Making the business case: Securing increased budget for biodiversity in Georgia

georgia event
georgia event

A 1000% spike in funding for biodiversity programs has been secured for the Ministry of Environment Protection and Agriculture in 2019.

The small country of Georgia, nestled on the southern slopes of the Caucuses mountain range is home to rich biodiversity and is part of two global biodiversity hotspots. It is very high in plant and animal endemism with over 1000 plant species found only in the region.

A wide array of ecosystems is concentrated in a relatively small area contributing to the uniquely high level of species including iconic vertebrates such as brown bear, wolf, East and west Caucasian turs, Red deer, golden eagle and falcons.

Biodiversity and ecosystem services make a significant contribution to the Georgian economy. It also supports livelihoods and key sectors in the economy including tourism, agriculture, mining and energy (hydroelectricity in particular).

But in 2016 the country’s budget for the programs run by Forest and Biodiversity Department was only US$30,000. Important activities to conserve and manage these natural assets were simply not possible.

Through the rigorous assessments done through BIOFIN, it was clear that the capacity of the Ministry of Environmental Protection and Agriculture (MEPA) to mobilize a larger budget was lacking, and a new approach through results-based budgeting would simply and effectively increase the resources needed.

BIOFIN has supported the implementation of this finance solution through building the capacity of the government. It produced, together with MEPA, a four-year vision with eight directions with clear indicators for success to present to the Ministry of Finance.

Tornike Phulariani, BIOFIN’s National Coordinator in Georgia, said that previously it was difficult for the Ministry of Finance to understand why the money was needed for biodiversity more than other sectors.

“It was important to show what would the state gain with the requested money and how it would benefit socio-economic development,” he said. “Providing better indicators of each penny spent was needed as well as highlighting the links with the country’s international biodiversity obligations. It all helped us gain this much higher allocation of funds.”

With an increase to USD $270,000 in 2019, the Ministry can now implement the programs needed to achieve its goals, that could not be implemented for many years due to lack of adequate funding.

For example, a program to study human/wildlife conflict in a country where wolves kill livestock, but there is little knowledge about the actual situation on the ground the drivers of this conflict.

Increased funding will also support development of management plans for the sites of Emerald Network, established in line with the Bern Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats. This action also contributes to achieving of Aichi Biodiversity Target 11 on protected areas.

Some other activities are also linked to the trade of plant species and genetic resources. The Ministry will assess the stock of commercially traded plants to establish scientifically based harvest and export quotas.

“This is the first year the Biodiversity and Forestry Department received funding for conservation programmes in such amounts. Obviously, this is not sufficient for all intended projects,” said Carl Amirgulashvili, head of the Biodiversity and Forestry Department. “Though, based on success this year we hope to gradually increase funding for future years and obtain additional co-financing from donors,” he said.