Things to think about when choosing your next conservation project
Embarking on a conservation project is an exciting opportunity allowing you to gain valuable experience whilst helping the environment or a local community. Choosing a project that best suits you can be quite a daunting task and a decision that shouldn't be taken lightly. There are hundreds of organisations out there offering thousands of projects all over the world making the process of selection rather confusing.
Here at the Conservation Guide we have put together a review system that we hope will aid volunteers struggling to come to a decision. We have split our 6 criteria into two distinct sections, conservation and personal. Conservation criteria rate the impact the project has on the environment and local community whilst the personal criteria gauge the influence the project has had on your own experiences.
It it important that an organisation makes you aware of the conservation goals of the project both before and during your stay in the field. The project should be taking all aspects of the local environment into consideration when deciding on the conservation actions that need to take place. You should feel the project is doing its best to achieve the goals and objectives it sets out on its website. For that 5 star rating, a project may have gone beyond the steps of preservation and conservation and started restorative activities such as the establishment of a Marine Protected Area or replanting an area of deforested woodland.
A project should always be attempting to negate the potentially adverse effects caused by the development of the project site such as engaging in beach cleans & litter picks or enforcing noise curfews after hours. It is also important, where possible, for the project to implement sustainable measures to help reduce, reuse or recycle its waste. This can be as simple as the creation of a compost heap, glass and plastic collection or the use of renewable energy. Project activities should be effectively managed and supervised to avoid any unnecessary disturbance to local habitats. Trails should be kept to when navigating national parks and boats must be anchored correctly when diving.
Projects should be engaging in the education of local communities regarding their conservation practices. Local communities should be informed of the projects goals and activities as well as the importance of the local ecosystem services. Communities should be given the opportunity to help with the running of the project camp and activities and events should be set up that allow for the integration of project members with neighbouring communities. The project should be attempting to collaborate with local research and educational bodies to help further the research ability of the project.
By the end of your trip the organisation should have fulfilled the promises laid out on their project website as well as provide you with adequate support both before and during your stay in the field. Two of the most important questions you will ask yourself at the end of your experience will be - would you recommend this project to a friend and would you consider going on another project with the same organisation?
Accommodation is where you rate camp life overall. You can include: sleeping arrangements, facilities, toilets, showers, food, and anything else you feel made a difference to living conditions on the project. Project organisers should strive to make each camp as comfortable as possible within their means and, at the very least, make sure your basic needs are catered for. In your rating, also take into account the remoteness of the location, as well as the facilities that were promised to you by the organising company.
One of the first things an organisation should explain to you when you sign up with them is where your money goes. Is the money being used to help improve the projects conservation efforts and do you feel the amount of money you have paid has been worth the trip?
Hopefully the criteria provided has given you a better idea of what to look out for and the questions you should ask when choosing your next conservation project.
Best of luck!
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