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December 21, 2017

Protect Our Precious Biodiversity! Supporting Whole-Region Environmental Conservation in Central America

photoCentral America is a treasure trove of living creatures. A red-eyed tree frog is distinguished by its shape

Central America, which accounts for no more than 1 percent of the world's land surface, is a biodiversity corridor inhabited by 8 percent of the world's animals and plants.

Today, however, its ecosystem is in danger, and has been designated a "biodiversity hot spot."

JICA has cooperated on initiatives to protect biodiversity in Costa Rica and Honduras, and now is cooperating on an initiative to protect biodiversity in the entire region, going beyond national borders.

Confirming new jaguar habitat through citizen participation

In the background of this initiative are JICA's achievements in various countries.

For example, in the late 1980s, Costa Rica got good results with initiatives to conserve biodiversity. On the other hand, there was conflict between residents in and around protected areas and the government in charge of managing them.

So, since 2008, JICA has implemented projects with citizen participation. In a project that began in 2013, citizens set up "trap cameras" outdoors that automatically film when animals pass by. The project has conducted biological research in 175 locations throughout the country, far more than originally planned.

Achievements of the project include capturing on film the near-threatened species the jaguar and tapir in regions they were not known to inhabit. To analyze the footage, the project is sharing information and is forming a network of researchers.

photoGovernment workers and villagers observe birds with binoculars (Photo: Kenshiro Imamura/JICA) left, a jaguar filmed by a trap camera,right

And in Honduras, the borders of the Yuscaran Biological Reserve, the core of the La Union Biological Corridor, were registered in 1987, and later no longer reflected the actual situation. With cooperation from local governments and universities, JICA came up with new proposed borders for the reserve to allow the biological corridor to function effectively. In May 2016, stakeholders visited a project in Costa Rica to learn about cross-border ecosystem protection initiatives.

The whole region confronts issues beyond national borders

photo"Neighboring countries connected by forests, rivers and oceans must respond in step with one another," says JICA expert Norio Yonezaki

Most countries in Central America and the Caribbean share a common official language, Spanish, and a common cultural-historical background. Using this advantage, the Central American Integration System (SICA) was organized to advance the socioeconomic integration of the region. SICA makes ecosystem conservation and sustainable economic development priority areas.

SICA asked JICA, which has experiences from several projects, to implement the Strategic capacity building project for sustainable utilization and conservation of biodiversity in SICA Region, a project that aims to find ways for ecosystem protection and economic development to co-exist. In August 2017, JICA decided to start the project.

The project will aim to create a database relating to biodiversity in the region as a whole, and to create ecotourism models that allow ecosystem preservation and the economy to co-exist. It is JICA’s first technical cooperation project in cooperation with SICA.

"Environmental problems are difficult for one country to solve by itself. Neighboring countries connected by forests, rivers and oceans must respond in step with one another. To conserve the ecosystem corridor, we will support initiatives to be taken as a whole region," said JICA expert Norio Yonezaki, who was dispatched to the SICA General Secretariat as a SICA regional cooperation adviser.


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