Tourist feeding tortoise / Credit: UNDP Seychelles
Seychelles has 25 Protected Areas (PAs), which is a combination of both marine and terrestrial areas totalling to 55,769 hectares (ha.) In 2000, the former President of Seychelles, Mr James Michel made a commitment to declare 50% of the country’s terrestrial area under biodiversity conservation. Additionally, in 2013, the government announced its intention to protect 30% of Seychelles’Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), an area of 400,000 km˛, which is being assisted by a Debt-for-Adaptation Swap agreed with the Paris Club in December 2015.Identifying and implementing sustainable financing mechanisms to support the effective conservation management of both the existing and proposed expanded PA network is a significant challenge, and is being supported through the GOS-UNDP-GEF Protected Areas Finance project. This is a five-year project which began in April 2016 with a total budget US$ 2.776 million.
As a result of the project, Seychelles has recently developed its first national-level financial plan for its PA network.“The plan both provides a strategy for achieving the financing needs of the existing and potentially expanded networkas well as supports the achievement and reporting of international commitments towards the Aichi Targets,” said the Finance and Economics Advisor of the GOS-UNDP-GEF Project, Mr Andrew Rylance.
“The Seychelles Protected Areas act as banks for preserving natural capital for future generations. They are also significant contributors to the economy of Seychelles, namely the tourism and the fishing industries, the two largest sectors. However, what we didn’t know before was how much revenue the PAs generated collectively, how much they cost to manage and how much additional funds they need to improve biodiversity management. Now we do - and this provides us with a strong foundation to inform strategic decision-making,” noted Andrew Rylance.
He added that the financial plan “prioritises a number of financing options to develop a diversified financing portfolio as well as identifying opportunities for PAs to spend their limited financing in a more cost-effective manner through collaboration and cost-sharing between PAs.”
The financial plan is not an end in itself – it has helped to kick-start a process. The project has also implemented a willingness-to-pay assessment of tourism entrance fees, an assessment of the Seychelles National Parks Authority’s (SNPA) tourism products and infrastructure,and a revision of the Authority’s fees collection system – the last supported with financing from the UNDP Biodiversity Financing Initiative (BIOFIN). “If we strengthen the tourism products and services offered by SNPA, align pricing with current demand, and streamline the fee collection and reporting system, we can create a fundamental shift in the financial outlook for the Authority” noted Andrew Rylance. “But it doesn’t stop there. The project is now supporting the SNPA to prepare a Strategic Plan to ensure that the potentially increased revenue is spent in a cost-effective manner and has a significant positive impact on biodiversity conservation in the country. We are trying to improve the means for our rangers and conservation officers to perform their functions properly”.
The plan for sustainable financing of the Seychelles PA network aims to optimize their existing flow of funds from tourism before diversifying into non-tourism financing, such as payments for ecosystem services and biodiversity offsets. This is a learning process for all the PAs, so a collaborative forum will be established for all PAs to share their experiences and expertise, strengthen cooperation, and improve the management and cost-effectiveness of the PA network.
For more information, please contact Daig Romain (Project Manager) firstname.lastname@example.org or Andrew Rylance (Finance and Economics Advisor) email@example.com, who are keen on sharing its experiences as well as learn from other countries facing similar circumstances.
Vallee De Mai Trail / Credit: UNDP Seychelles
Stakeholder participants during the validation workshop / Credit: UNDP Seychelles