20 Sep 2012 -- The Global Environment Facility (GEF) and FAO have teamed up on a unique regional Pacific Island forestry project dubbed Forestry and Protected Areas Management (GEFPAS-FPAM) in Fiji, Samoa, Vanuatu and Niue. The project was launched at an inception workshop in Nadi, Fiji in July 2012 and is expected to enhance the livelihoods of island communities, strengthen biodiversity conservation and reduce forest and land degradation.
Rudolf Hahn an experienced forester is the project’s chief technical advisor, based in Fiji. He is also the project's regional coordinator. FAO teams are now in the four countries coordinating the implementation of the project's many activities and initiatives working with local people and organizations that share an interest in island forestry issues.
Saving unique species for future generations
Samoa, Vanuatu and Niue account for about 70 percent of the land area of the Polynesia-Micronesia biodiversity hotspot, where species endemism — when a species is only found in a given region or location and nowhere else in the world — is particularly high. Troublingly, one-third to one-half of these endemic species is threatened with extinction.
Despite the globally significant biodiversity, conservation is extremely weak in protected areas and the across the wider landscape. There are a number of reasons behind the weak conservation, including: resistance to change in local communities; poor coordination among various interest groups; lack of resources; lack of experience with community-based approaches to conservation; and, an inadequate and out-dated policy and legal framework.
In addition to the importance these islands hold for the conservation of global biodiversity, their natural resources are a major component of rural livelihoods and contribute significantly to the economies of the four countries. Also, maintaining a quality environment will support other important sectors of the economy like tourism and contribute to the overall health and welfare of island people.
A six part strategy to save eco-systems and create more sustainable jobs
Over time, the project will strengthen the sustainable livelihoods of local communities living in and around protected areas, while enriching biodiversity through conservation and reducing forest and land abuse. It will sustain important ecosystems in the protected area networks of the four countries and boost financial sustainability to manage the protected area. It will also reduce barriers to sustainable forest and land management.
There are six technical components to the project.
- Policy and legal reform;
- Extension and consolidation of the protected area network;
- Capacity building for community-based conservation management;
- Developing mechanisms for sustainable protected area financing;
- Sustainable use of biodiversity, and;
- Sustainable land management in forest areas.
Building capacity to sustainable conservation and forestry management
The project is expected to result in better overall environmental policies as well as improved legal and institutional frameworks. More effective and sustainable biodiversity conservation is another expected outcome. The project will ramp up capacity for biodiversity conservation and sustainable land and forest management among all interested groups and improve livelihoods for people by helping them market biodiversity goods and services as they turn away from poor land-use and forestry practices.
The project is being implemented over four years with an estimated budget of US$18 million. GEF will provide US$6.3 million, while US$2.2 million will come from national governments with other co-financiers providing US$8 million and FAO committing US$1.5 million.