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May 11, 2017

Learning About Profiting from Biodiversity

Back in September we told you about the launch of the Biodiversity Finance Initiative (BIOFIN). The United Nations Development Programme, with support from the European Union and other partners, is financing this initiative.  A one point six million dollar package will be invested over the next two years on a biodiversity finance strategy to ensure that protected areas are properly managed. The Ministry of Forestry, Fisheries, Environment and Sustainable Development, along with a number of local partners, has been working on this plan and this week they hosted members from other participating BIOFIN countries learn from their experiences. News Five’s Andrea Polanco has more.

 

Andrea Polanco, Reporting

Belize is hosting a cooperation exchange with BIOFIN countries of Costa Rica, Colombia and Guatemala. The purpose of the south-south exchange is for Belize to learn from the visiting partners on how to better manage its biodiversity. This initiative helps countries to measure their biodiversity expenditures and assess the financial needs and then identify the appropriate finance solutions to bridge the national biodiversity finance gaps.

 

Omar Figueroa

Omar Figueroa, Minister of Fisheries, Forestry, Environment & Sustainable Development

“The south-south brings these guys to help us as we develop our own financial strategy relating to biodiversity management. So, the idea here is of course for us to learn from the mistakes they have done and where they haven’t made mistakes but have made tremendous accomplishments, for us to look at those and learn from them as we develop our own financial strategy which in essence will be tailor made to meet the needs of our country.  One of the persons that we have here with us today is the former Minister of Finance of Costa Rica who leads the biodiversity initiative there, right. And he keeps telling us that BIOFIN is not an environmental programme; it is not a biodiversity programme; but that we have to look at it as a finance initiative having the biodiversity start to pay for itself so that at the end of the day it is sustainable. We have the resources in this country that can allow us to do that. We have to manage them in a manner that at the end of the day is sustainable.”

 

And proper management of our biodiversity, with the suitable financing behind it, can reap multiple benefits – after all the biodiversity supports several of Belize’s industries.

 

Omar Figueroa

“There will be tremendous rewards for the country; more money will circulate; we will have a lot more jobs and the more jobs we have that depend on biodiversity the better off we will be because then people will begin to understand the need to conserve this biodiversity. We also need to look at the tourism industry which is the number one foreign exchange earner which is critically linked to our natural and cultural resources of this country. So, if we want to develop and sustain tourism, we need to understand the core components on which tourism depends.”

 

Andrea Polanco

“A lot of people tend to think that we are not reinvesting in these areas. We are taking the money and putting it in other areas. Is there any part of that plan that looks at how tourism can give back more to these sites?”

 

Omar Figueroa

“Exactly. It will all be incorporated here. Not only is money not coming back the way it should, but we may also be underselling a lot of our critical areas; you mentioned those ones like the blue hole and we need to understand that Belize is unique in offering these destinations and we have to ensure that the visitation that gets there that the charges are appropriate to the experience. So we need to revisit the entire way we look at these protected areas and tourism destination sites.”

 

Reporting for News Five, I’m Andrea Polanco.

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Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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