ANAI’s main long term goal is ensuring the existence of the world’s wealth of nature, with a focus on the species and ecosystems of the wet tropics: rainforests, wetlands and rivers, together with the family farms and managed forests that are now part of all healthy landscapes. Talamanca is one of the most biologically diverse places on earth, a true biodiversity hotspot. Yet the effort to maintain this natural wealth is an eminently human endeavor that will only be successful if the people have a high quality of life that has a mutually supportive relationship with nature, and if the actions that support their lives are sustainable and can successfully be continued by their children.
ANAI’s work focuses on integrating nature conservation, family and community centered development that is biodiversity friendly, family and community health, and strong community and regional organizations. We are committed to cultural respect and strengthening, sharing our experiences, and inspiring others to implement integrated conservation and development initiatives in other places and at other scales. We do this through a lot of hard work, creating new alternatives, empowerment and capacity building, applied science for conservation and development, training, and more hard work.
ANAI strives for sustainability in everything we do. A successful long term initiative, be it biodiversity conservation, agroforestry, processing and marketing of agricultural products, community ecotourism or environmental monitoring, needs to be biologically, economically, socially and organizationally sustainable.
Our vision is truly long term. Among our most important beneficiaries are the children of our children. They need us to be successful today in creating truly sustainable initiatives so that they can live a wonderful life, enjoying a healthy economy, healthy families and communities, and all of the nature’s biodiversity and bounty. Working to develop a culture of collaboration, cooperation and mutual respect, we strive to help create an inter-generational commitment to sustainability, based on actions with immediate tangible benefits and strategies to ensure that these same opportunities will still be there for our children’s children.
While ANAI takes pride in being a “muddy boots” organization in intimate contact with the people and the land, we have no pretension of being a “grassroots” organization ourselves. Rather, we are an intermediary organization, seeking to nurture locally based transformational processes leading to self-sufficient local (“grassroots”) organizations.
Over three decades ago, when ANAI became the first NGO to establish itself in Talamanca, local organizations were few and weak, and ANAI of necessity played a major role in the design and execution of projects. But from the beginning, we have nurtured the capacity for planning and decision making by local groups wherever we find it.
The role of locally based Grassroots Support Organization (GSO) like ANAI is increasingly recognized as a necessary part of what may be called an “ecology of organizations”, including specialized technical aid groups, donors, lending institutions, advocacy and watchdog groups, government agencies and grassroots or “community based” groups. GSOs operate under one institutional handicap in that they should normally forego opportunities to increase their own economic self-sufficiency when the activity in question can be successfully carried out by one of its constituent organizations. It is our policy that we should help communities develop the capacity to manage existing or potential lucrative activities, rather than seizing on them ourselves. We have also preferred to channel grant money to local organizations to carry out projects, rather than do it ourselves, in those cases where this has been feasible.
Examples of activities that we have helped local organizations learn to manage, instead of doing it ourselves, include organic agroforestry, processing and marketing of agricultural products, forest management, ecotourism, running a regional training center and community conservation initiatives. The result is stronger local organizations. They not only have a degree of economic self –
sufficiency, but equally important, they learn to carry out projects, plan and manage new initiatives, and run businesses. They also have an increasing stake in the success of their sustainable development and conservation activities, making success more likely.
Increasingly, local groups are taking the initiative. As local capacity grows, this creates opportunities for ANAI to scale our work, thematically and geographically, and renew our creativity and innovative actions for conservation and development challenges.