Russia: Better conservation for the environment and the economy


The Kamchatka peninsula , far east of Russia, is home to steaming geysers, simmering volcanoes, snow-capped mountains and a wide variety of plants and animals. The rare Steller’s sea eagle soars through its skies, while the only population of sea otters in the Western Pacific finds shelter along its coast.

The peninsula is recognized by UNESCO’s World Heritage List, and ranked by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) as one of the world’s most important ecological regions.

Highlights

  • $16.5 million over three years committed by the central Government to develop ecotourism.
  • Doubling of local employment rates and the size of the local economy.
  • 25-year commitment of funding for conservation from a microcredit service for local businesses.

In the 1990’s, however, the region’s wildlife came under threat. Following the collapse of the Soviet economic system, Kamchatka’s local population – about 340,000 people – met hard economic times. Many turned to illegal poaching to scrape by, and unprecedented numbers of brown bears, snow sheep, reindeer, marine mammals and salmon began disappearing.

In 2002, national and regional government partners, with assistance from UNDP, launched an international conservation programme to improve livelihoods and better protect the environment. With support from the Global Environment Facility (GEF), the Canadian Government and the Moore Foundation, the programme has worked to improve professional management of four protected areas: the Kronotsky State Biosphere Reserve, the South Kamchatka State Sanctuary, Bystrinsky Nature Park and Nalychevo Nature Park.

The programme made targeted investments in infrastructure, equipment and staff. Over 1,000 staff members were trained in tourism development, environmental advocacy and management effectiveness.

The protected areas also set up their first geographic information systems to help identify poaching patterns and allow close monitoring of species critical to environmental health.

Benefits for livelihoods

Better management of the protected areas linked directly to the programme’s other major goal: to improve livelihoods for people while relieving environmental stresses. In the area near Bystrinsky Nature Park, the UNDP/GEF programme provided training in business development and responsible tourism, and equipped entrepreneurs with skills to start businesses and generate jobs.

Since 2003, the local economy has more than doubled in size. The employment rate has also doubled, and local residents are discovering ways to balance their needs with those of their environment. One company providing guided fishing tours employs 10 fishing guides who once worked as poachers.

Read the full story in our publication "Empowering Lives, Building Resilience"