No development without diversity

Protected areas secure people’s livelihoods. Biodiversity expert Kirsten Probst explains how GIZ is contributing to these efforts.

Kirsten Probstis responsible for biodiversity at GIZ.

Why is biodiversity important?
Humankind is altering habitats quickly and extensively, even in the most remote corners of the world. With the added problems of environmental pollution and climate change, livelihoods are at risk, as functioning ecosystems provide clean water, space for nature tourism, and protection from flooding, earthquakes and much more.

How can the loss of diversity be stopped?
Solutions have to work on many different levels. The establishment of conservation areas is an important strategy. These can take many different forms – the International Union for Conservation of Nature has defined six categories, ranging from strict nature reserves, where human visitation, use and impacts are strictly controlled, to protected areas with sustainable use of natural resources.

Focus on Africa

What is GIZ doing in this field?
GIZ is involved in around 50 projects, in which we advise partners on nature conservation in specific areas. These are commissioned by the German Federal Ministries for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) and the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMU). Half of GIZ’s projects are based in Africa, a quarter in Asia and a quarter in Latin America/the Caribbean.

What exactly does GIZ do?
In many cases, we advise national authorities on ways of enhancing their protected area systems. And we also advise on legal and institutional issues. In addition, in many projects and programmes, we foster local development in the regions surrounding the protected areas. With almost 1.6 million square kilometres placed under protection – more than most other countries – Brazil is an excellent example. GIZ has helped Brazil devise financing strategies and set up a course to train people to manage protected areas.

Involving the local population

What has GIZ’s involvement achieved?
Our project outreach spans more than 70 countries. A survey found that, between 2010 and 2015, GIZ directly or indirectly helped conserve a protected area measuring some 2 million square kilometres. That’s an area of land approximately 5.5 times the size of Germany.

How do you get those who live in these protected areas, including indigenous peoples, on board?
GIZ believes that using protected areas to conserve biodiversity is only feasible if the local population is involved in all decisions and if their rights and values are respected. Indigenous peoples, for instance, often engage in traditional economic activities or have sacred sites in the protected areas, whose borders frequently tend to overlap with their tribal lands. We map out solutions with all stakeholders in a bid to reconcile conservation and exploitation. If anyone loses a source of income following the designation of a protected area, we promote alternative options for generating income. Encouraging stakeholders to respect, protect and observe human rights, especially those of indigenous population groups, is a key guiding principle of GIZ’s work.

How does Germany’s engagement fit in with international agreements?
The Convention on Biological Diversity provides the internationally binding legal framework. We support our partners in implementing the convention’s aims: by 2020, 17 per cent of all terrestrial and inland waters and 10 per cent of all coastal and marine areas worldwide are to be protected and properly managed.

Interview: Helen Sibum

July 2018

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