28.06.2009. UNDP/GEF Project supports an International Conference on Sustainable Livelihoods and Biodiversity Conservation in Altai
The International Conference ‘Sustainable Livelihoods for the Local Population as an Economic Mechanism for Biodiversity Conservation’ took place on 25th-28th June near Gorno-Altaisk. The conference was held within the framework of the UNDP/GEF Project ‘Biodiversity Conservation in the Russian Portion of the Altai-Sayan Ecoregion’ and organized jointly by the government of the Altai Republic, the regional community-based organization ‘Consultative Center’, the non-commercial partnership ‘Orion’ and the Altai National Nature Reserve.
The conference was attended by more than a hundred participants from Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Mongolia, France and Russia (Kemerovo oblast, Krasnoyarsky krai, Altaisky krai, Tyva and Khakassia Republics, Ural, Kamchatka and Moscow). Participants included representatives of the regional and local governments, authorities of protected areas, members of academia, scientific and research institutes, associations of small indigenous communities of the Altai-Sayan ecoregion, local small entrepreneurs and NGOs.
In the course of the first two days of the conference, 25 speakers made presentations describing the experience and achievements of projects conducted in the Russian, Kazakh and Mongolian parts of the Altai-Sayan ecoregion and worldwide for sustainable livelihoods development and cooperation enhancement between the local population and the protected areas. The presentations were followed by a round table for the authorities of regional protected areas and a representative of the Ministry of Natural Resources, giving the participants an opportunity to share their experience in the management of protected areas, and learn about the best practices for involving the local population in the conservation activities. At the same time eight workshops were organized by local artists and craftsmen working with wood, wool, stones, ceramic, and leather. The guests had a chance to try various techniques and make their own souvenirs, such as wool scarves and Russian folk dolls. Souvenirs made by local women were put on sale, together with wool products brought by craftsmen and designers from Mongolia and Kyrgyzstan, and had tremendous success.
On the third day of the conference, two field trips were organised for the participants, who had a chance to see for themselves the achievements of the regional conservation and development projects. One group visited three nature parks, Uch-Enmek, Argut and Chui-Oozy, located in the Ongudai region of the Altai Republic, where significant progress had been made in the last few years by UNDP/GEF and WWF projects for sustainable development of the local communities. The visitors learned about the development of ethnic and ecological tourism in the region, about the production of souvenirs by the local population. They were then taken on a guided gastronomic and cultural tour in the region, stopping to see prehistoric rock carvings and the botanic garden.
Meanwhile, the second group visited Teletskoe lake in the Altai National Nature Park, included into the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The visitors met with the director of the non-commercial partnership ‘Teletskoe lake Council’ created under the UNDP/GEF project with the objective to facilitate communication between all the stakeholders and allow efficient problem-solving in matters of biodiversity conservation and social and economic development of the local villages. The group took a boat to the Korbu waterfall, where facilities for ecological tourism are being developed to support small commercial activities, providing a model of cooperation between the Reserve authorities and the local population.
The most significant result of the conference was to strengthen communication between local actors and to establish new ties in the conservation and development areas at the regional, national and international levels. The conference allowed direct exchange of queries and information between the local administration, the authorities of the protected areas and the representatives of communities in need. For many it was also a rare opportunity of crucial importance to learn about the experiences of their neighbours, the progress and results of UNDP/GEF and WWF activities undertaken in the Altai-Sayan ecoregion, and discover sustainable development practices used across Russia as well as internationally.
The event was also important for the development of transboundary cooperation to achieve sustainable livelihoods in the region. The delegates from Mongolia and Kyrgyzstan expressed their interest in joint work with the local communities and their particular readiness to support projects related to the production of woollen goods in the region.
A Resolution was prepared to conclude the conference, stressing the necessity to spread the project’s results and best practices in biodiversity conservation and sustainable development to other vulnerable sites in the region, and to strengthen cooperation and communication between various stakeholders.
Overall, the three-day conference had great success and received very positive feedback from the participants, who expressed their hopes that similar events take place more frequently in the future.
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