The non-profit organization ALUS Canada is supporting farmers and ranchers in developing projects that contribute to healthy ecosystems through clean air, clean water, and increased biodiversity. Recognizing farmers as key players in maintaining healthy ecosystems well into the future, ALUS Canada funds their partner communities who work directly with farmers in implementing projects on their land.
As CEO of ALUS Canada and a rancher himself, Bryan Gilvesy came to focus on ecosystem services through his own personal experience. “It dawned upon me one day that a farm is capable of producing much more than traditional food and fiber. And the fact that we choose to farm also identifies something within us that is useful to ecosystem services. That is, we care about the natural environment, we’re connected to it deeply.”
ALUS Canada works with 20 communities in six provinces across Canada. Within these communities, 722 farmers and ranchers are participating in the more than 15,500 ecosystem projects currently in place on the ground.
“The community-based approach of ALUS is unique, and we also think it’s the sort of foundational piece, it’s almost a magical piece of what makes this program work,” says Gilvesy. “We engage individuals by engaging a whole community. What the community-based approach allows us to do is harness our collective energy, of people that see more value in farms, and farming, and rural communities, and are learning how to apply that knowledge.”
By working with communities rather than a single national model, the organization is able to develop alternative land-uses that work with the needs of each farmer or rancher. Some of their key projects include planting native pollinator habitat, reforestation, and wetland restoration. In total, the land involved in these projects covers more than 18,000 acres.
With their newest initiative, the New Acre Project, ALUS Canada hopes to take their impact even further. Branching out from institutional donations, New Acre will allow individuals and organizations to contribute directly to the development of further projects. Through this new initiative, ALUS Canada hopes to engage an even wider community in the production of ecosystem services. Individuals and organizations now have the opportunity to contribute directly to the society-wide services from which they benefit.
Between 2011 and 2015, ALUS Canada transferred nearly CAD$2.8 million (approximately $2.2 million in 2015 USD) to its ALUS communities. In the coming years, they hope to expand that impact by touching more farmers and ranchers, forming new community partnerships, and engaging the wider public in the importance of farming to our healthy ecosystems. As Gilvesy sees it, ALUS Canada is a wide and supportive community. “We have a big doorway, and many people from different farming backgrounds, and different styles of farming, in different parts of the country, in different regions of Canada, can walk through the same portal.”