Crees, who work with conservation and community projects in the Peruvian Amazon, have recently joined our Adventures for Good collection. We had a chat to find out all about their mission and how your adventure with them helps.
Tell us about Crees, what’s it all about?
We pioneer experiential ecotourism to support conservation and community projects in Manu Biosphere Reserve, the Peruvian Amazon. We believe that ecotourism – volunteering, internships and tours – is the most effective way to support large scale rainforest conservation and community empowerment.
Sounds like a mammoth task, what challenges do you face?
Manu is one of the most biodiverse places on Earth, but it’s under threat. Poverty and population growth drive people to destroy the rainforest through logging, farming and mining. They have few other ways of providing for their families. To save Manu, sustainability has to be a realistic choice for impoverished communities. Through conservation research, environmental education and sustainable livelihoods we’re working on the solution.
So where do you start?
We believe that the people of Manu must determine their own future. Our role is to simply provide greater choice, so that they are empowered to drive social, economic and environmental change within their own communities. Sustainability must not only become possible, it must be the best way of meeting communities’ needs. By visiting Manu rainforest with Crees – as a tourist or volunteer – you become a vital part of the solution.
Tell us more about what Crees has achieved so far?
Just over 30 years ago, our nature reserve at the Manu Learning Centre (MLC) was farmland, selectively logged or completely destroyed to grow crops and graze cattle. Today, it’s flourishing with life: a regenerating rainforest that’s a safe haven for rare and threatened wildlife – from top predators like the jaguar and puma, to species new to science that our researchers are still discovering.
Thanks to the data collected by our dedicated volunteers, we’ve shown that a rainforest can be reborn and 87% of biodiversity can return to a once destroyed rainforest. This is citizen science in action.
A research and educational hub, the MLC now hosts visitors from across the world. It’s an immersive, inspiring experience where you discover what can be achieved through biodiversity conservation and sustainable development, while directly contributing to our conservation and community projects.
The Manu Learning Centre was once farmland, now it’s a thriving haven for rare and threatened wildlife where visitors learn about biodiversity conservation and sustainable development. Despite its success, the MLC is just a tiny part of the much larger Manu Biosphere Reserve – an area the size of Wales – that continues to be threatened by unsustainable farming, logging and mining.
We have been working for over a decade in Manu Biosphere Reserve and have created a protected area of 650 hectares – the size of about 1,600 football pitches. We’ve published over a dozen scientific papers and field guides, supported by our partners University of Glasgow and the Darwin Initiative. We support 23 agroforestry plots so that farmers can adopt sustainable agricultural practices on 61 hectares of land. We’ve created 19 bio-gardens so that families can improve their health and wealth. We’ve planted over 30,000 native trees. It’s good, but it’s not enough. Our vision is much more ambitious.
How do you think the long term security of the rainforest can be achieved?
The Crees Foundation has launched a large-scale conservation research and sustainable development initiative, called Sustainable Manu, that stretches across Manu Biosphere Reserve and was designed in collaboration with the University of Glasgow and funded by the Darwin Initiative.
Sustainable Manu is a three year collaborative project involving many organisations and communities throughout the region, working together through conservation research, environmental education and sustainable livelihoods.
The project will answer questions about how communities can use the rainforest’s natural resources while protecting high levels of biodiversity, so that people and nature can thrive. It will provide a successful, evidence-based model to guide sustainable practices in the region. This is not only vital for ensuring that nature and culture of the Biosphere Reserve flourishes and thrives, but it’s also essential for the continued protection of Manu National Park – a strictly protected area and the world’s top biodiversity hotspot.
The Biosphere Reserve forms a protective buffer around the National Park. If unsustainable logging, farming and mining continues unchecked within the Biosphere Reserve, then these practices will encroach and impact the health of the National Park. We can’t let this happen.
The Big Picture
Our 30 year vision is to have helped define, create and sustain a resilient buffer zone to protect Manu National Park. We’re a long way from reaching this vision. The Biosphere Reserve that surrounds the Park is the frontlines of conservation – where we must balance the social and economic needs of communities, with the protection of biodiversity.
It’s a huge challenge, but if Manu rainforest is to survive and its people thrive, then we have to work together to find solutions. Most importantly, our ethos is that this environmental, social and economic change must be driven by the people of Manu. They must determine their own future.
You can take a 4 day ‘Bike and Hike‘ trip to the Manu Rainforest, or a 7 day Wildlife and Conservation tour, and by visiting you will be directly helping to support this vital conservation and community work to protect the Amazon Rainforest and empower its people. We can’t do this without you.
All photos courtesy of Crees
About our Adventures for Good collection
Much Better Adventures was born from a belief that travel can, and should, be a force for good. We take responsible, sustainable travel pretty seriously. For all of our trips, we only work with local, independent providers in order to channel money into rural, local economies. This creates a virtuous circle with local communities and governments who are empowered and incentivised to protect and conserve the incredible environments which attracted these visitors in the first place.
However our Adventures for Good take this philosophy one step further. These trips have been carefully selected to ensure you not only have an amazing adventure, but they also directly support some pioneering organisations delivering positive social impact across the world.
All of the hosts selected for these trips have a proven track record of delivering impressive results in their community and / or through conserving the environment they are working in. Proceeds from every trip are put directly towards achieving that mission so your adventure helps to build a positive legacy.