The Danube PES Project: E-bulletin, January 2014

Danube PES project logos.  rel=
Danube PES project logos.
Iarna in Maramures, Romania
This project promotes and supports land managers who help us sustain the benefits that we all get from nature. The project is implemented by the WWF Danube-Carpathian Programme with the financial support of the GEF through UNEP and the European Commission.
Irene Lucius: "Climate change is expected to lower predictability and thereby increase ... / ©: WWF / Andreas Zednicek
Irene Lucius: "Climate change is expected to lower predictability and thereby increase economic risks."
© WWF / Andreas Zednicek
Dear Friends,

Happy New Year! May it open new horizons, bring us much inspiration and give us the strength to continue serving people and nature!

In the second half of 2013 we worked hard on capacity building and facilitated cooperation on our pilot schemes before the project comes to an end in 2014. 

During the same period, key experts from Bulgaria and Romania’s national administrations were trained to design payments for ecosystem services - as a next step after training to identify and assess ecosystem services at national level and main drivers for their loss. This led to uniting the efforts of the conservation and scientific communities, as well as of public institutions in a joint project on mapping and assessment of ecosystems and their services in Romania.

The fourth meeting of the Project Steering Committee members took place in October. This time the meetings were held nationally, shifting the focus to specific issues at national level. The interest of the Ministry of Finance in Bulgaria and the Managing Authority of the Operational Programme for Fisheries in Romania was affirmed, providing new opportunities and valuable advice for our pilot PES schemes.

This is perhaps a good time to announce the dates for the closing workshop of the Danube PES project - 2-6 June 2014 in Maramures, Romania. This closing event will gather all project partners to share their experience in PES and to discuss the future of the pilot schemes. But there is plenty of time until then and much work to be done!

Thank you again for your interest and cooperation.

Irene Lucius
, Project Director


Danube PES schemes and lessons learnt presented at Round Table on Ecosystem Services. / ©: WWF Bulgaria
Danube PES schemes and lessons learnt presented at Round Table on Ecosystem Services.
© WWF Bulgaria
WWF organised a Round Table on ecosystem services in Bulgaria in order to gather stakeholders from NGOs and the Bulgarian government to discuss the integration of ecosystem services into national policies. The first step involves their identification, mapping and assessment. The Danube PES team presented the concept of ecosystem services, the schemes developed in Bulgaria and lessons learnt. WWF's pilot schemes provide the very first assessment of ecosystem services conducted at a national level in Bulgaria. Full story


Ecosystem services reach people. / ©: WWF Bulgaria
Ecosystem services reach people.
© WWF Bulgaria
Recognizing the role of the media, WWF conducted a training for Bulgarian media in green economy and ecosystem services, part of a series of events dedicated to media capacity building for environmental issues. During the course of the project, the Danube PES team has dealt with hundreds of people, who are directly or indirectly related to ecosystems and their services. However, ecosystem services deserve mainstreaming and recognition by all Bulgarians. Media is the shortest way to people’s hearts, so that ecosystems and their services are better understood and supported. The training presented the importance of assessing and valuing ecosystem services, of their integration into policies and of the payments for ecosystem services. Media representatives raised valuable questions related to pressures on our nature by infrastructure development, correctly noting that knowing values of ecosystem services would change the ordinary cost and benefit analysis of infrastructural projects in favour of nature.


Maya Todorova is the Project Manager of the Danube PES project. / ©: WWF DCPO Archive
Maya Todorova is the Project Manager of the Danube PES project.
© WWF DCPO Archive
The multi-stakeholder dialogue was organised by FAO in Rome with the aim to discuss lessons learnt from RPE/PES projects around the world. The Project Manager was invited to present the Danube PES project. Maya Todorova focused on one of the pilots, the payment scheme for cultural ecosystem services in Rusenski Lom. This pilot was among the few originating from Europe. Questions raised to the Project Manager related to the legal framework and its development, as well as communications. Some of the most important lessons for the Danube PES team from this workshop were: involvement of institutions from the start of PES design is crucial for its success; communications of ES and PES is challenging; it is necessary to bundle ecosystem services to ensure sustainable funding for their management and restoration (especially the case of carbon-related PES schemes); ecosystem services restoration and maintenance require more than just voluntary involvement of buyers - this involvement should be probably mandatory. Access the Danube PES pilot presentation and brochure here.


PSC meetings in Bulgaria and Romania. / ©: WWF Bulgaria
PSC meetings in Bulgaria and Romania.
© WWF Bulgaria
Towards the end of 2013, instead of having one common Project Steering Committee meeting, the team held separate national meetings, in each Bulgaria and Romania. This provided the opportunity to focus more on national-specific issues and challenges. The meetings allowed to report on the technical and financial progress, approved by PSC members. During the annual meetings we analysed the evolution of the project in all pilot areas and identified solutions to difficulties or obstacles experienced during the past year. Full story


PES training for key experts from Bulgaria national institutions. / ©: WWF Bulgaria
PES training for key experts from Bulgaria national institutions.
© WWF Bulgaria
12 key experts from the Ministry of Environment, Executive Environment Agency and the National Statistics Institute in Bulgaria were trained on ways to develop payments for ecosystem services (PES), an innovative finance mechanism for the restoration, protection and sustainable management of ecosystems. The training was carried out by Dr Julio Tresierra, Coordinator of the global programme for the payment for watershed services (EPWS). Full story


PES training.  / ©: WWF Romania
PES training.
© WWF Romania
A training on ecosystem services and PES addressed to public institutions was also organised by the project team in Bucharest. The training was held by Julio Tresierra. The participants learned that designing, implementing and monitoring PES schemes require the active involvement of a large array of stakeholders, including suppliers and beneficiaries of ecosystem services, scientists and experts. These activities can be significantly improved if local, regional and national level decision makers and policy makers are engaged. Full story


 / ©: Wild Wonders of  Europe/Cornelia Doerr/WWF
Transylvania, Carpathian Mountains-Romania
© Wild Wonders of Europe/Cornelia Doerr/WWF
WWF presented innovative financing mechanisms at the European Ecotourism Conference in Poiana Brasov in October. These provide the blueprint for nature conservation and local sustainable development implementations in Romania and have the potential to greatly benefit both nature and local communities. Full story


PES ecotourism meeting. / ©: WWF Romania
PES ecotourism meeting.
© WWF Romania
Local partners in Maramures: mayors, local guides, representatives of the county tourism bureau, environmental and cultural heritage associations, custodians of local protected areas, guesthouse owners who contribute to the Conservation and Sustainable Development Fund were invited by the project team to assess the area as an ecotourism destination. This self-assessment is the first step which needs to be taken by a given area (or micro-region) in the evaluation process coordinated by the National Tourism Authority with the aim of creating a national network of ecotourism destinations which will support the country brand. Full story


Rusenski Lom Nature Park, Bulgaria.  / ©: Alexander Ivanov
Rusenski Lom Nature Park, Bulgaria.
© Alexander Ivanov
It has been one year since tourism entrepreneurs, NGOs and the Rusenski Lom Nature Park Directorate signed the first partnership agreement on ecosystem services in Bulgaria. During the course of the year, beautiful post-cards “with a mission” were produced and promoted to support the scheme, the first donation was made, the marketing of the scheme was planned as an integral element of Rusenski Lom Nature Park, new partners among tourism and non-tourism businesses were attracted. In this period, the Danube PES team could see improved coordination and communication between the Nature Park Directorate and all stakeholders. The popularity of Rusenski Lom has grown among the conservation, business community and tourists.

My experience with PES has pushed me to further search for answers and ideas

Mara Cazacu, WWF Romania.  / ©: WWF
Mara Cazacu, WWF Romania.
With the Danube Payments for Ecosystem Services project coming to an end in 2014, we ask Mara Cazacu from the Romanian team about her experience with the project.

Tell us about your role in the Danube PES project.

I joined the project team in the summer of 2012 with the responsibility of handling the communications activities in Romania, under the supervision of WWF Romania’s communications coordinator. It was time for a change, as we realised that certain local partners somehow misunderstood the nature and the aim of the project. There was also a need to reach out to other audiences and an internal need to level out our understanding of the several stakeholder groups and to agree on the strategy and messages we put out. I came in half way into the project implementation period, tried to catch up and to understand this abstract and fairly new concept of PES so that we could develop a good strategy to take it forward. It has been a steep learning curve and I’m still pushing up the hill.

What is the biggest success of this project in your view?

As I am the newest addition to the team and I don’t know all the details of the project’s evolution, I am not sure that this is the biggest success but it still is an important achievement that signals a change of mentality. At the last meeting we organised in one of the project sites in Romania – Maramures, we had the very pleasant surprise to hear one of our partners (the owner of a local guesthouse who contributes to the PES scheme) speak our language. In Maramures the project has naturally grown from a pure PES scheme into a broader initiative to develop the area into an ecotourism destination, as this was the only way to ensure the scheme is continued and the national (policy) context was also extremely favourable for this. Although the process of developing the area into an ecotourism destination wasn’t very clear at the beginning, the local partners saw this as an opportunity and so together we started taking steps in this direction. During the meeting in question, our partner said that this is the only path they could embark on in order to keep business going: if they don’t follow through, they will collapse and the area will suffer. The others also nodded in agreement. In other words, they are beginning to understand the rationale for them supporting the scheme and the wider ecotourism initiative. They are beginning to sense their responsibility and the role they have to play in this: the transfer of ownership has begun – a very important milestone in any PES scheme, a sign of sustainability.

What is your favourite story from working on the project?

Travelling there – every trip is a nice and unique story and travelling with Monia Martini, the national project coordinator, makes it very pleasurable indeed. We put the 12 hours (we always travel by train and the journey takes 12 hours) to good use and brainstorm on all kinds of things – logistics, agenda, communications, scenarios, other people or organisations that would be good to meet with. As we tend to think similarly, but have different backgrounds and skills, these brainstorming “parties” are very productive and we are always satisfied with what we come up with.

On the other hand, you need some time to rid yourself of your daily routine, of various things you need to get done, of habits and maybe whims in order to be ready to immerse yourself in the Maramures way of life and the local way of thinking. That is, if you want to feel and be treated as one of their own, which increases the chance of getting yourself heard. And so every journey that we’re making leaves a mark – in terms of knowledge, social skills, attachment to the people and your common mission and, of course, in terms of local eating habits (which we are still trying to accommodate).

What is the biggest challenge?

Making people work together and making them understand that they’ll be reaping the benefits together and in the long term. Due to local history, people tend to be individualistic and this tendency is accentuated by the growing competition in the tourism sector. Many people have built guesthouses over the past years, taking advantage of the fairly accessible European funds, the availability of consulting services and the fact that Maramures is already a coveted destination. And the number of guesthouses is still growing. This phenomenon is putting pressure on every business - they are desperately trying to remain profitable and they are struggling to offer all the services that others provide, which is a dead end. So, I think we came in with our proposal (the PES scheme and the ecotourism initiative) at the right time, when they really ought to think about ways to differentiate themselves from the competition.

This brings us to another big challenge: managing people’s expectations. At first, our proposition seemed like an opportunity to boost guesthouse income relatively fast and easy, by bringing in more clients. When I joined the team, we had to revise the communications strategy and all that’s linked to the relationship with community representatives and partners. We had to correct these expectations and explain every time that this is a long term effort and it only succeeds if people agree to work together and to have the courage and maturity to call on other partners and now colleagues in this mission for services that they cannot provide. Which means working in an integrated network. It is hard to make this change, to maintain a “healthy” level of trust. We lost a few of the partners along the way, but we gained some too that are closer to the profile of businesses and people suited to this project. There’s a natural selection process going on in the project right now and I think we can only benefit from it.

What would you say to ordinary citizens about ecosystem services and PES?

It depends on the ecosystem services we are focusing on and on the role we would like or need people to play. But generally speaking, I think it’s necessary to make the link between the ecosystem service(s) and livelihoods or businesses very clear and easy to understand, to avoid abstract words and tone the technical language down.

With regards to PES, I think that generally it should be presented as an investment, because it naturally tends to be taken for extra (even futile) expenditure. My experience with PES only stretches for 18 months, so I am not in the position to give advice and I also don’t like to speak in general terms. But I think that it is important to demonstrate the added-value of pursuing a PES scheme, to do your maths (which also entails collecting all the necessary data) and to avoid making empty promises.

And to your communications colleagues?

That it’s a very hard task to communicate on this subject, which is new on the global conservation agenda too. That you need to read a lot and talk to experts whenever you have the opportunity. I for one have very much appreciated the fact that the project manager made it possible for us, the team members, to meet and benefit from the know-how of Julio Tressiera, the global coordinator of WWF Netherlands’ Equitable Payments for Watershed Services Programme who has travelled the world and given advice to organisations and governments on PES for more than 10 years now.

One of the greatest Romanian cultural figures, Lucian Blaga said that our life, as human beings, is marked by our characteristic striving to unravel the mystery of things and that the more we delve into the inner workings and sense of things the deeper the mystery becomes. My experience this far with the Danube PES project is marked by this paradox and this has pushed me to further the search for answers and ideas.
Working for the benefit of nature and people in the Danube-Carpathian region

WWF Danube-Carpathian Programme
Ottakringer Strasse 114-116
1160 Vienna, Austria
Tel.: +43 1 524 54 70-0
Fax: +43 1 524 54 70-70

This project is implemented by the WWF Danube-Carpathian Programme with the financial support of the GEF through UNEP, and of the European Commission. All content and opinions expressed on these pages are solely those of WWF.

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