Georgia’s Agency of Protected Areas (APA) performs the critical function of managing its precious Protected Areas’ (PAs) system. From Prometheus Cave to Borjomi-Kharagauli, APA is responsible for maintaining protection against poaching and illegal logging, ensuring visitors’ safety and promoting the value of Georgia’s most beautiful asset – its nature.
Like most of the world, Georgia has been affected by the coronavirus pandemic and while the number of infected cases is overall quite low, the effects on APA have been severe. While rangers were still patrolling, and administrations continued to function over the past few months, due to an assured loss of tourist revenue this year, the budget for APA has dramatically shrunk – from more than €7 million to a little more than €4 million.
The Caucasus Nature Fund, a German Foundation primarily financed by Germany’s Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) through the KfW Development Bank (KfW), is a long-term partner providing financial and technical assistance to Protected Areas in the South Caucasus. This annual funding ensures a basic level of financing – in addition to governmental contributions – for operational costs such as vehicles, uniforms, salary supplements, and small-scale infrastructure at 20 PAs in Georgia.
While in 2020, CNF had already committed more than €700,000 directly to PAs’ operational costs, the extraordinary circumstances produced a budget deficit. Luckily, CNF was able to provide an “emergency grant” of an additional €1.2 million which will cover salaries and operating costs for much of Georgia’s PAs’ system in 2020.
At a signing ceremony the Minister of Environmental Protection and Agriculture Levan Davitashvili expressed his gratitude to CNF for the increase of funding in this time of great need. Geof Giacomini, CNF’s Executive Director stated, “It is not only CNF’s job to support the PAs, but our privilege in this unpredictable situation to have been able to provide additional funding which ensures the progress we have made over the past few years can be maintained; crucially, this includes salaries for rangers and other staff at PAs, as well as equipment and small eco-tourism products which will allow APA to continue to develop this year and begin 2021 in an even stronger position.”