Without action to protect biodiversity at a time of disappearing habitats and increased poaching, black rhinos, Sumatran tigers, western lowland gorillas and thousands of other animals are on the verge of extinction.
The loss of iconic species is a tragedy with broad and deep impact. Animal, plant and marine biodiversity keeps ecosystems functional. Healthy ecosystems allow us to survive, get enough food to eat and make a living. When species disappear or fall in number, ecosystems and people—especially the world’s poorest—suffer.
Biodiversity is especially important to the poor—75 percent of whom live in rural areas and depend on nature for their food and livelihoods. The World Bank Group is committed to protecting biodiversity around the world. A leading financier of biodiversity conservation, the Bank has over US$ 1 billion actively invested in protecting nature and wildlife. The Bank is also the largest provider of development assistance to fight environment and natural resources crime, with US$ 300 million invested in forestry, fisheries and wildlife law enforcement.
Take the case of Sierra Leone, where overfishing and pollution dramatically lowered the volume and diversity of fish stocks. The Bank worked with communities to bring the marine ecosystem back to life by improving surveillance and prosecution of illegal fishing, and providing training on sustainable fishing practices. Nutrition and livelihoods have improved for local villagers as a result. “Without the fish, it would be very, very bad,” says Addie, a young woman from Freetown, Sierra Leone. “For most, fish is the only protein available. Without the fish, we would get thin and weak—we would die.”
Bank support has helped protect 480,000 hectares of coastal zone in Guinea-Bissau for its resident marine life and an emerging tourism industry. By giving residents in Brazil’s Acre State resources to manage their forest resources sustainably, the Bank helped push deforestation rates down by 70% and raise real GDP by over 44%
The Bank engages communities in biodiversity conservation through incentives for nurturing the environment. In Kenya, a World Bank-supported project around Nairobi National Park paid 338 households to remove fences from their fields and allow wildlife to use an additional 22,000 hectares of adjacent land. Wildlife populations increased and families used income from this arrangement for school and medical fees, as well as livestock. The Bank also helped introduce participatory forest and pasture management in 251 communes covering 307,665 hectares in Albania. This led to sustainable management of community resources, reforestation of 1,634 hectares, and an 8% increase in incomes for participating communities.
Investments in biodiversity can create jobs and raise incomes. The Bank’s US$ 5.5 million investment in South Africa’s Greater Addo Elephant National Park spurred millions in private sector investment, and created 614 jobs for people living in the surrounding areas. A project that supported conservation and sustainable management of forests and rural areas in Honduras increased community incomes by over 300% and created over 8,000 jobs.
Everything is connected. World Bank-supported reforestation in the hills of Rio, Brazil has been good for wildlife and people. “I’ve seen so many canaries, bluebirds, toucans and monkeys lately,” said community leader Nilza Roza. Healthy wildlife populations signal that the water table, which provides reliable water for the city, is working. Reforestation has also made communities safer from landslides, restored trees that absorb carbon dioxide and earned revenue-generating carbon credits for the city.
When we protect animals and plants, we also protect the ecosystems that underlie our economies and well-being.