Afghanistan

ADB to help conserve ecosystems and wildlife resources in Afghanistan

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MANILA, PHILIPPINES (10 June 2005) - The Asian Development Bank (ADB) will help conserve biodiversity in selected protected areas of Afghanistan while addressing the basic needs of communities in the buffer zones, through a technical assistance (TA) grant package approved for US$1.785 million.

The TA is structured in two interlinked components: a protected area component and a buffer zone component.

The protected area component, financed with $975,000 from the Global Environment Facility, will help conserve global significant biodiversity in selected key protected areas. It will develop management plans and conduct biodiversity assessments; promote capacity building in protected area management; provide basic park infrastructure and field equipment for monitoring and surveying; develop ecotourism by emphasizing links between conservation and benefit for local stakeholders; and support key policy and institutional reforms.

The buffer zone component, financed with $810,000 from the Poverty Reduction Cooperation Fund from the Government of UK, will link development interventions to conservation goals through conservation stewardship agreements.

It will conduct participatory assessments of target communities to identify their needs and priorities for action and a strategy to reduce poverty while protecting natural resources. It will also provide skills training and promote the empowerment of women by providing alternative livelihoods.

The components will also pilot-test ways to improve food security and access to health and education, and will provide microfinance services.

"Local communities located within nature reserves and their buffer zones are highly dependent on natural resources to sustain and enhance livelihoods," says Ali Azimi, an ADB Senior Environment Specialist.

"Therefore empowering the local communities in the management of protected areas will be the strategic approach to promote socioeconomic stability among the rural poor while conserving natural resources within the protected areas."

More than two decades of devastating war have had a severe impact on the biodiversity of Afghanistan. Endangered species of plants and animals found in all representative ecosystems, ranging from the arid deserts of the southwest to the alpine valleys of the Hindu Kush, are under severe threat.

Afghanistan's first National Park at Bande Amir and five other wildlife reserves and sanctuaries established in the 1970s, after years of efforts, were abandoned along with other protected areas. Institutional development for the management of protected areas has also remained at a standstill during the last two decades, with experienced staff members needed to maintain the system of protected areas is nonexistent, neither have financial resources been allocated during the same period.

As Afghanistan's population is dependent on natural resources for economic and social welfare, the degradation of these resources has severely impacted the livelihoods of the poor.

"Successful poverty reduction and protected area management models that come out of this TA will be considered for broader application nationwide," adds Mr. Azimi.

The Ministry of Agriculture and Food is the executing agency for the TA, which is due for completion in November 2006. The Government is contributing $122,000 equivalent, toward the TA's total cost of $1.907 million.

The Asian Development Bank is dedicated to reducing poverty in the Asia and Pacific region through pro-poor sustainable economic growth, social development, and good governance. Established in 1966, it is owned by 63 members, with 45 from the region. In 2004, it approved loans and technical assistance totaling $5.3 billion and $196.6 million, respectively.

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