This initiative will help finance the conservation of natural protected areas in the long term. During its first stage, 9 million dollars will be invested to catalyze the financial mechanisms to support biodiversity conservation in the Amazon biome.
How to finance the management of natural protected areas in Peru in the long term? This is, without any doubt, a difficult question given the vast natural heritage they protect, which includes 70 national parks, reserves and other territories that cover an area twice the size of countries such as Guatemala or Hungary. Ultimately, the solution to this puzzle came from an innovative financial model imported from Wall Street that was launched in Peru through an initiative that seeks to conserve nature through the development of recreational and tourism activities.
“This project represents a paradigm shift in our vision of conservation management, moving from a short-term vision to a long-term one, focused on generating mechanisms that reinforce State institutions so that they have the resources and capacities needed to achieve the effective management of these areas” says Isabel Filiberto, project manager for WWF-GEF Agency.
The initiative “Securing the future of natural protected areas” is led by the Peruvian State, through the National Service of Natural Protected Areas (Sernanp) and is receiving funding from GEF which will, in its first stage, contribute 9 million dollars to the fund that aims to raise an additional 70 million dollars from various sources to support 38 protected areas in the Amazon. For the time being, six priority areas for conservation have been pre-selected, which add up to more than two and a half million hectares: the Pacaya Samiria National Reserve, Alpahuayo Mishana, Río Abiseo National Park, Tingo María National Park, the Machiguenga Communal Reserve and the Tabaconas Namballe National Sanctuary.
“This effort aims to close the financial gap of our protected areas, which accounts to approximately 14 million dollars per year, for which WWF has worked with Sernanp since the beginning, providing technical support to adapt this model from the world of finance and, finally, as an agency that implements these global funds “, explains Jessica Villanueva, conservation finance specialist.
Key spaces for national development
Natural areas treasure a multitude of resources that benefit human beings, such as water or the diversity of flora and fauna. These are the so-called “ecosystem services” and, in spite of the complexity of assigning them a value, an investigation of the Universidad del Pacífico conducted in 2009, estimated them at approximately 16 billion dollars in benefits for Peruvians and the world.
Additionally, the conservation of protected areas is key to dealing with climate change. Peru hosts the second largest area of Amazon rainforests in the world with over 70 million hectares, which hold more than 1.8 billion tons of carbon, a figure higher than the annual carbon emissions released by the energy sector throughout the European Union, amounting to approximately 1.1 billion tons in 2014.
This initiative also seeks to generate mechanisms for long-term financial sustainability through the promotion of sustainable economic activities of natural resource management, or through the strengthening of ecotourism. These conservation areas hide a great economic potential. A study by the aforementioned university shows that the incomes of local populations living in or adjacent to protected areas are 8.3% higher than those of people living in other areas. This is because they promote the sustainable use of resources for local benefit. In the Tambopata National Reserve and in the Bahuaja-Sonene Natural Park, for example, the commercialization of Brazil nuts reached 500,000 dollars in 2015, benefiting approximately 700 people.
Photo: © WWF