Next year another dozen campaigns will work throughout Latin America to preserve critical freshwater sources. What advice do you have for the next class?
I would say many things. The first is that you really learn by your actions. Give it heart, dedication and enthusiasm. There will be challenges, but you have to think about what you are doing and what you are leaving behind for the next generation.
I was the voice of the bear and now the frog. I once was within meters of the bear and it really changes your life. It reminds you what you are fighting for. It is worth it. With the tools that Rare gives you, you actually get results that are measurable.
Do you think that you and your campaign have succeeded in reaching the community?
The main success is that the people now know that the water they consume comes from the upland watershed and that the solution to protect it is not in the hands of the government. A lot of times we wait for the authorities to act. In this case, the solution is within each of us. And I say “in each of us” because I too live in the area. I too want to give my children clean water.
This two-year project set out to establish a reciprocal relationship whereby downstream water users pay into a fund that incentivizes upstream farmers to help protect the water source. What do you think about this strategy?
The reciprocal water agreements empower the people to have pride in something they have done. They can take credit for helping the forest and protecting their water supply. The idea is that both parties win. Four farmers have already signed the agreements and are now models for the rest of the community. The campaign not only makes people want to act, it creates a path for action.
The challenge now is how do we do more campaigns in the eight municipalities in the reserve.
Now that your campaign is over what will you do?
The end is really just the beginning. I made a commitment to the people. One of the first things I had to do was earn the confidence of the upland farmers and it was very difficult. I spent six months convincing them. This is not just a professional commitment; it is personal. We have a responsibility to use resources responsibly. I have to continue the campaign.