The Board of Directors of BIOFUND approved at its last meeting an emergency plan of up to three million dollars to help mitigate the economic impacts of COVID-19 in the conservation sector.
This support is intended to help maintain the jobs of up to 950 of the 1,600 rangers in the National System of Conservation Areas, so as to guarantee the preservation of the country’s biodiversity during a phase in which the economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic are seriously affecting the conservation sector.
In Mozambique, the sectors most affected by the extreme measures which had to be adopted to hold back the spread of infections by the new coronavirus are tourism and the hotel and restaurant industry.
According to recent data, more than 22,000 people working in leisure and tourism in Mozambique have lost their jobs.
However, reducing frontline staff cannot be an option in the National System of Conservation Areas, where protecting the natural assets has to be permanent. Without the presence of the rangers, the slaughter of endangered wildlife species and the illegal logging of precious hardwoods might rise to even higher levels than those we experienced in the recent past.
In the public sector it is unlikely that this dismantling of the protection of Conservation Areas will occur since the majority of rangers, guards and agents who work there are state employees or work with contracts that cannot be summarily terminated – regardless of the crisis situation.
The same cannot be said of the private sector where the lack of any revenues may well lead to the reduction of staff or the temporary suspension of their contracts.
Currently, the private sector manages 67% of the area formally protected in the country, covering approximately 14 million hectares. More than half of the country’s rangers are employed by the private sector. Paradoxically, this sector is not generally considered in the measures to mitigate the economic impact of COVID-19, because the companies responsible for their management, as for-profit entities, are not a priority in the distribution of emergency funds, despite the significant importance of the areas they manage for the national biodiversity conservation targets.
The emergency plan that BIOFUND has just adopted has two phases:
- An initial phase, for immediate application, under which a non-reimbursable support fund is made available to private conservation operators, to cover the payment of three to six months’ wages to the rangers. An additional amount will also be made available to cover the wages of the relatively few rangers in the publicly managed areas currently paid out of ANAC revenues, which have also evaporated due to the crisis.
- A second phase, with the granting of reimbursable and non-reimbursable support for the payment of wages and other forms of support to the conservation areas, as in Phase One – as well as support for the communities in the immediate surroundings which, because of the COVID-19 crisis, have lost some of their habitual revenue.
The total value of this Emergency Fund could reach 3 million dollars in the next 6 to 18 months. Of this value, $1,000,000 has come from accumulated but as yet unused revenues from the endowment fund, and $2,000,000 will be used from the capital of the endowment fund as zero-interest loans to the conservation areas managed by the private sector.
Financial projections done by the foundation have shown that emitting short term loans (to be paid back by 2023) will in fact have very little impact on the foundation’s grants programs in the long run. This is one way to show the significant added value that Conservation Trust funds have, being able to quickly mobilize additional resources in a crisis.
With the support it channels to protected areas under State management since 2016, BIOFUND was already providing benefits to about 5 million hectares of the national territory. With the new fund, it will now be supporting about 19 million hectares.