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3346 - Demonstrating Sustainable Conservation of Biodiversity in Four Protected Areas of Russian Kamchatka Krai, Phase II - Russia

3346 - Demonstrating Sustainable Conservation of Biodiversity in Four Protected Areas of Russian Kamchatka Krai, Phase II - RussiaPhoto: Adriana Dinu/ UNDP

Kamchatka is recognized as one of the WWF's Global 200 Ecoregions, due to its globally significant biodiversity. Its ecosystems include arctic and alpine tundra, boreal coniferous forests, temperate deciduous forests, freshwater lake ecosystems, freshwater wetlands, and marine inshore waters. The volcanoes of Kamchatka are listed under the UNESCO World Natural Heritage Site register as places of outstanding beauty. The Peninsula shelters approximately 15,000 brown bears and is the center of distribution for the largest eagle in the world, the rare Steller's sea eagle. Approximately 1,800 endangered northern sea lions live along its coast, as does the only population of sea otters in the western Pacific. Fifty percent of the global population of Aleutian tern nest on the Peninsula. Kamchatka's streams and coastal waters host some of the world's greatest diversity of salmon, trout, and char. The main threats to Kamchatka's biodiversity are the poaching of bear and fish, uncontrolled visitation, and fire.

The Global Environment Facility -funded project aims to demonstrate sound conservation management approaches in four existing protected areas in Kamchatka as a model for sustainable management of the system of Protected Areas on the Peninsula. Each of these Protected Areas contains representative, globally significant biomes, species assemblages, and ecosystems. The project is working to develop sustainable alternative livelihoods for local communities, biodiversity awareness and advocacy, and sustainable financing mechanisms for Protected Areas. The key implementation agency for this project is the Ministry of Natural Resources of Russia.

The project has been actively engaged in environmental education and public awareness, establishing fully operational visitor centers in two parks. It has performed a wide range of outreach activities involving schools, the business community and the general public at large. The project also supported an economic assessment of ecosystem services in Bystrinsky National Park. To strengthen ecotourism development, the project constructed accommodation and other tourism facilities in Protected Areas, and has trained PA staff to manage tourists and provide interpretation services. The four Protected Areas were fully equipped with automotive and field gear to meet short-term and mid-term monitoring and conservation needs. The project helped to further integrate GIS and a biodiversity database into PA management, thereby facilitating PA management planning.

Other significant achievements of the project include:

Curbing illegal poaching. The project created inter-agency anti-poaching brigades by bringing together police and representatives of various agencies responsible for natural resource management and protection. By 2009, this approach began yielding results, evident in a reduction of poaching incidents and in a better reporting of violations

Micro-credit facility and sustainable PA financing. However, it became evident that, while poaching had been reduced in the four targeted four Protected Areas, there seemed to be an increase in poaching outside their borders. Apparently, enforcement alone will not be sufficient to reduce poaching. The project determined that a root cause of poaching was the lack of alternative sustainable livelihood opportunities. To address this larger issue, GEF capital was committed to the Small and Medium Enterprises Support Fund "Sodruzhestvo" (SMESF), an institution created by the project. The GEF funds were mixed with the SMESF's capital, and invested in biodiversity-friendly income-generating projects. A share of the revenues from the interest earned on credits will be channeled to the Protected Areas of Kamchatka, through the Kamchatka Krai Protected Areas Association, another organization established with project support. Thus, this micro-crediting mechanism supplies sustainable, low-risk and low-cost investment in biodiversity management, revenue generation for the Kamchatka Protected Areas, and accessible financing for local entrepreneurs.

The value of the micro-credit facility for Protected Areas and local people cannot be overstated. Since the mandate of the SMESF is not restricted to the four Protected Areas under the project, the Fund is benefiting the entire PA system on the Peninsula. By early 2010 the SMESF became fully self-financed, with its services in high demand. As of late 2009, the SMESF has issued 738 micro-loans to communities, totaling some US$ 8.7 million.