Education: The Key to Long-Term Success

Published: August 2011
In anticipation of Rainforest Alliance Week, we took some time out to reflect on the role of education in our work. Guess what we discovered? It’s the key to just about everything we do: changing the way people grow food, harvest wood, host travelers, respond to climate change and educate the next generation. A few examples...
The Rainforest Alliance is teaching families to farm efficiently and responsibly, growing their bottom line today and conserving the fertile soils and natural resources on which they and their children will depend in the future. [Pictured: a group of farmers in Ghana listening intently during a farmer field school.]
When we meet with farmers, we’re not the only ones teaching. Many farmers have generations of knowledge about traditional farming practices, local customs and sensitive relationships to share. [Pictured: Papa, a coffee farmer in Papua New Guinea.]
We don’t work exclusively with farmers interested in managing their lands responsibly. The Rainforest Alliance is also training communities and forest managers in sustainable forestry practices, including planning and monitoring, sustainable harvesting, erosion control and conservation of endangered species and ecosystems. [A map -- like the one pictured -- helps forest managers to identify valuable tree species for harvest and areas that must be protected.]
We also work with farmers and foresters to improve business and financial management skills, production efficiency and quality control, and to connect communities with new sources of employment and income. [Rolando Soto, a skilled carpenter, is working with the Rainforest Alliance to find responsibly harvested wood and new buyers for his sustainable handicrafts.]
Our lessons in sustainability don’t end on farms or in forests. We’re also teaching tourism businesses of all sizes to become more effective environmental stewards while helping them to generate additional income and appeal to a wide range of travelers. [In Ecuador, for example, we’re helping indigenous-owned tourism operations to implement sustainable practices.]
The tourism businesses with whom we work also have important knowledge to share. Tourists who go on locally guided tours, for example, might learn about hidden spots that no amount of Internet research would uncover. [Rachel Stine, a freelance journalist, recently wrote about unexpected discoveries on a trip to explore Rainforest Alliance Verified lodges in Ecuador.]
The Rainforest Alliance is also working to teach travelers about their impact on the people and places they visit. One of our handiest tools: SustainableTrip.org, an online database that connects travelers with responsible vacation options in Latin America and the Caribbean.
Tourists aren’t the only ones who need to be mindful of sustainability when making purchasing decisions. We’re working to spread the word to all kinds of consumers -- through initiatives like Rainforest Alliance Week and our SealYourCup campaign -- about the importance of choosing goods and services that have earned the green frog's approval.
Finally, we help students of all ages to understand the role that each one of us plays in biodiversity conservation and climate change mitigation. Through comprehensive educational materials and teacher-training workshops, we provide kids and teachers with the information they need to understand fundamental environmental issues and to take action to protect our planet.

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