Protected Areas Friends Association supporting conservation of the unique forest ecosystems in Georgia

Irakli Tabatadze
Published: June 2019
Last edited: July 2019
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Summary

When the Machakhela National Park was established in 2014 here was a significant level of misunderstanding, mistrust and opposition by local communities to the NP and to any actions in the valley that were perceived as restricting existing land use and livelihoods. It was identified that the locally based NGO could play an important role in promoting the PAs, building local community and PA collaboration and in addressing development priorities for both the PAs and local populations. The Mtirala and Machakhela Friends Association was established in 2016 and has been undertaking a variety of activities to build PA/Local Community relationships and collaboration ranging from Junior and Community Ranger Programs, organization of ecological visits by outside schools, tourism promotion, and application/implementation of local development projects with donor funds. Particular efforts were focused on functional capacity building of the Friends Association and ensuring its sustainability.

Classifications

Region
East Europe
Scale of implementation
Subnational
Ecosystem
Forest ecosystems
Temperate deciduous forest
Theme
Biodiversity mainstreaming
Connectivity / transboundary conservation
Outreach & communications
Protected area governance
Protected area management planning
Sustainable livelihoods
World Heritage
Challenges
Land and Forest degradation
Loss of Biodiversity
Conflicting uses / cumulative impacts
Ecosystem loss
Lack of alternative income opportunities
Lack of public and decision maker’s awareness
Poor governance and participation
Sustainable development goals
SDG 11 – Sustainable cities and communities
SDG 15 – Life on land

Location

Machakhela National Park, Khelvachauri, Georgia | Mtirala National Park, Georgia
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Impacts

Key initiatives supported by the FA’s included establishing Community Rangers and Junior Rangers in both NP’s.

The Community Ranger project selected and worked with 7 representatives from 5 buffer zone communities; They have received training on biodiversity monitoring; collected field data was analysed and used by the NP administration.

The Junior Rangers projects covered 9 schools from the villages near 2 protected areas, involving 120 schoolchildren; They participated in 14 eco-education tours in different protected areas of Georgia; attended project writing training, developed small grant projects and received funding.

These projects were very popular among locals and have greatly contributed to raising environmental awareness of youth and developing change of attitude of the community members towards the Protected areas to positive side.

To ensure sustainability of provided support and continue Junior Rangers initiative, in each of nine school’s eco-clubs were established. Both NP administrations and FA continue cooperation and provision of necessary support to the eco-clubs.

Strategy and Financing Plan - a mid to long term strategic plan was developed to provide the Friends Association with a roadmap and guidance to its staff on how to achieve its mandate and at same time become financially self-sustaining, while not compromising FA's core mandate and objectives.

Contributed by

Irakli Goradze