Toggle Nav

Communities and Conservation: Passion, Commitment, and Resiliency

2019 WWF US Annual Report

This is a challenging time for conservation. Sometimes it feels like the obstacles we face are overwhelming. But every day, more and more brave people are looking beyond those obstacles, not giving in to despair, and making enlightened choices that can change our planet for the better.

Read the full reporth

Humanity faces many challenges in the world. And humanity is the answer to those challenges.

Meet a few of the people who made a difference for nature this year.

 

Sililo Agness Musutu
The Convener

Sililo Agness Musutu
The Convener

 

When Sililo Agness Musutu, WWF-Zambia’s freshwater program coordinator, heard about plans to build a hydropower dam on the free-flowing Luangwa River, she knew she had to stop it somehow. This poorly conceived power project would flood whole communities, cause drought in others, devastate the river basin’s wild animal and fish populations, and irrevocably damage the wildlife tourism industry. She was certain if Zambians were aware, they wouldn’t want the dam. But she knew one voice wouldn’t be enough—she had to pull in the right people to amplify the issue. So Musutu, with help from the WWF-Zambia team, connected with leaders of multiple chiefdoms in the Luangwa basin, who talked with their communities. She brought scientists together with government agencies to discuss the impacts. She got Luangwa residents, tour guides, and revered Zambian activists to speak out for the river in national PSAs. And she worked together with WWF-US and WWF-Netherlands to get almost 200,000 signatures on a petition to protect the Luangwa. Her collaborative strategy was a huge success: In June, the Zambian government announced they were halting plans to build the dam.

FIRST-EVER GLOBAL ASSESSMENT OF FREE-FLOWING RIVERS

Only 1/3

of the world’s longest rivers are still flowing unimpeded, according to Mapping the World’s Free Flowing Rivers, the first- ever global assessment of river connectivity. This extensive research collaboration led by WWF and McGill University will help inspire smarter infrastructure choices to protect global freshwater.

 

Christopher Pham
The Activist

Christopher Pham
The Activist

 

You’d think someone with a full-time job as an apparel designer and a side job teaching indoor cycling might feel they were too busy to commit to anything else—but not so for Christopher Pham. Galvanized by his desire to address the growing environmental crisis and alarmed about budget cuts proposed by the current administration, Pham decided he wanted to do something about it. He became a WWF Panda Ambassador, and this March he traveled from his home in Oregon to Washington, DC, to participate in WWF’s Lobby Day on Capitol Hill. There, he joined a group of 100 activists from 22 states advocating to retain funding for global conservation. As a resident of the Pacific Northwest, Pham met with senators and representatives from both Oregon and Washington. He says speaking out and being listened to by the leaders of our country was a powerful experience—and it had powerful results. Congress not only rejected the proposed budget cuts, but even increased funding to protect tropical forests and other globally important ecosystems.

CONSERVATION ACTIVISTS SPEAK UP ABOUT FARM BILL

58 million

acres of grassland in the Great Plains have been lost to agriculture since 2009. So this year 200,000 people in WWF’s activist network successfully petitioned Congress to ensure the Farm Bill passed with critical policies that would incentivize ranchers and farmers to protect native grasslands.

 

Agyeman Narkie Akua
The Analyst

Agyeman Narkie Akua
The Analyst

 

Biologist Agyeman Narkie Akua says that in Ghana’s fishing industry, it’s far more common to see women at the ports selling fish than it is to see a woman data analyst surveilling a fishing fleet. But that didn’t discourage her from becoming one of her country’s first woman “land-based observers” with the Common Oceans ABNJ Tuna Project. Working from a command center on the ground, Akua and her team electronically monitored and collected data on the fishing activities of all Ghana’s purse-seine tuna vessels. They then ran exacting data analysis, providing scientists and Ghana’s government with the clearest picture yet of what is happening with the nation’s tuna fleet. Akua points out that this work can help provide traceability for Ghana’s tuna, curb illegal fishing, and keep tuna populations viable. And just as importantly, she says the job put her in a position to educate and inspire other women, showing them this kind of work is possible.

ADVANCING CONSERVATION ON THE HIGH SEAS

95%

of the ocean’s volume is found in Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction (ABNJ), where illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing frequently occurs. That’s why this year WWF supported multiple projects to incentivize sustainable fishing and increase monitoring and data collection in the ABNJ.

 

Hey Mer
The Teacher

Hey Mer
The Teacher

 

In a village tucked deep in the Dawna Tenasserim forests of Myanmar, Hey Mer, a rubber farmer, made a choice. She wouldn’t follow the example of so many who had been destroying her country’s fragile forests to create rubber farms. Instead, she decided to take a WWF-led workshop on sustainable rubber farming and production. She learned how to plant in ways that would conserve the forest and allow her to create the kind of sustainably grown rubber that’s typically in high demand with international buyers. She applied what she’d learned, and soon word spread about the high-quality product she was producing. Neighboring villagers began visiting, asking her to teach them how to do what she was doing. Today, Hey Mer has become known as a leader in her village, nurturing enthusiasm for sustainable farming and dispersing seeds of knowledge she hopes will help her entire region reap better income for all while protecting their precious forests for their children.

NEW SUSTAINABLE RUBBER PLATFORM CREATED

39

founding members from the rubber industry, NGOs, and academia came together to create the world’s first Global Platform for Sustainable Natural Rubber. The end goal: transform the global rubber industry through standards for sustainable rubber that protect forests, biodiversity, and human rights, while improving the livelihoods of small-scale farmers.

 

Ricardo Alberto Airasca
The Idea Generator

Ricardo Alberto Airasca
The Idea Generator

 

It was an emotional moment for Ricardo Alberto Airasca when he flipped the switch at an official opening ceremony bringing renewable energy to his hometown of Armstrong. In the late 1970s, he’d left his birthplace in Argentina’s Santa Fe province to pursue an electrical engineering degree, and then worked far away in Patagonia on wind and solar energy research. But when Armstrong asked Airasca if he’d manage their public services cooperative, he was eager to return home. He brought with him the spark of an idea: making Armstrong a renewable energy town. But, Airasca says, he believes in teamwork, not personal projects—so he and the cooperative took the idea to the community, which enthusiastically embraced it. Working with experts from local universities and supported by funding from the province—an Alliances for Climate Action member—the cooperative has built, and is helping install, solar panels on area rooftops. This provides renewable power for the area, as well as new jobs that will give young people like Airasca’s son Gustavo opportunities to stay in the community.

NEW GLOBAL INITIATIVE LAUNCHED TO ACCELERATE CLIMATE ACTION

3

countries—Argentina, Japan, and Mexico—joined the USA to launch Alliances for Climate Action, with more nations slotted to join in 2020. Each country’s ACA consists of leaders from business, regional government, higher education, and civil society, working together to strengthen climate action at the national level.

 

Chhabi Magar
The Citizen Scientist

Chhabi Magar
The Citizen Scientist

 

Chhabi Magar walks through western Nepal’s Gauri Mahila Community Forest, reminiscing about a time only 10 years ago when this area was treeless, and the only place he’d see tigers was on rupee notes. But now, thanks to community reforestation projects, the forest is abundant—and thanks to the work Magar is doing, his dreams of seeing real wild tigers are coming true. For the past two years, Magar has been serving as a local citizen scientist, setting up and maintaining camera traps in the forest close to where he lives in order to monitor tigers’ movements. By capturing these images of the big cats in their natural habitat, scientists can get a much clearer sense of how tiger populations in the forest are faring, providing valuable insight into how to best protect them. Happily, the results of Magar’s camera trap data are contributing to some very uplifting news. Eleven years ago, only 18 tigers were counted in this region. Today, there are 87.

NEPAL NEARLY DOUBLES ITS TIGER COUNT

235

tigers were counted in Nepal last year, up from 121 ten years ago, making Nepal one of the first tiger range nations to near the Tx2 goal of doubling their number of wild tigers by 2022.

The ultimate goal of conservation is improved lives for all.

Dr. Pamela Matson, Chair

Carter Roberts, President and CEO

Read the full reporth

Photo Credits | Sililo Agness Musutu © James Suter/Black Bean Productions/WWF-US | Sililo Agness Musutu © James Suter/Black Bean Productions/WWF-US | Sililo Agness Musutu and local fisher on Luangwa River © James Suter/Black Bean Productions/WWF-US | Christopher Pham © WWF-US/Darren Higgins | Christopher Pham (center) during Lobby Day 2019 © WWF- US/Deb Lindsey | Agyeman Narkie Akua © Kyle LaFerriere/WWF-US | Agyeman Narkie Akua and Richard Yeboah assess footage from fishing vessels © Kyle LaFerriere/WWF-US | Hey Mer displays her rubber sheet product © Hkun Lat/WWF-US | Hey Mer © Hkun Lat/WWF-US | Ricardo Alberto Airasca © Jason Houston/WWF-US | Ricardo Alberto Airasca with his son, Gustavo Airasca © Jason Houston/WWF-US | Chhabi Magar © Emmanuel Rondeau/WWF-US | Chhabi Magar (center) watches WWF-Nepal tiger expert Sabita Malla (left) install a camera trap © Emmanuel Rondeau/WWF-US