Availability of funds at the local level is key to sustainable conservation

by Abdullah Ahmad, Bangladesh, ELP 2014
Written on August 6, 2014.

How funds play a role in ensuring effective conservation efforts
Most of the biodiversity rich areas in developing countries are located away from the urban areas. Usually rural and/or indigenous communities live in and around those areas and use the natural resources for their lives and livelihoods. Effective conservation efforts often require enough investment. Even in some cases, conservation efforts require providing alternative livelihood support to local community members to reduce their dependency on critical biodiversity resources. Therefore, availability of enough funding is central to ensure biodiversity conservation. However, in most cases, those areas local administrations or local governments hardly have the capacity to invest for conservation of the critical natural resources.

The current scenario in my country
In Bangladesh, the Department of Forests (FD) and Department of Environment (DoE) under the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) are responsible for conservation of biodiversity. FD manages the protected areas and the natural and social forests. DoE is mainly responsible for pollution control, yet mandated for the conservation of significant biodiversity found in some government declared Ecologically Critical Areas (ECAs).

Along with regular activities, FD and DoE takes up specific projects to achieve specific conservation objectives. All these projects of FD and DoE are time bound and mostly funded by foreign donors. In some cases there is funding from the national government, but only partially. Being a developing country with a lot of other priorities, it is great help to receive financial assistance from donors to implement conservation projects to protect biodiversity resources. However, in long-term consideration, it may not be a sustainable option and has some disadvantages. In most cases, conservation activities cease immediately with the end of the project due to lack of funding. In addition, many of these projects are unable to implement activities on time due to procedural difficulties. Furthermore, often donors have their preference for certain activities or conservation of certain species to promote their own logo. Such biases of donors often fail to address actual conservation needs. Thus locally established continuous sources of funds may help avoid such conservation challenges to some extent.

Provision of the Endowment Fund
The Department of Environment (DoE) carries out biodiversity conservation activities in the ECAs in a participatory approach where a local level administration, known as Upazila Administration, is a key partner along with local community members. To ensure continued availability of conservation funding at the local level, DoE has established the Endowment Fund for the Upazila Administrations (UAs) located within the ECAs. A limited amount of funds have been given to each of the UAs as fixed term deposits. The principal amount of the endowment fund is not utilized ever. Ninety percent (90%) of the interest generated from the fund is utilized by the UAs. Of that amount, 60% is used for conservation activities and the rest 40% is used for operational costs of the UAs (like meetings, travel costs, etc.). The remaining 10% of the total interest is added up with the principal amount and thus the principal amount keeps growing larger every year. There is a specific set of guidelines developed by Department of Environment and approved by the Ministry of Environment and Forests for utilization and management of the Endowment Fund. Thus when there is no project or funding from any sources, still the UAs are able to carry out some conservation activities on their own using the Endowment Fund. There are also some challenges in the utilization of Endowment Fund. There is no way to misuse the fund, however often times with the change of Upazila Executive Officers, the UAs see significant change in leadership. In some places, the Upazila Executive Officers are not committed enough for conservation and thus the fund remains underused. Yet, the Endowment Fund is a great option and the government and NGOs should give it a better shape and explore more such possibilities. Shifting conservation initiatives from the central government to the local level will ensure better sustainability.

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