We assumed the two went hand in hand. There’s no denying that Cool Earth’s interventions have had an impact. In January alone, Cool Earth assisted with seven emergency evacuations in the Asháninka partnership. It’s thanks to Cool Earth supporters that those seven evacuations resulted in seven healthy people returning home to their family. But a recent evaluation has shown that to do more, we need to do less.
Cool Earth’s Programme Team is carrying out a root and branch review of its activities in Peru. There’s been a huge amount of activity in the partnership over the last few years, but we were concerned about ensuring that we were scrutinising what Cool Earth were funding and why. Evaluations were carried out by the in-country teams and 23 detailed reports were produced on everything from coffee production in the Asháninka to nutrition in the Awajún. The reports highlighted things like project goals and the number of people benefiting, and discussed what had worked, what didn’t work so well and why.
The results of the evaluation showed how much there is to celebrate. No sales of trees to logging or mining companies have taken place, family incomes have increased and there are far fewer incidences of waterborne diseases. Cool Earth has also proved the of presence at-risk and elusive species like the Spectacled Bear, demonstrating the value of keeping forest intact.
The evaluation also highlights some big challenges that need addressing in the next phase of the partnerships. These challenges are not unique to Cool Earth, and we don’t have all the answers, but by being aware of them, they can be confronted.
The first challenge is mission creep. How closely are Cool Earth’ s activities aligned with our goal of supporting local people to keep their forest standing? Have we been distracted by wanting to help communities in every aspect of their lives?
Second, the benefits of working with Cool Earth haven’t been shared widely enough in the community. Some people in the most remote villages don’t know about Cool Earth, or are unsure what the partnership means. In some cases there’s been a risk of ‘elite capture’, where benefits meant for everyone are instead shared only between a few individuals.
Finally, it’s clear that Cool Earth needs to do better at making sure everyone understands the forest protection agreement and makes the connection between funded activity and keeping forest standing. In some cases, there’s been an expectation that Cool Earth should be doing things like planting and looking after crops. To make the partnership sustainable, this activity has to be driven by the community themselves.
In her last visit to the Asháninka, Peru Project Manager Chris Kuahara explained to the community that Cool Earth would no longer be accompanying emergency evacuations to the hospital. Instead, we would support volunteers from the community to take on this important role. Cool Earth will also help set up links between the community and government-funded healthcare schemes for indigenous people.
Improving lives in the rainforest is so much more than just facilitating emergency evacuations. It’s about empowerment that will outlast Cool Earth’s funding.
From day one, Cool Earth’s mission was to create communities that were self- determining, and not at risk of relying on cash from loggers who would entrench them in debt and poverty. But the more things Cool Earth funded, the more difficult it was to see a way that the community would be self-sufficient in the future. There was a danger that reliance on loggers would be replaced by a reliance on Cool Earth. Addressing this risk is now a top priority so when planning the next three years in Peru it’s essential to remember that to do more, we need to do less.