Successful Ecosystem Service Initiatives Mark the Conclusion of the Local Economy and Nature Conservation in the Danube Region Project

Posted on 07 June 2019

LENA supported integrated approaches and policies for the conservation and sustainable use of protected areas.
Successful Ecosystem Service Initiatives Mark the Conclusion of the 2.5-Year LENA (Local Economy and Nature Conservation in the Danube Region) Project

The Danube Region is characterised by 70 national parks and more than 1000 Natura 2000 areas that cover a large spectrum of ecosystem services. Due to their protected status, these areas are often regarded as hampering local development, while their intrinsic economic potential is usually overlooked. However, more and more studies confirm the multiple social and economic benefits of Natura 2000 sites.
The international Interreg Danube Transnational Project-funded Local Economy and Nature Conservation in the Danube Region (LENA) worked with 11 protected areas covering more than 375,000 ha and more than 14 Natura 2000 sites. The sites were chosen based on outstanding natural values and untapped potential for sustainable economic use. The project covered approximately half a million people, most of them living in communities with low income (monthly income ranging between 200 and 500 EUR) and struggling with out-migration and ageing populations.

The broad partnership coalition implementing LENA (17 partners from 9 Danube countries) supported and strengthened joint and integrated approaches and policies for the conservation and sustainable use of protected areas, in particular in Natura 2000 sites along the Danube and its tributaries. It created new income opportunities in the nature-based economic sector and up-scaled impact across the region.
  • Sustainable income generation from wild plants, FairWild;
  • Fishing-based livelihoods;
  • Added value from sustainable agriculture;
  • Regional tourism marketing;
  • Training Danube tourist guides across borders - 97 people from 6 countries (Bulgarian, Romania, Serbia, Croatia, Slovenia and Germany) were trained and certified as Danube Guides;
  • Sharing know-how on e-mobility - E-mobility was promoted through creating e-bikes routes, installation charging stations for e-bikes in Germany (10), in Romania (2) in Bulgaria (2) and trough buying 10 e-bakes an e-rickshaw; and
  • At the policy-level, a profound analysis of nature-based business and green jobs was elaborated, including recommendations for strategic actions to create an integrated approach for nature protection, natural resources management and “green” jobs creation. The recommendations were disseminated among decision-makers in all countries involved in the project.
The implementation of the initiative led to:
  1. Knowledge generation and empowerment of local communities through pilot actions;
  2. Development of tools for sustainable resource use in protected areas;
  3. Informing and gaining the buy-in of local stakeholders to nature conservation;
  4. Empowerment of local entrepreneurs to profit from natural heritage sites in a way that protects natural resources;
  5. Improved framework conditions for sustainable use of protected areas; and
  6. Most importantly, the project reached and empowered the local communities.
In appreciation of its achievements, LENA was awarded the German sustainability award for projects: ”Projekt Nachhaltigkeit 2018” by the Regional Network Units Sustainability Strategies (RENN).   
Lead partner: WWF Central and Eastern Europe - Bulgaria
Project partners:  Belene Municipality (BG), Ivanovo Municipality (BG), Vukovar Srijem County (CR), West Pannon Regional and Economic Development (HU), WWF Central and Eastern Europe - Hungary (HU), The Danube Office Ulm/Neu-Ulm (DE), City of Tuttlingen (DE), Comana Nature Park (RO) (RO), Giurgiu County Council (RO), WWF Central and Eastern Europe Romania (RO), Business Support Centre, Kranj, Regional Development Agency (SI), GMO-Free Danube Soya (RS)

Associated partners: DANUBEPARKS (AT), Provincial Secretariat Vojvodina (RS), Association of Hungarian Parks (HU), Centre for Regional Studies (UA)

For more information:
Zsombor Aradszki,
Communications Officer, LENA Project

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