This morning, BIOFIN initiative was launched. BIOFIN, Biodiversity Finance Initiative a partnership between the UNDP and the Government of Belize. Collin Young, Chief Executive Officer in the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, Fisheries and sustainable Development spoke about BIOFIN and the challenges Belize faces to protect biodiversity resources.
“Today we are here to launch what is called the Biofin Initiative which is short for Biodiversity Finance Initiative which is a partnership with UNDP that will see Belize getting one point six million dollars for three years to finally undertake a comprehensive assessment of our Biodiversity expenditure as well as to calculate what is the financing gap required for us to continue to protect our biodiversity. Major issue there is that we don’t have sufficient resources to protect all our biodiversity that is in our protective areas. Currently just from our protective areas point of view we need about an additional twenty million dollars per year to do a basic job. If we want to manage our protected areas and the biodiversity they contain in a better way we need about forty million dollars per year. As a result this initiative is going to try to find innovative mechanisms that involve the private sector to allow us to invest in protected areas so that we can continue to protect our biodiversity. So the main issue really is the cost to protecting our biodiversity is much more than what we have to invest. We have to find other ways to raise money to protect our biodiversity for now and for future generations.”
Young also spoke about the direct link between the people and biodiversity resources.
“Why is it important for us to put enough resources and finance to protecting that area?”
That is a very good question and I think that is where we have generally failed in terms of not demonstrating to the public at large the link between biodiversity management and sustainable development or economic growth for that matter. When we look at the value for example of jaguars and Scarlet Macaws, Tapirs and the pull they have in terms of bringing tourists to the country which then has its own benefits for hoteliers, guides and companies and so on that is a very specific link. In terms of other species like Rosewood, Mahogany and other resources; Fisheries, Agriculture, it all depends on the biodiversity. If we didn’t have bees and butterflies that pollinated some of our crops for example the cost of producing these goods would be tremendous. When we look at the watersheds that we have and the value that it provides to keep our waters clean, all of those are what we call as ecological services that are provided to us for free. It is our responsibility to ensure that we protect those areas that they could continue to perform those functions.
Young spoke about the government’s and NGO’s participation in protecting biodiversity resources and stated that the Private Sector needs to be more involved.
“What is being done by the government or by NGOs to ensure the sustainability for generations to come?”
“Well the government currently through the Protected Areas Conservation Trust through its recurrent budget to the forestry and fisheries department and coastal zone invests millions of dollars annually to maintain the efforts that we currently have. NGOs similarly, the also mobilize resources from donors to help protect the areas that we have. Belize is a leader in the world in setting aside protected areas. We have set aside about twenty eight percent of our national territory including land and sea protected. This is remarkable. On land it is over thirty six percent and so this comes at a tremendous cost and what I said earlier, we know that the amount of money needed is vastly greater than what we have. So we have to maintain the efforts that we have now and we have to explore additional ways that we can find resources and I think that one of the ways that is kind of missing is the involvement of the private sector. Many of the private sector including the financial system; the banks don’t have instruments that they can use for investment in protected areas. So part of the initiative is to look at ways that we can invite people to participate for protection of our biodiversity.”
The launching ceremony was held this at the Radisson Forth George Hotel and Marina.