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Interview: WWF in Yunnan

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This past Saturday, the lights were turned off for one hour at Chinese landmarks including the Bird's Nest in Beijing and the Oriental Pearl Tower in Shanghai as part of Earth Hour, a global campaign by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) to raise awareness of the need to take action on climate change.

793WWF's involvement in China#http://www.wwfchina.org/english/index.shtm# – GoKunming spoke with Wu Yusong, Head of WWF China-Kunming, about the organization's work in Yunnan:

GoKunming: What is WWF's objective in Yunnan?

Wu Yusong: Every action we take in Yunnan is focused on WWF's Global Mission and finding pragmatic methods for achieving that mission. WWF's Global Mission is to stop the degradation of the planet's natural environment and to build a future in which humans live in harmony with nature. This is done by conserving the world's biological diversity, ensuring that the use of renewable natural resources is sustainable and promoting the reduction of pollution and wasteful consumption.

GK: What are the current projects that WWF is involved in in Yunnan?

Wu: In 2006 WWF-China started the Upper Mekong Programme, which is focused on watershed management in the Upper Mekong basin. Here at the Kunming office, this change means that after many years of working on forest ecosystem conservation in northwest Yunnan, we have begun shifting our focus.

Work on the Upper Mekong Programme includes not only the Kunming office but also the Tibet and Beijing offices in China. Internationally, we also work closely with WWF's Greater Mekong Programme, based in Vientiane, Laos. As an international NGO, WWF has the advantage of being able to work across the five countries of the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS).

Our program is currently focused on promoting two "Big Wins" for Mekong river conservation: these are establishment of a platform for sharing among stakeholders, and the enactment of legally binding international agreements on sustainable development among the nations of the GMS.

GK: How important was WWF's involvement in Baimaxueshan with regard to the recent upturn in the Yunnan snubnosed monkey population there?

Wu: During the past two decades, WWF has been very lucky to observe and participate in the process of conservation and community development in Baimaxueshan National Nature Reserve. WWF was the first NGO to work in the reserve and by the early 1990s had already started many research and conservation projects there. This work included ecological research on to the Yunnan snub-nosed monkey and, later, community-participated conservation work, environmental education, and capacity-building for the reserve's management staff.

In the interim, many other NGOs have joined in the effort, and we are happy to see that the local reserve staff is now better equipped to do their jobs and that local people are now living better and more sustainable lives. Sustainable livelihoods for locals, a strong management staff and more scientific data about the Yunnan snub-nosed monkey mean that the monkey and other species—along with their habitats—are better protected and have better long-term prospects.

GK: What are WWF's biggest challenges in Yunnan? What are its greatest achievements?

Wu: As I have mentioned already, we are now working heavily on WWF's Upper Mekong Programme. Expanding the scope of our conservation working area means that we are having to work with a wider group of partners and stakeholders. The river is facing a lot of pressure, especially from mining, hydropower, and infrastructure development. It has been a learning process to discover how we can work constructively with such stakeholders in order to achieve win-win solutions.

Our biggest recent achievement was our Integrated Conservation and Development initiative in Baimaxueshan National Nature Reserve. This highly successful project focused on the concept of cooperative management and empowered local management staff and communities with the knowledge and tools necessary to map out their own routes to sustainability.

GK: Have there been any changes in recent years in the attitudes of rural Yunnan toward the environment? If so, what?

Wu: In Baimaxueshan, at least, after several years of project implementation people have developed a very high awareness of the link between conservation and their livelihoods. For example, villagers have developed their own local regulations for conservation and have created self-government programs for patrolling mountain forests. They have also actively joined conservation work in nature reserves, such as reporting illegal timber harvesting. All of this shows that if you find a balance between livelihoods and conservation, people will want to join into conservation actions for the resources upon which they depend.

GK: How has the financial crisis affected WWF's funding?

Wu: Few if any organizations have been immune to the ongoing global economic downturn. Nevertheless we believe that this crisis is also an opportunity to get people to think more about the meaning of sustainable development, so that as economies pick up again we can develop smartly and sustainably. That said, we are trying our best not to let the economic downturn influence our on-the-ground activities and we are doing this by bringing more focus to our conservation goals.

GK: What can Yunnanese and foreigners in Kunming/Yunnan do to help WWF's projects in Yunnan?

Wu: One way is to work with WWF, which is an organization known for forming strong partnerships. Much of WWF's work in Yunnan requires help from civil society, including with the private sector and volunteers. We always welcome opportunities to collaborate with people who share a common set of values with us.

Last, but not least, we welcome any opportunity to remind people to think about how to bring conservation and sustainability to their daily lives.

If you have an inquiry for the WWF Kunming office, please contact project coordinator Fang Jinmin at jmfang (at) wwfchina (dot) org

© 1986 Panda symbol WWF

Yunnan snubnosed monkey image: www.momriver.org

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