Traveling and our jobs as travel writers has provided us with so many fantastic opportunities to visit amazing places, meet new people, taste exotic foods, learn about other cultures, and try new things. Our ability to travel and earn a living from doing something we enjoy is something for which we are very fortunate and grateful.
However, travel also has given us firsthand looks at the problems and disparities that exist throughout the world. From the millions of people living in poverty who lack access to clean water and adequate health care to the threats to endangered wildlife to global environmental issues.
Thinking about all the problems in the world can at times be overwhelming and we sometimes feel helpless in trying to figure out how to help. It can be easy to ignore them, feeling that one person can not really make any difference.
But we believe that any person can make a difference, and all small differences add up. Every person can get involved in charitable efforts and give back to worthy causes, whether they are solving problems in one’s local community or tackling large global issues. This might include volunteering one’s time, fundraising, activism, or providing in kind or monetary donations.
Our Commitment to Charitable Giving
We believe that any person and any business can make a difference, even our own small family business (just our two travel blogs). Although we don’t have millions of dollars to give away like large corporations, we want to do our small part in giving back by committing part of the income from our business to a charity.
Each year, we will choose a charity (or a couple of charities) and pledge a donation. We make our pledge openly for several reasons: to highlight charities we love, provide transparency of our business’s charitable giving, and to hopefully encourage more people to think about their own charitable giving.
In 2019, we were able to donate USD $10,000 to the Foundation for African Medicine and Education (FAME), which provides state-of-the-art medical care to thousands of people in an underserved and under-resourced area of rural Tanzania. In 2019, they were able to open a new 24-bed Maternity Center to expand their child and maternal health services. You can read more about the charity and why we chose to support FAME here.
This year, we have chosen to support and become a sponsor of the World Land Trust (WLT), an international land conservation organization. We are working to support the WLT in a few ways this year:
- In 2020, we are donating £5,000 to WLT’s Keepers of the Wild program to support the work of a ranger with WLT partner Fundación Biodiversidad Argentina at the El Pantanoso Reserve. This will specifically fund the work of Ranger Karu Vallejos for 1 year.
- Starting in 2020, we have also committed 10% of all sales of Laurence’s Travel Photography Course to the World Land Trust. The money will be used to help save threatened habitat through WLT’s Buy an Acre program.
- Since 2018, we have been donating each year to the WLT’s Carbon Balanced Programme as part of our carbon offsetting commitment to offset both our personal and business related carbon emissions. You can see our carbon neutral policy for more about that.
By supporting our blogs, you are also indirectly supporting the charities that we support. You can read more about how you can support us (you’re likely doing it without knowing it!).
Learn About our 2020 Charity: World Land Trust
As noted, in 2020 our chosen charity is the World Land Trust (WLT). It is an international not-for-profit charity organization (No. 1001291, registered in England and Wales) that focuses on the conservation of biologically important and threatened habitats around the world.
We first became aware of the World Land Trust because of their Carbon Balanced Programme which we have been using to offset our carbon emissions since 2018. You can read more about our carbon offsetting efforts here.
The Carbon Balanced Programme is actually only a small part of what the WLT offers and it wasn’t until earlier this year that we started learning more about the organization. Learning more made us want to show more support this year.
The World Land Trust was founded in 1989 by British conservationist John Burton and American environmental scientist Gerard Bertrand. The main goals of the World Land Trust are to ensure the conservation of plants, animals, and natural communities in areas at risk.
The World Land Trust works with local non-governmental organizations (NGO) partners around the world to save, protect, and restore critically threatened habitat for wildlife. More specifically, it does this through the following ways:
- Purchasing and protecting land for conservation to protect both the land and the threatened species that live there
- Creating wildlife corridors as safe routes for endangered species to safely roam from one reserve to another
- Planting trees to help restore forests that have been lost to deforestation
- Supporting and empowering local NGOs and people to manage and protect land from threats such as illegal hunting and deforestation
- Tackling issues related to climate change through its Carbon Balanced Programme to encourage individuals and businesses to offset their unavoidable carbon emissions
- Using its influence to educate and persuade governments to protect their land and to engage in conservation efforts
Since 1989, the WLT has funded the purchase and protection of more than 880,000 acres of tropical forest and other threatened habitats, and has worked with overseas partners to plant more than 2 million trees!
The WLT’s policy of purchasing land and working to save entire habitats that are threatened is integral to its conservation success. The organization doesn’t focus on saving single species or just planting trees, but on saving entire ecosystems.
As Sir David Attenborough, a long-time WLT patron and world-famous naturalist, has noted: “The World Land Trust’s policy of buying land is the most direct and certain road to conservation. It deserves the support of all who care about the survival of the wild places of the world.”
It should be noted that the WLT doesn’t own any of the land itself (with the exception of Kites Hill Reserve), but it is all owned by its local NGO partners. This allows the land to be in the control of local conservation partners who want to protect threatened wilderness areas in their country. The WLT helps raise the funds to purchase the land and then provides assistance to the local organization in managing and protecting the land.
It currently helps support projects and NGO partners in Argentina, Armenia, Belize, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Guatemala, Honduras, India, Iran, Kenya, Malaysia, Mexico, Paraguay, Peru, the Philippines, the United Kingdom, Venezuela, Vietnam, and Zambia.
The WLT has 5 main programs that donors can support:
- Buy an Acre – The program raises funds so that WLT’s NGOs partners can purchase local land and create reserves to protect the local habitat and wildlife in perpetuity.
- Plant a Tree – This program funds the planting and protection of trees to help restore forests that have been lost to deforestation. So far this program has funded the planting of over 2.3 million trees.
- Keepers of the Wild – This program funds the work of local rangers on the front lines of conservation who protect the reserves that WLT has helped to fund. In 2019, the program funded 44 ranges in 16 different countries.
- Action Fund – This fund was set up to be able to respond quickly when urgent conservation interventions are necessary. Funds are allocated as needed to urgent projects. For example, these funds may be used to respond to the devastation caused by a natural disaster like a forest fire, flood, or hurricane.
- Carbon Balanced Programme – A program that encourages and enables individuals and businesses to offset their unavoidable carbon emissions to help combat climate change.
The World Land Trust has become a well-known and respected conservation organization. Here is what Sir David Attenborough had to say about the WLT in 2012:
“I am often asked about the conservation organisations I support and I regularly advocate World Land Trust as an organization that I believe is particularly worthy of support.
The thing about WLT is that they recognize that ecosystems are what need saving. If you want to save jaguars and hummingbirds the only way to do so is to save the places where they live. WLT has “land” in the title and land is what matters. WLT had arrived at this conclusion some 23 years ago and have always been an organization on the cutting edge.
The money that is given to the World Land Trust, in my estimation, has more effect on the wild world than almost anything I can think of. So if you do care about the natural world and want to support it, I would like to suggest that there is no better way of doing so than helping the World Land Trust.”
After learning more about the WLT program and asking a lot of questions, we decided that it was an organization we wanted to support further.
El Pantanoso Reserve in Argentina
As mentioned earlier, our main support this year will go towards supporting the work of a ranger at the El Pantanoso Reserve. The decision of what and where to fund was decided based on the needs and priorities of the World Land Trust.
We were pretty open to any project and just said we’d prefer South America if there were a need as we had an interest in conservation in the area and have a trip planned to Argentina in January 2021. Initially, we were planning to help fund land purchases somewhere, but the Keepers of the Wild program was where the funding was most needed at that specific time, so that is of course what we chose to do.
So we wanted to share more information about the reserve, the local NGO partner in Argentina, and the Keepers of the Wild program.
The creation of El Pantanoso Reserve was funded by WLT in 2016. El Pantanoso Reserve consists of 11,900 acres and is located in the Southern Yungas forests within the Jujuy province of northwestern Argentina.
The Southern Yungas area is one the most diverse biomes in Argentina and a large area of the land in this region (over 1.3 million hectares) was designated by UNESCO as the Las Yungas Biosphere in 2002. The El Pantanoso area was owned by a timber company until the mid-1900’s, and the area was not used for cattle grazing or agricultural activity unlike much of the Yungas region. About 90% of the Yungas foothills have been cleared for agriculture, making El Pantanoso an important area for conservation.
The El Pantanoso Reserve serves as an important wildlife corridor between the Calilegua National Park to the south and Estancia Urundel, a forested area to its north. It is particularly important because it serves as Argentina’s largest area of intact habitat for jaguars.
Biodiversity studies in El Pantanoso have identified more than 120 species of tree, 140 species of butterfly, 350 species of birds, and 120 mammal species. The reserve is an important ecological corridor for jaguars, pumas, ocelots and other threatened species including lowland tapirs, black solitary eagles, and two species of peccary. It is also a high bat diversity area. The biological distinctiveness of the region warrants its status as Regionally Outstanding and Vulnerable.
The reserve is owned and managed by local NGO Fundación Biodiversidad-Argentina (FBA). The FBA was founded in 1999 and its mission is “to promote the conservation of biological diversity in Argentina, through the development of research activities, technology transfer, environmental education, and the management of conservation and sustainable use programs and projects in the field.”
The FBA contacted the WLT about the availability of the El Pantanoso land in 2014, and the funds were raised to purchase the land in 2016. Since then, the WLT has continued to work in partnership with the FBA to protect El Pantanoso.
This is not an area of Argentina that most visitors see, as it is far from major tourist areas, but the FBA has made several short videos where you can see the El Pantanoso reserve and other areas they protect here.
We’ve been excited to watch the videos and learn more about this important area of the Yungas forest. It is not only an important area for big cats like the jaguar and puma, but also an important area for many bats, insects, plants, and bird species.
Keepers of the Wild Program
The primary goal of the WLT is to raise funds to purchase and protect land to create reserves in partnership with overseas conservation partners to save threatened habitats for wildlife. After the land is purchased and secured by the NGOs, the land must then be protected and safeguarded in perpetuity.
In order to provide extra support to NGOs in protecting the land, the WLT created the Keepers of the Wild program in 2011. The program funds the work of rangers on the front lines of conservation who protect the reserves that WLT has helped to fund. Rangers are usually members of the local community who know the area well.
Keepers of the Wild have a range of duties that will depend on the specific reserve. But common duties include monitoring wildlife, marking boundaries, clearing trails, keeping out illegal loggers and poachers, assisting researchers, and making patrols. They may need to assist with forest fires, flooding, and storm damage. The rangers become ambassadors for conservation in the local communities and help provide education to schools, community members, and visitors.
Our donation will specifically support Ranger Karu Vallejos’ work in El Pantanoso in 2020. Karu lives in the nearest village to the reserve. His main duties are to monitor the status of the access road and the presence of human activity, to collaborate with all activities related to the upkeep of the infrastructure of the reserve, and to provide support to visitors and researchers of the reserve. The reserve has 30 camera traps for wildlife monitoring and Karu specifically manages some of them to report on wildlife sightings.
Among other duties in 2019, his presence allowed the detection of the entry of illegal hunters and theft of wood in neighboring areas to El Pantanoso which was informed to local environmental authorities. He also opened a section of trails that will enable visitors and researchers to move easily in the area during dry season.
Our Planned Visit
We are currently planning to visit El Pantanoso in person ourselves in January 2021 and hope to have a chance to meet Karu, although the COVID-19 pandemic may necessitate postponing our trip to Argentina for a while. We have been informed that the reserve is pretty remote and not the most easily accessible place, so we look forward to not only a great education experience but also a bit of an adventure!
In the meantime, we have recently visited Kites Hill Reserve here in the UK. It is the only piece of land that the WLT actually owns and it was left as a legacy by a supporter of the WLT. Originally a farm, the area consists of woodland, meadows, scrub, and hedgerows which are now protected and managed for the benefit of native wildlife.
Coincidentally, we discovered it less than a 1 hour drive from where we live in the Cotswolds area. Our visit to Kites Hill Reserve was the first time we had been more than 5 miles from our house in over 2 months after the UK COVID-19 lockdown restrictions loosened, so it was a treat to be able to drive here and enjoy the nature trail and sunshine. We spotted several bird species and even a fox during our walk.
Hopefully, we’ll be able to write about our visit to El Pantanoso Reserve early next year. We look forward to sharing it with you.
The World Land Trust has done so much important conservation work since 1989, and we look forward to continuing to watch and support its progress. The organization depends almost entirely on donations and grants to fund its work.
If you have any questions about the charities we support or have recommendations for charities you think we may be interested in supporting in the future, feel free to contact us.