Community-based landscape conservation in Armenia

ECF Caucasus_CarmenKuntz
Published: 28 June 2019
Last edited: 30 July 2019
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Summary

The Eco-Corridor Fund for the Caucasus (ECF) is a funding instrument supporting community-based biodiversity conservation in Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan. Eco-corridors are created by connecting various classifications of parks and protected areas across all three countries. ECF uses contractual nature conservation agreements and a clear set of processes to fund ecologically sustainable land use in specific regions and selected communities in Armenia. The result is an interconnected mosaic of managed and unmanaged habitats under various land categories and classifications. These community-managed landscapes protect, connect and support healthy native ecosystems while ensuring the socio-economic status of the communities involved is not harmed or diminish, and in many cases is improved. ECF is a not-for profit, practical conservation organization funded by KfW Development Bank and WWF Germany.

Classifications

Region
West Asia, Middle East
Scale of implementation
Multi-national
Ecosystem
Agro-ecosystem
Agroforestry
Area-wide development
Connective infrastructure, networks and corridors
Cropland
Forest ecosystems
Freshwater ecosystems
Orchard
Rangeland / Pasture
River, stream
Temperate deciduous forest
Temperate evergreen forest
Urban ecosystem and build environment
Theme
Agriculture
Connectivity / transboundary conservation
Ecosystem services
Habitat fragmentation and degradation
Land management
Protected area management planning
Sustainable livelihoods
Challenges
Land and Forest degradation
Loss of Biodiversity
Unsustainable harvesting incl. Overfishing
Conflicting uses / cumulative impacts
Poaching
Erosion
Ecosystem loss
Invasive species
Inefficient management of financial resources
Lack of access to long-term funding
Lack of alternative income opportunities
Lack of technical capacity
Lack of public and decision maker’s awareness
Poor monitoring and enforcement
Unemployment / poverty
Sustainable development goals
SDG 1 – No poverty
SDG 8 – Decent work and economic growth
SDG 15 – Life on land
SDG 17 – Partnerships for the goals
Aichi targets
Target 5: Habitat loss halved or reduced
Target 7: Sustainable agriculture, aquaculture and forestry
Target 11: Protected areas
Target 14: Ecosystem services
Target 15: Ecosystem restoration and resilience
Target 18: Traditional knowledge
Target 20: Mobilizing resources from all sources
Business engagement approach
Direct engagement with associations
Indirect through financial institutions
Indirect through government

Location

Areni, Ar | Areni Community, Arpa Protected Landscape | Zangakatun Community, Gndasar-West Community Conserved Area (CCA) | Sisian Community, Shahaponq (CCA)| Zaritap Community, Zaritap (CCA) | Yeghegis Community, Gndasar East (CCA)

Challenges

Land-use management in Armenia falls under the authority of multiple decision makers, classification systems and management approaches. With multiple stakeholders, agendas and land uses, biodiversity conservation becomes difficult to promote, monitor and maintain. Local dependence on the landscape for subsistence living results in limited environmental conservation awareness and consideration. Low average household incomes promote outmigration by younger demographics and also forces locals to seek livelihoods that place pressure on the ecosystem through unsustainable land-use like unsustainable forestry, illegal logging, poor pasture management and unregulated grazing causing both economic and environmental challenges. As a result, there are limited wild areas where native plant and animal species can exist naturally. Poaching, overhunting and human-wildlife conflicts further challenge biodiversity objectives. 

Beneficiaries

Areni Community, Arpa Protected Landscape | Zangakatun Community, Gndasar-West Community Conserved Area (CCA) | Sisian Community, Shahaponq (CCA)| Zaritap Community, Zaritap (CCA) | Yeghegis Community, Gndasar East (CCA)

How do the building blocks interact?

Each building block builds towards the signing of a Conservation Agreement (CA) and the accompanying 7-10-year habitat management or conservation plan. 

  • Identifying the priority conservation areas dictates the areas communities can participate in the Financial Participatory Approach (FPA).
  • Assessment of the readiness of each community is achieved through the Financial Participatory Approach (FPA) which is an inclusive and participatory tool designed to generate autonomous development strategies.
  • The establishment of community-based organizations (CBOs), which assist each community create a relationship with local NGO who will oversee the administrative aspects of a CA. 
  • Securing long term land-use rights for the community means that the local ranger program can provide ongoing wildlife monitoring, poaching prevention and coordinate sustainable land-use without the obstruction of land-use disputes. 
  • Signing a long-term Conservation Agreement puts to use all the data, research and community-strengthening practices from the previous steps and directs the community to reach the attainable and effective conservation objects. 

Impacts

ECF is improving habitat connectivity in the Caucasus by combining local knowledge and community action with scientific data and modern land-use management practices.The creation of eco-corridors link parks and protected areas, contributing to the preservation of biodiversity inside and outside protected areas and across national borders. The “Financial Participatory Approach” is a community-based approach that works in parallel with landscape models. This process helps ECF identify communities that are ready to commit to conservation goals while simultaneously developing a trust-based relationship. This is the first step towards a “Conservation Agreement” and has positive, trickle-down effects that empower locals to become decision makers and stewards of natural resources while developing pride and protection for key species. Improved pastoral and agrarian productivity and financial incentives encourage the marriage of conservation and community well-being. “Conservation Agreements” reward and empower locals to preserve nature and local culture, leading to the creation of community-based conservation organizations and sustainable land-use plans that consider biodiversity as part of the local economy. Specific monitoring process are implemented, including assigning “Caretakers” who monitor/track wildlife movement and enforce anti-poaching laws. 

Story

Eco-Corridors Fund - Carmen Kuntz

ECF’s caretaker program’s goal is to provide ongoing wildlife monitoring, poaching prevention and coordinate sustainable land use and has had great success in Armenia, not only in terms of conservation initiatives but also in community involvement.

 

The caretaker program in Artavan village in the Vayots Dzor province of Armenia, is an example of program’s success. One of the challenges ECF faces in Armenian communities is outmigration, with young people leaving villages to seek education and employment. Ganik was one of those people, a young man preparing to leave the village he grew up in, to seek work. He was identified by community leaders as an active and respected member of the community; two key traits needed for the caretaker position. After an interview process the caretaker position was offered to him and he has since remained in the village, starting a family there. He has been trained in conservation methods, equipped with a uniform, means of transportation as well as communication and monitoring equipment. He works closely governmental protected area staff to relay information about wildlife observed and potential poaching infringements.

 

Samvel is another caretaker who is diligent at tracking and wildlife monitoring, spending much time in remote mountainous areas counting Bezoar goats and other wildlife species. He is also active in promoting and assisting tourism that is arriving in the region, sharing his  knowledge of trails, sightseeing locations and local roads, which often makes him the first point of contact for foreigners. The freedom and community involvement of his position as caretaker means that he can also us the caretaker jeep to help visitors get to trail heads.

 

Caretakers from Arpa Protected Landscape have been involved with monitoring of the Caucasian leopard, confirming the effectiveness of eco-corridors across Caucasian countries. A WWF employee captured footage of another young Caucasian leopard in the Khosrov Forest State Reserve (1hr from Arpa), making this discovery extra special. This individual leopard traveled roughly 250 km across the border from Azerbaijan to Armenia and through the mountains of Vayotz Dzor and Zangezour. 

 

By giving local people the training, education and decision-making power to participate in active landscape management, ECF’s caretaker program is proving that nature conservation does not have to impede local economics and traditional way of life.

Contributed by

Carmen Kuntz Eco-Corridors Fund Caucasus, World Wildlife Fund (WWF), KfW Bankengruppe (KfW)

Other contributors

Eco-Corridors Fund for the Caucasus