Case Studies

Posted: 21 September 2020

Training local practitioners in tropical forest conservation

  • Programme:

    Protecting endangered nature

  • Focus area:


  • Grantess:

    Yale University

  • Project:

    Environmental Leadership and Training Initiative

  • Grants awarded:


  • Years:


Tropical forests support the planet’s highest levels of biodiversity and play a vital role in mitigating climate change, maintaining water cycles, and protecting against floods, droughts, and soil erosion. They also support approximately 1.3 billion people around the globe either directly or indirectly, including the 50 million indigenous people who live in them.

Despite their social and ecological significance, approximately half of the world’s tropical forests have been deforested. Those that remain are becoming increasingly fragmented. Interventions to conserve and restore tropical forest landscapes are urgently needed, but the people who manage or govern these areas often lack access to knowledge and resources to support more sustainable approaches to land management.

In 2006, with our support, the Yale School of the Environment established the Environmental Leadership and Training Initiative (ELTI) to improve the ability of landholders, practitioners and decision makers to protect and restore tropical forest landscapes.

ELTI’s approach combines fieldwork and online courses, with ongoing support after the course, to help alumni to apply and share the knowledge they have gained. ELTI courses include knowledge and experience from many disciplines to show the array of strategies that can protect and restore tropical forest landscapes whilst supporting livelihoods and communities. It offers online courses, as well as field courses that take place in five training landscapes in the Neotropics and tropical Asia.

To date, ELTI has trained more than 7,800 people. In Panama ELTI courses inspired cattle ranchers to establish a community association and apply for international funding to support sustainable ranching and on-farm forest restoration projects. The ranchers now manage the region’s first network of sustainable model farms and are teaching others how to replicate their innovative systems.

A visiting group of farmers learn about silvopastoral systems from members of the SAVIM farmer association on their model farms in Panama's Azuero Peninsula. Photo by Jacob Slusser.
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