24 Jun How can we achieve financially sustainable biodiversity?
Genetic, species and ecosystem biodiversity can be a foundation of sustainable development if there are diverse and innovative financial solutions for its global and local conservation. Some of these solutions are described in a Sourcebook on sustainable financing for biodiversity, ecosystems and protected areas in the Western Balkans. The sourcebook was oficially presented at a promotional online event as part of the Open Regional Fund for South-East Europe – Implementation of Biodiversity Agreements (ORF BDU) project.
Financing species conservation and ecosystem protection and restoration, both within and outside of protected areas, is a burning issue in all the Western Balkans countries. Centralized management of protected areas, scarce budget, and the lack of diverse sources of finances severely hinder biodiversity conservation.
According to the Shadow Report by Coalition 27, in 2018, over RSD 245 million was allocated from the budget of Republic of Serbia for conservation of protected natural areas of national interest. This amount is alarmingly small, considering the way these finances are allocated.
“Given that most of these funds are spent on employee salaries, maintenance of facilities, purchase of equipment etc. only a small part of the fund remains for the necessary investment in practical protection and improvement of the state of nature in protected areas through revitalization and maintenance of habitats and the recovery of species,” the report says.
Shining Examples from Natura 2000 Network
Encouraging cooperation and networking between protected areas is a key to biodiversity conservation, species protection, and stable financing. This idea was behind creating Natura 2000, a network of protected areas in European Union. Its goal is ensuring long-term conservation of the most valuable and endangered species and habitats in Europe.
Natura 2000 is a home to some of the best practices for sustaniable financing solution in nature protection. The campaign of branding products from this eco-network has a goal of raising awareness among consuimers about the importance of nature protection and its benefits for habitats and local economy. At the same time, the process of branding stimulates partnership between protected areas managers, local farmers and tourist organizations.
One of these intiatives was developed in Spain, in the regions of Castile-La Mancha and Castile and Leon. Legumes, almonds, and other products from these regions are packed and sold with branding that promotes their organic agriculture origin and the importance of this type of food production for nature conservation. In the last four years, around 400 farmers were included in this initiative.
Allocating only a small portion of the profits from these branded products and their reinvestment in nature conservation is one way to make biodiversity conservation sustainable in the long run.
Diversifying financing sources is also needed for nature protection efforts in Serbia.
“Just like we heard at the presentation, the key is in diversification and constant work. In Serbia, there are large, state-funded institutions and enterprises in charge of managing protected areas. They are not interested in finding new financing sources. On the other hand, we have numerous small organizations, such as Nature Conservation Movement at the Special Nature Reserve of Zasavica, who start numerous initiatives in the areas of tourism, education, and agriculture,” says Coordinator for Policy and Networking at Young Researchers of Serbia, Milka Gvozdenović.
However, new problems easily pile on. Natural disasters such as floods and Covid-19 pandemics easily affect the budget for protected areas management. “If there are no visitors, there are no additional funds, and then it is difficult to cover all the requirements for protecting these areas. Due to greater frequence of extreme weather, it takes careful planning and constant involvement to sustainably finance nature protection and biodiversity conservation, both in cooperation with the governmental institutions and with their support,” Gvozdenović added.
The Sourcebook on sustainable financing for biodiversity, ecosystems and protected areas in the Western Balkans can be a great starting point for new ideas and initiatives in this sector. The Sourcebook is available on this link.