$6.8m conservation boost for over 15 protected areas

Over fifteen protected areas, including one managing monk seals off Mauritania and another in Sumatra that is home to orangutans, tigers and elephants, are to receive a US$6.8 million conservation boost.

This was announced last week Thursday at the 10th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity in Nagoya, Japan, by the government of Spain and the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) in a new partnership for protected areas under the LifeWeb initiative.

The partnership, supporting mainly low income and developing countries, aims to deliver benefits, not just for biodiversity but for communities living in and around protected areas.

For example, as per the initiative, some of the funds will support improved health services for local people in the Garamba National Park in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Also, in Panama and El Salvador, support to the Mesoamerican terrestrial protected areas will help develop innovative economic and legal instruments to promote sustainable use of biodiversity and ecosystems through their social and economic values, and the ecosystem services.

A statement publicising the partnership says it will also support the establishment of new protected areas that in turn can generate new streams of incomes for local people. This includes improving links between existing national parks and marine reserves in West Africa, to create a protected area network for sea turtles, in Cote d’Ivoire, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau and Senegal.

Commenting on the initiative, Teresa Ribera, Spain’s Secretary of State for Climate Change, said: “The growth in Protected Areas is one of the real success stories of conservation over the past half century. The challenge is to ensure that as many as possible of these around 100,000 sites are well-managed and in a way that maximises livelihood and income opportunities for people alongside securing the biodiversity and economically-important ecosystems found at such important sites.”

“Our government’s investment is aimed at achieving these triple win goals and realising the opportunities at initially 11 demonstration projects on marine, coastal and terrestrial protected areas. In doing so, it is making a contribution to advancing the biodiversity targets and the poverty-related UN Millennium Development Goals,” she continued.

For his part, Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary-General and UNEP Executive Director, said: “I want to thank the Government of Spain for their leadership and support by investing in these nature-based asset – assets providing services such as water supplies, soil fertility and carbon storage worth trillions of dollars a year to local and indeed the global economy.”

He stated that “The evidence linking poverty eradication and protected areas is also emerging,” disclosing, “A recent report by UNEP’s Green Economy team for example cited Costa Rica. Here wages and employment have risen and poverty has been reduced since the protected area estate was expanded to some 26 per cent of the country’s land surface.”

Mr. Steiner cited other cases, including from the UNEP-hosted, The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB), where investment in sustainable management are triggering dividends.

He listed such areas as Venezuela, where investment in the national protected area system is preventing sedimentation that otherwise could reduce farm earnings by around US$3.5 million a year.

The UNEP Executive Director also said investment in the protection of Guatemala’s Maya Biosphere Reserve is generating an annual income of close to US$50 million a year, has generated 7,000 jobs and further boosted local family incomes.

On the other hand, the protected areas to benefit from the UNEP-Spain LifeWeb partnership include, for Africa, the Takamanda National Park in Cameroon, where funds will provide economic incentives to conserve the habitat of the rare Cross-River Gorilla with additional benefits for curbing climate change linked with deforestation.

Other areas in Africa are the Garamba and the Kazuhi-Biega National Parks in the Democratic Republic of Congo where funds will support improved conservation of various rare and endangered species including the Northern white rhino, chimpanzee, elephant and gorilla, the Lossi Fauna Reserve and the Nouabalé-Ndoki National Park in the Republic of Congo where it is planned to boost tourism and thus income for local people by hiring locally-recruited park staff.

The rest are the Iles d’Orango National Park, João Vieira-Poilão National Park, Rio Cacheu Mangroves Natural Park in Guinea-Bissau, where funds will be used to conserve threatened species such as manatee, sea turtles and migrating water birds and to develop strategies to reduce harmful fishing, as well as Sea Turtles Marine Protected Areas Network in four West African countries through the reinforcement of conservation measures to protect sea turtle populations, considering the risks caused by the sea-level dynamics in littoral ecosystems and climate change effects.

The last in Africa is the Banc d’Arguin National Park in Mauritania, where funds will support the critically endangered Mediterranean monk seal and its associated habitats. Surveillance measures will also be reinforced in the Satellite Reserve of Cap Blanc, to help conserve the natural habitat of the seal and seal populations in the region, while funds will also go towards public awareness activities in the marine protected areas.

For Asia, the beneficiary areas will be the Gunung Leuser National Park in northern Sumatra, Indonesia to help restore degraded habitats that support species including orangutan, rhinoceros and tigers.

In the case of Mesoamerica however, the beneficiary area is the Volcán Barú National Park in Panama, and La Montañona Conservation Area in El Salvador, where the aim is to develop the economic and legal mechanisms to increase the sustainable use of natural resources, and develop linkages among biodiversity, ecosystem services, and human well-being on the basis of environmental and socio-economic values.

For the South and Northeast Pacific and Wider Caribbean, it will be the Marine Mammal Corridors and Critical Habitat in the South and Northeast Pacific and the Wider Caribbean Regions, which will be strengthening regional platforms to improve spatial planning for marine mammals protection and to develop within the regions, an overview of essential habitats and migration routes.

The LifeWeb Initiative was launched in May 2008 during the ninth meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity, in Bonn, Germany, with the goal of strengthening financing for protected areas to conserve biodiversity, secure livelihoods and address climate change, through implementation of the CBD Programme of Work on Protected Areas.

As part of the initiative, developing countries and countries with economies in transition are invited to submit expressions of interest through Life Web to invite financial support for protected areas from development partners.

Currently, the governments of Finland, Germany and Spain are the principal donors to Life Web.

By Edmund Smith-Asante

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