Asia Regional Biodiversity Conservation ProgramRATIONALE
The Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) is an area of significant ecological importance harboring globally important and irreplaceable elements of biodiversity. It is also one of the fastest growing regions in the world, with GDP growth in 2004 ranging from 5.8% in Cambodia to 8.8% in China. There is concern that increasing development activities in the economic corridors may negatively impact on critical ecosystems and important biodiversity areas by fragmenting natural landscapes.
In Asia, the loss of biodiversity is occurring at an unprecedented rate—primarily the result of the conversion of forested areas to agriculture and the degradation of the wider landscape of forests patches and agricultural fields. There is mounting concern that protected areas can undermine the livelihoods of the poor, especially women, who are heavily dependent on forest resources. Many past and current initiatives have attempted to address these issues by adding-on community development activities to conservation programs. Few have lived up to expectations. Unclear and conflicting objectives, inadequate spatial scale, weak governance mechanisms, and limited stakeholder engagement in the process have prevented realistic options and tangible incentives to mitigate threats and/or realize adequate returns from conservation activities from being achieved.
The program's objectives are to:
Second phase (October 2008 – September 2010). In September 2008, USAID awarded Winrock a two-year extension to consolidate achievements in the initial pilot site and to directly apply lessons learned in other parts of the GMS. The Asia Regional Biodiversity Conservation Program (ARBCP) will undertake the following key activities under the extension:
Supplemental Funding (October 2009 – September 2010). In September 2009, USAID/RDMA awarded Winrock supplemental funding to add the following key activities during year five:
The ARBCP, extended an additional two years, is now composed of three main, mutually reinforcing task areas with two additional areas focusing on regional cross-cutting activities and management and reporting requirements.
The three main task areas are:
Regional cross cutting activities and communication and reporting requirements include:
In its most significant achievement to date, the ARBCP has catalyzed a prime ministerial decision that provides the legal framework under which payments for watershed and aesthetic environmental services can be legally made in Vietnam.
In its first three years, the ARBCP has successfully established and mainstreamed the idea that forest environmental services provide higher economic values than those generated under traditional forestry practices. Analysyes and assessments for environmental services all suggest that an increased focus on developing forest management values based on environmental services and alternative livelihood development strategies more likely to provide them are feasible.
The national pilot PES policy (Decision 380) creates enabling conditions under which payment for environmental services mechanisms will be implemented and evaluated in 2009 and 2010 as a basis for establishing later national legislation by the end of 2010. In support of this policy, the Lam Dong Provincial People's Committee has drafted a provincial biodiversity conservation action plan with ARBCP support.
This landmark national pilot PES policy is the first in SE Asia. The program has generated great interest of other ASEAN nations through two regional stakeholder roundtables to raise awareness and share lessons learned in the GMS. Two stakeholder round tables and awareness raising activities in Cambodia led to a request by the Minister of Environment for the program to assist in developing a pilot PES policy for Cambodia.
At the local level, initial ARBCP PES and livelihoods pilot activities have demonstrated tangible outcomes that have improved the livelihoods of the rural poor, including ethnic minority and women-headed households, strengthening their land and resource tenure in the process. The ARBCP has also supported a range of alternative livelihood options within the value chains of the bamboo and essential oils sectors resulting in increased incomes for 1,400 households with over 50 percent of the revenue generated by women.
The program has trained 600 households in value-added processing and has developed public partnerships with 11 enterprises to provide market access, technology, finance and employment at the Da Teh pilot site. These achievements have established successful linkages between biodiversity conservation, sustainable and sustained economic development, poverty reduction, and support for economic development in downstream provinces. ARBCP has set the conditions for improving forest management and increasing environmental services benefits for millions of stakeholders in the GMS.