On April 12th in Adigeni, Georgia, six communities signed Conservation Agreements with ECF. The Community Unions of Zanavi, Khevasheni, Bolajuri, Pkhero, Chorchani and Kikibo signed on behalf of the beneficiary communities of Bolajuri, Kvemo Enteli, Chorchani, Didi Smada, Patara Smada, Didi Zanavi, Patara Zanavi, Gomaro, Tsre, Khevasheni, Nakurdevi, Pkhero, Shoka, Zemo Enteli and Kikibo.
Each beneficiary community listed above is located on the southern slopes of the Meskheti mountain range, in the Adigeni Municipality of Samtskhe-Javakheti, Georgia.
This conservation area – the Western Lesser Cauacuse Eco-Corridor - borders Ajara Autonomous Republic to the west, the Imereti region to the north, the villages of Adigeni Municipality to the south and Borjomi-Kharagauli National Park to the east. The Municipality of Adigeni is an active part of ECF’s Community Unions and is supportive of ECF’s work within the communities, showing the high interest not only long-term conservation of the areas but also in the implementation of conservation agreements.
According to the habitat suitability study and rapid zoological assessment, this conservation area represents one of the most valuable ecological corridor areas west of Borjomi-Kharagauli National Park, including high value conservation areas and important habitats for the ECF target species and other important wildlife populations.
The main threats for this conservation area were identified through the involvement of local community representatives. Working alongside the community members, ECF helped identify a strong, common understanding that illegal hunting, unregulated grazing, irrational use of hay meadows, lack of agricultural equipment and lack of incentives for sustainable land management were the most challenging issues inside the eco-corridor. Due to the unsustainable use of the area and its resources and a high level of human disturbance, the habitats of wildlife species are fragmented and populations are being reduced, some at risk of disappearing even.
The nature conservation measures identified for the recently signed agreements are established to maintain diversity and connectivity of the landscapes, protect the habitats of wildlife species, increase populations and range within the corridor area and promote ecologically sustainable land-use. All the conservation measures are in line with ECF’s Menu of Measures – a guideline document for conservation measures, prepared by the ECF programme.
The budgets for each agreement have been assessed by independent expertise bureau and include a budget for necessary initial investments in order to prepare each community for the implementation of the agreed upon conservation measures as well as fund long-term conservation objectives.
The area covered by conservation agreement is 11 586 hectares with the total budget of 399 819 EUR, which, when broken down amounts to about 3.4 EUR of conservation budget per hectare.
After the signing ceremony in Adigeni, participants - including representatives from funding organizations - had the opportunity to visit communities within the corridor area, meeting with local community representatives and discussing the specifics of the conservation measures under each conservation agreement. Communities were also presented with the field equipment they purchased through the initial ECF investment budget included in each conservation agreement.
This was an exciting day for both ECF staff, funding representatives and the community members and an example of the empowerment and on-the-ground impacts of the ECF programme in Georgia. Congratulations to all the communities for their hard work and commitment.