ELTI participants in the field

Arcadia Grant Will Help Environmental Leadership & Training Initiative Expand its Reach

Funding support from Arcadia has enabled ELTI to train leaders to address emerging needs and create solutions in tropical forest restoration and conservation programs with a global reach.

The Environmental Leadership & Training Initiative (ELTI) of The Forest School at the Yale School of the Environment will be expanding its reach in capacity development, accelerating on-the-ground results for sustainable land use, continuing efforts to promote open access to resources, and sharing evidence about its experiences to date with the help of a $3 million grant from Arcadia, a charitable foundation established by Peter Baldwin ’78 BA and Lisbet Rausing.

ELTI participants in Panama
Above: Participants during an ELTI field course in the Panama training landscape.
Top Image: ELTI alum Odielca Solis sharing her experiences implementing on-farm restoration strategies with participants of an ELTI field course in Panama’s Azuero Peninsula.

With field-based training programs implemented through partnerships in Panama, Colombia, Brazil, the Philippines, and Indonesia, and a globally focused online program, ELTI, an international capacity development initiative, provides the latest tools, research, and applied case studies to stakeholders focused on implementing tree-based strategies in the tropics that support livelihoods and biodiversity and address the adverse impacts of climate change.

The grant is the fourth in a series of awards from Arcadia totaling more than $18 million since 2006. The funding has enabled ELTI to train more than 5,000 landholders, farmers, practitioners, and decision makers to conserve and restore the world’s declining tree and forest cover through intensive field and online courses. ELTI’s webinars, conferences, workshops, and symposia have reached an additional 15,000.

“We are so grateful for Arcadia’s long-term support of ELTI’s work. Their appreciation for the important role of the capacity development process in conserving and restoring tropical forest landscapes is truly unique in the world of philanthropy. Their flexible support has enabled the team to address emerging needs and opportunities, experiment with the co-creation of innovative solutions, and adapt interventions as needed. Perhaps most importantly, Arcadia’s approach has enabled the ELTI team to build relationships and trust with partners and landholders in the landscapes where we focus, which is fundamental for achieving positive and sustainable change,” says Eva Garen ’95 MES, ’05 PhD, director of ELTI.

Along with field-based training, ELTI programs include a year-long Tropical Forest Landscapes online certificate program, which is open to global enrollment and requires an applied capstone project, a leadership program for ELTI alumni through which they develop their own conservation and restoration projects and actions, and online short courses taught in multiple languages.

Leaders trained by ELTI are already making positive changes in the landscapes they manage and sharing that experience with others. An analysis conducted by ELTI and YSE students in 2021 found that a subset of farmers in Panama, who had been trained by ELTI, significantly increased forest and tree cover on their land. Many of these same landholders have hosted hundreds of people on their farms to learn about and replicate their experiences in other areas.

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Michael Dove, Margaret K. Musser Professor of Social Ecology and ELTI faculty director, says ELTI established a new approach to tropical forest reforestation programs that has aided its success — sustained attention to local socio-ecological histories.

“ELTI has pioneered a solution to one of the most intractable challenges of conservation and development in the tropics, an effort that was only made possible by sustained support over many years from Arcadia,” Dove says.

With the latest grant, ELTI will further develop its online course offerings, including additional self-paced open access courses via Yale’s Coursera platform, increase scholarship opportunities to offset tuition fees, and expand access to information through its open access Tropical Restoration Library (TRL). The team also will be analyzing organizational models and fundraising scenarios to ensure that ELTI’s programs continue to flourish for years to come.

"It is amazing to me to see how far ELTI has developed since Arcadia first believed in its ideas back in 2006. Those original ideas were focused on demonstrating ways to restore and sustainably manage native forests and trees within human modified (and dominated) landscapes. ELTI developed an educational curriculum and training curriculum for capacity development of different stakeholders who wish for future recovery of transformed and degraded lands,” says Mark Ashton, Morris K. Jesup Professor of Silviculture and Forest Ecology and senior associate dean of The Forest School at YSE. “Thanks to Arcadia's fourth cycle of funding  ELTI is now at the forefront of something that organizations around the world recognize as one of the most important nature-based solutions aimed at achieving sustainable human livelihoods.”

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