Russia's fragile far-east gets eco-boost from small grants to communities

16 Dec 2010

Brown bears in Kamchatka Peninsula,
Russian Federation.
(Photo: UNDP)
Kamchatka - Aimed at cutting unprecedented levels of poaching that threaten the unique and fragile habitat of Russia’s far-east Kamchatka peninsula, communities of mostly women and indigenous people are using funds from a global environment initiative to set up long-term conservation projects.

With endangered animals including 15,000 brown bears and 1,800 northern sea lions, and sensitive arctic and alpine forest and water ecosystems, the Kamchatka Biodiversity Conservation project this year awarded 73 small grants, 70 percent to women and 26 percent to indigenous people.

In addition to creating anti-poaching brigades, the project - established in 2002 through the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and Global Environment Facility – set up a support fund to provide community-level financing for biodiversity-friendly income-generating projects.

"A large number of local businesses and entrepreneurs can access our services," said Svetlana Prosina, Director of the project’s Small and Medium Enterprises Support Fund 'Sodruzhestvo'. "This means new jobs and new opportunities for local communities to explore environmentally friendly economic activities as an alternative to poaching."

By 2010, teams of police and resource management agencies had conducted 150 raids in nature parks - resulting in investigation of 44 cases - and communities had set up Russia’s first salmon reserve and biodiversity-sensitive hatcheries, and fully operational visitor centres in two parks.

The project worked in four main river systems along the peninsula's western coast from 2004 to 2007, reducing poaching for caviar at this major salmon spawning ground and piloting fishery approaches that counter depletion of stocks.

A share of the revenues from the tourism sites is channeled to the 11 percent of Kamchatka designated a Protected Area through the Kamchatka Protected Areas Association, established with UNDP support.

The Kamchatka conservation initiative is also supported by the Canadian International Development Agency and the Moore Foundation.