Four countries where spotting birds is protecting biodiversity and increasing incomes

25 July 2017

By Hector E. Morales Jr. Board Member- National Audubon Society and Greg Watson, Lead Specialist Climate Smart-Agriculture at the Multilateral Investment Fund

Nestled among towering volcanoes, Guatemala’s Lake Atitlan is often described as one of the world’s most beautiful lakes. Four of the Central American region’s seven biomes meet in the Atitlan region, making it a biodiversity hotspot and a natural “gas station” for migrating birds. But here, as elsewhere in the developing world, a lack of economic opportunities often drives local residents toward activities that devalue local ecosystems for biodiversity and for the people who rely on them for resources.

To help protect these vital ecosystems, in 2014 IDB’s Multilateral Investment Fund (MIF) teamed up with Audubon to launch the Bird-Based Tourism Initiative, a program that promotes conservation in Latin America and the Caribbean by creating economic opportunities and incentives to protect wildlife and ecosystems.

Audubon and its partners are trying to turn bird-based tourism into a sustainable method of creating both economic opportunity and conservation action. Working with local experts and tourism authorities, Audubon developed a bird-guide training curriculum tailored to local cultures and languages, as well as basic business and hospitality training. The program also provided equipment for bird guiding and trail development, with the objective of creating a network of community-based birding destinations that offer skilled local birding guides, high-quality interpretation and lodging, food services, and related goods and services tailored to the birding market.

The Atitlan region is one of five sites chosen for the pilot phase of the initiative, which includes Belize, Paraguay, the Bahamas, and two regions of Guatemala. The goal of the initiative is to create economic alternatives that can raise incomes in communities living close to biodiversity-rich areas, while helping to conserve natural capital.

Project managers chose sites by layering poverty maps over maps of areas with high biodiversity that are likely to attract bird-watchers, which are among the fastest-growing segments of ecotourists. The target areas include some of the most threatened ecosystems in the region, many of which host migrating species that breed in the US and Canada.

Read the full article here

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