Armenia’s biodiversity is threatened by overexploitation of biodiversity, unregulated tourism activity, habitat loss and climate change. The cumulative impacts include the accelerated loss of vulnerable habitats and associated species and the growing insecurity of ecosystem services. Hence, opportunities for communities to realize the potential social and economic benefits accruing from biodiversity are lost.
The project was aimed at integration and expansion of ecological corridors, as well as protection of globally threatened species through establishment of Gnishik community-managed Protected Area in Southern Armenia.
The main activities of the project were related to participatory planning of the Protected Area, enforcement of protection regime, development of tourism related infrastructure, and last but not least creation of alternative livelihood opportunities for communities located in the support zone of the Gnishik Protected Area.
Long-term perspectives of development objectives and impacts were set as follows:
- Contribution to establishment of Gnishik Protected Area
- Promotion of nature-based tourism development in the area
- Further development of a national protected area system
- Protection of under-represented ecosystems and associated species
- Improvement of management of productive landscapes while helping to promote connectivity and alleviate poverty
- Establishment of a model for community-led protected area management
Project efforts resulted in a national protected area system better equipped including and conserving ecosystems under-represented in the National protected area network and associated species. Project investment was in community areas improving management of productive landscapes while helping to promote connectivity and alleviate poverty.
The project resulted in:
- Establishment of Gnishik Protected Landscape (GPL) (6,010.74 ha) - the country’s first community managed protected area
- Protection of over 900 species of plants and about 525 species of animals, of which 55 species of plants and 80 species of animals are listed in the Red Book of Armenia and registered in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species
- Development of Management plan for Gnishik Protected Landscape
- Development of Support Zone Economic Development Plan for the communities adjacent to the Gnishik Protected Landscape
- Development of Range Management Plan for Gnishik Protected Landscape
- Demarcation of borders of Gnishik Protected Landscape
- Establishment of Gnishik Intercommunity Environmental Fund as a managing body for Gnishik Protected Landscape
- Establishment of furnished and equipped Visitor Center and office for Gnishik Protected Landscape
- Recruitment of Gnishik Protected Landscape personnel with tourist information officer, trained rangers and patrol team set in place, equipped with an off-road vehicle and field equipment
- Establishment of Guest House for Gnishik Protected Landscape
- Establishment of protection infrastructure of Gnishik Protected Landscape with provision of ranger shelter, roadblocks and preventive signs
- Establishment of visitor infrastructure, including several newly developed and blazed tourist trails, installed information signs, published information materials and trail map
- Provision of small-scale alternative livelihood opportunities for more than 80 households in the communities of support zone of Gnishik Protected Landscape:
- donation of 50 beehives with bee families
- establishment of 3 ha of apple and walnut orchards in Khachik community
- establishment of 3.25 ha of apple orchards in Mozrov and Gnishik communities
- establishment of 3.4 ha of vineyards in Areni