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Empowering Decision Makers to Restore Panama’s Forest Landscapes


In Panama, ELTI trains farmers, indigenous leaders, extension agents and officials on forest restoration and sustainable agriculture practices. In 2013, ELTI established training landscapes in the tropical dry forest ecosystem of the Azuero Peninsula around long-term forest restoration research areas carried out by the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies (F&ES) and the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI). To facilitate experiential learning, ELTI developed demonstration areas, networks of interpretive trails and model farms where science is synthesized and integrated into the training curriculum, field guides and field exercises. Such scientific information would otherwise be inaccessible to many people who are making decisions about land uses. ELTI team members facilitate field courses with local experts, such as the Association of Livestock and Agrosilvopastoral Producers of Pedasi (APASPE), the first sustainable livestock association founded in Panama by ELTI alumni.  Local farmers bring valuable insight from their personal experiences on their own farms. As co-facilitators of ELTI courses, APASPE members communicate the benefits of restoration in a culturally sensitive and practical way. ELTI's approach to conducting field courses promotes understanding of restoration principles, engages participants with active exercises, illustrates the importance of science in decision-making and, as a result, prepares participants to make informed decisions about the implementation of restoration strategies.

Unique to ELTI’s work is their post-training mentoring support, which helps ELTI alumni accomplish their goals by putting course themes into practice. Alumni receive professional support to develop community associations, technical assistance to develop projects, guidance to write grants and additional training to learn specific skills according to their own interests and needs. These additional steps set ELTI apart from capacity development programs by ensuring that alumni achieve tangible results and feel empowered to continue training and inspiring others. Over the past decade, ELTI has conducted over 50 training events in Panama and trained over 1000 people.

A new chapter for ELTI started in 2018, when it became affiliated with the Center for International Sustainable Development (CIDES) of the City of Knowledge. We are excited to become part of this diverse and collaborative network to expand the efforts to disseminate science and practice and to provide environmental education and leadership development opportunities for the benefit of Panama’s forest landscapes. Additionally, in 2018 ELTI began receiving support from the Interamerican Tropical Tuna Commission (IATTC) and the Achotines Laboratory, where they “support the ELTI Program in Panama in order to provide an important contribution to reforestation training, regional watershed restoration and conservation of coastal ecosystems in Panama.”


This half-day forum will focus on three main objectives:

  1. Inform the public about ELTI’s efforts to strengthen environmental and leadership capacity in Panama
  2. Start a dialogue about opportunities for collaboration between ELTI, City of Knowledge and affiliated initiatives
  3. Provide a forum for ELTI alumni to showcase their efforts of putting their environmental knowledge and leadership into action