In a novel regional program that uses bird-watching to create sustainable jobs in communities while simultaneously protecting biodiversity and natural resources, the Multilateral Investment Fund (MIF), a member of the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) Group and the National Audubon Society today announced a $2.6 million agreement to achieve a niche, high-value sustainable birding tourism program in the Americas.
“We are very pleased to partner with the National Audubon Society on this program,” said Carrie McKellogg, chief of the MIF’s Access to Basic Services and Green Growth unit. “Audubon’s powerful network and expertise in birding and conservation, the MIF’s innovative approaches to capacity building of micro and small businesses, and our shared interest in the sustainable management of natural capital all combine to create to build what we believe will become a powerful model for conservation-minded community development.”
“It’s win-win,” said David Yarnold, president and CEO of the National Audubon Society. “The MIF’s deep expertise in ecotourism and our extensive network and reach will help us engage local communities to create much-needed jobs in bird-rich areas for birders – who typically have a very light ‘eco-footprint.’ At the same time, the partnership will provide a sustainable way to conserve natural habitats for endangered migrating and non-migrating birds and other wildlife.”
Project locations in Belize, Guatemala, Paraguay and The Bahamas were selected by ‘layering’ globally significant Important Bird Areas for conservation over economic maps with priority being given to sites with basic tourism infrastructure and potential for growth.
Audubon will build on partnerships with local organizations, including Belize Audubon Society, Asociación Vivamos Mejor and Wildlife Conservation Society in Guatemala, Guyra Paraguay and the Bahamas National Trust.
The total cost of the 36-month program is $2.6 million, with the MIF providing more than $1.7 million, Audubon contributing $629,000 and Audubon partners providing $225,000.
The project incorporates four key components:
- Improving the structure and capacity of bird-based tourism business, developing accredited bird guide curricula, training national guides, developing site-level business plans and developing bird trails;
- Driving more bird-focused tourism to the sites by developing marketing content for Audubon magazine and other birding media channels, designing birding trip packages with international and local tour operators, organizing market events for each country, and integrating bird-watching content into national governments and tourism websites in each country;
- Raising awareness about the value of the local natural environment and promoting local citizen science bird research programs;
- Developing a “scalable” bird-based community tourism model that can be applied to other locations/countries.
Priority Birds and Other Wildlife
The project is designed to support the conservation of national protected areas and Important Bird Areas; Audubon’s priority migratory bird species including Wood Thrush and Piping Plover; endemic endangered birds including the Bahama Oriole, Scarlet Macaw and Resplendent Quetzal; and other wildlife including the Jaguar, Maned Wolf and Rock Iguana.
About the MIF
The Multilateral Investment Fund (MIF), a member of the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) Group, is funded by 39 donors and supports private sector-led development benefitting low-income populations and the poor - their businesses, their farms, and their households. The aim is to give them the tools to boost their incomes: access to markets and the skills to compete in those markets, access to finance, and access to basic services, including green technology. A core MIF mission is to act as a development laboratory - experimenting, pioneering, and taking risks in order to build and support successful micro and SME business models. More information at www.fomin.org.
Now in its second century, Audubon connects people with birds, nature and the environment that supports us all. Our national network of community-based nature centers, chapters, scientific, education and advocacy programs engages millions of people from all walks of life in conservation action to protect and restore the natural world. Visit Audubon online at www.audubon.org and follow @audubonsociety.