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The crees foundation: supporting a sustainable Peruvian Amazon



This blog post introduces the crees foundation’s great work supporting a sustainable Amazon. The crees foundation is a conservation and sustainable development organisation that has worked for over a decade to promote sustainable resource management in the Manu Biosphere Reserve, a UNESCO World Heritage site in the Peruvian Amazon. Since 2012, the Manu Learning Centre has opened its doors to travellers to help raise awareness of the issues facing the Amazon and its people, and at the same time support the foundation’s work and offer travellers an amazing wildlife experience. This post follows the same interview format as our recent posts on ACTUAR’s innovative work in Costa Rica, and Totonal Viajes’ pioneering approach to responsible tourism in Mexico. We already offer Amazon tours to Ecuador, Brazil, Bolivia and Colombia, so we’re really excited to be working with crees to offer our travellers a great Peruvian Amazon tour as well. You can find details of the 4-day tour add-on, departing from Cusco, in the Discover sections of our Peru Holidays.

How did the organisation come about? 

It was whilst volunteering in Manu during 2002 that Quinn Meyer first witnessed how poverty can result in destructive practices – and how large organisations are usually the ones who profit. Quinn arrived in Manu to volunteer – and spent the first four months building the conservation lodge that he would end up living in!  He used his time learning as much as he possibly could from passing scientists carrying out research into local ecosystems. After falling in love with the place and developing a feeling of responsibility, he decided to go it alone and bought a slice of rainforest on the edge of the Manu National Park. It is there that he founded crees. He spent the next seven years living between Cusco and Manu – building the Manu Learning Centre, which is the region’s first sustainable lodge. More than 14 years later, Quinn is now based between Manu and London.

What is crees’ mission? 

Crees works to protect the environment, improve livelihoods and achieve long term sustainability. Crees’ mission is to prove that ethical and sustainable practices can create an improved future for the Amazonian rainforest and its people.  This is achieved by providing real solutions to local problems; by engaging with local communities; and through scientific research.

In 2012, crees launched a series of culture and wildlife tours to Manu, opening the area up to travellers with the aim of increasing awareness of the different issues affecting the Amazonian rainforest and its people. All profits from the tours are put back into the foundation in order to help fund and support crees’ goals of creating a more sustainable Amazon.

We believe that true sustainability is broader than rainforest conservation and requires economic, social and environmental harmony. We believe we can achieve this harmony by developing strategic, proactive and ecologically sound programmes; by managing and developing sustainable eco-friendly facilities; and by being leaders in the provision of educational tours and programmes. We believe that mankind and nature can support one another through balance, respect and innovation.

How do you go about achieving this mission? 

This is achieved through three core programmes: conservation research, enterprise and education. The foundation’s Conservation Research Programme generates important knowledge about the value and potential value of biodiversity, ecosystem services and socio-economic initiatives for local communities, businesses and the Peruvian government. Our research team commit around 17,000 hours per year to our stat monitoring programme, which feeds into the largest and most detailed long-term data sets regarding biodiversity and the impact of rainforest regeneration in the Manu Biosphere Reserve. This research provides the scientific evidence needed to demonstrate the conservation potential of rainforest regeneration strategies, and also informs decision makers as to the conservation priorities in Manu. Data from the crees Research Programme also contributes to the UNESCO’s Man and Biosphere Programme and supports Peru’s commitments under the Convention on Biological Diversity. Significantly, the crees research programme has discovered evidence that rainforest regeneration and conservation strategies have the capacity to recover biodiversity in human degraded rainforest habitats by up to 80 to 90% of primary rainforest levels. This includes the regeneration of the vast majority of species with the highest conservation importance.

The knowledge generated by our research fuels the foundation’s Enterprise Programme. This programme supports local community members to develop sustainable business models, with a focus on micro-farming (biogardens), sustainable agroforestry, ecotourism and ecosystem services. In 2015, we assisted in the creation of 10 new sustainable enterprises through approximately $50,000 USD of micro-finance loans. The programme provides the capital, training and resources local entrepreneurs need to form and grow sustainable businesses that transform local resources in a sustainable way. The training includes one-to-one sessions with local community members under the leadership of a local entrepreneur and sustainable visionary, Reynaldo Ochoa. Reynaldo accompanies community members through all the early stages of building their business models – and assists them to overcome any challenges they may face. You can watch this short video to find out more about Reynaldo’s work.

Our Education Programme supports the dissemination of knowledge and the training of the next generation of conservation scientists and sustainable entrepreneurs. In 2015, over 200 individuals took part in the programme. The focus is on experiential learning opportunities that transform the life skills and employability of participants – and at the same time enhance knowledge and understanding of the importance of a healthy environment. Moreover, our work with the Peruvian government helps build environmental education into the formal curriculum at secondary school level. It also provides an education outreach programme that takes local students out into the forest with biologists, tour guides and sustainability experts. We work with local technical institutes for course development and practical training, and also provide the wider public with fun and engaging information about the value of biodiversity, its role in ecosystems and how it can be managed sustainably.

And finally, what makes your Peruvian Amazon tour stand out from the crowd?

Our tours stand out from the crowd because they provide travellers with a deeper understanding of the complex issues of the rainforest, in addition to an incredible wildlife experience. Crees tours are led and guided by conservation experts with a wealth of knowledge about the region. The guides are able to inform travellers about all the amazing flora and fauna they encounter, and also about conservation research and community initiatives. Together these elements create a unique tourism experience that we hope has a profound impact on our customers. Our aim is for travellers to become ambassadors for crees and impart their learning experience on to others long after they return from their trip with us. Travellers have plenty of opportunities to talk to and learn from researchers and scientists undertaking pioneering projects, and it is these first hand experiences that make our tours special. 

You can find more details of the four-day Peruvian Amazon experience in the Discover section of our Peru Holidays: Inca Empire – Lake Titicaca & Machu Picchu Tour & The Treasures of Northern Peru Tour

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