We’re all in this together.

Among the characteristics that typify what Fauna & Flora International (FFI) is all about, two stand out. Firstly, partnership is at the heart of everything we do, rooted in our firm belief that local people and organisations hold the key to effective long-term conservation. Secondly, we stick with those partners through thick and thin, however difficult the circumstances.

Our response to the devastating earthquake that shook Southeast Asia in 2004 and the catastrophic tsunami that followed is a prime example. As one of the few charities already operating in Sumatra during the civil conflict that had been raging on the island, FFI was well placed to help when disaster struck. Our first thought was for the welfare of staff, partners and the communities with whom we were working. We put conservation on hold and devoted our resources to the relief effort until some semblance of normality had returned.

FFI’s unswerving commitment to securing the livelihoods of communities – and local partners – in the wake of disasters such as the 2004 tsunami is motivated by the knowledge that biodiversity is at its most vulnerable in such situations. We have always prided ourselves on not walking away when things get tough. Quite the opposite, in fact.

Like the conservation equivalent of a storm chaser, FFI is magnetically drawn to crises and conflict zones where most other organisations are disinclined to venture. We’ve led surveys in a former Khmer Rouge stronghold, helped defend mountain gorillas against armed poachers in war-torn Central Africa and stuck doggedly to the task of protecting Liberia’s forests throughout its turbulent recent history.

FFI works with communities to provide support where it is needed. Credit: Tim Bergman/FFI
FFI works with communities to provide support where it is needed. Credit: Tim Bergman/FFI

As long ago as 1999, FFI’s Chief Executive Mark Rose wrote this in our annual report: “Post-crisis conditions create a special set of circumstances that represent both a threat and a significant opportunity for conservation.”

Those words have never been more apposite than today.

The crisis currently facing our partners – and the projects on which we are working together – is unparalleled in our lifetime. The Covid-19 pandemic is a global catastrophe, which has not only had a devastating effect on society, but also has wide-reaching implications for nature and its conservation around the world.

We are already witnessing escalating threats posed by increased poverty, reduced livelihood options and the mass movement of people. The absence of tourist revenue and the reduced presence of rangers in the field have led to an upturn in poaching.

At the same time, the income streams of many of our in-country partners have been severely affected and, in some instances, funding has dried up completely. There is a serious risk that some of FFI’s key partners may not survive the crisis without additional – and urgent – support.

With this in mind, we are launching the FFI Partner Crisis Support Fund, in order to safeguard the future of these essential organisations and of the people who make them work, thereby ensuring that decades of conservation achievements are not undermined and undone.

The fund will focus on our existing in-country partners, helping those organisations to weather the current storm and to flourish in the longer term as we adapt to a post-Covid future that will require us to find new ways of halting and reversing biodiversity loss.

Thanks to generous support from Arcadia – a charitable fund of Lisbet Rausing and Peter Baldwin, we have already secured over one million dollars towards the FFI Partner Crisis Support Fund. The initial funding will enable us to channel emergency support to key partners in Africa, the Americas, Asia-Pacific and Eurasia, benefiting species and habitats as disparate as large carnivores in the Carpathian Mountains, endemic trees in Cape Verde and critically endangered Vietnamese primates.

The fund will provide relief support to fishing communities across Southeast Asia. Credit: A'al Syafrizaldi/FFI
The fund will provide relief support to fishing communities across Southeast Asia. Credit: A’al Syafrizaldi/FFI

FFI is no stranger to funding mechanisms that address unforeseen crises; the Rapid Response Facility, an emergency small-grants programme established in 2006 and operated jointly with UNESCO, was designed to safeguard natural World Heritage sites from sudden threats or crises, and to do it in double-quick time. To date, this fund has distributed over one million dollars, supporting the protection of 30 million hectares of the world’s most valuable wildlife habitat.

We are confident that FFI’s new crisis fund, devoted to supporting our in-country partners, will have a similarly beneficial impact on these frontline organisations, increasing their resilience and equipping them not only to survive the current pandemic, but also to scale up their conservation impact in the coming years.

“We’re determined not to allow this latest crisis to derail our plans,” insists Mark Rose, who has led FFI for more than 25 years. “We have hundreds of partners and staff spread across more than 40 countries, so it’s inevitable that this global pandemic will have a severe impact on our activities, but FFI has a track record of operating under challenging circumstances stretching back well over a century. Resilience is part of our DNA, and it keeps us moving forward.”

FFI is seeking additional funding to enable us to provide longer-term support to our partners, and we will shortly be launching an appeal that is aiming to raise a further one million dollars as part of the next phase of our coordinated response to Covid-19 and its aftermath.

Click here to read the FFI Partner Crisis Support Fund press release