Last July, the RESCCUE project, implemented by the Pacific Community, formally established the first local Conservation Fund in Vanuatu, with the signature of the North Efate Conservation Management (NECM) Deed by the Environment Networks and Tourism Associations of North Efate. Four months later, the fund is now fully operational after RESCCUE provided €90,000 as seed funding to get the fund up and running.
The Fund is expected to be a game-changer in the area. As Kenneth Lango, chairman of the Tasi Vanua Environment Network, put it, "the Fund is such a positive change for us: it is making our conservation and climate change resilience activities financially sustainable. From now on we won't be any longer entirely dependent on external support!”
In the medium term, the fund revenue model is based on a 10% voluntary levy across the tourism activities in North Efate. Each tourism operator is free to decide whether to charge this fee to their clients. The levy will allow the Tasi-Vanua and Nguna-Pele Environment networks to conduct conservation and climate change resilience activities such as coral protection, mangrove restoration, taboo areas management, as well as to communicate about achievements. The seed funding provided by the RESCCUE project allows to start collecting the levy and managing the fund, while conducting tangible activities to demonstrate to tourists how their contributions will be used.
The fund is not only helping the Tasi Vanua and Nguna Pele Environment Networks to implement activities that benefit both ecosystems and the communities: it will also favour local tourism development by safeguarding North Efate’s natural capital, setting-up ecological moorings, and installing information signs about locally-managed taboo areas.
The Fund is an incarnation of what RESCCUE has been keen to achieve. It builds on previous projects and local capacities to set up an innovative financial mechanism - ensuring that environmental management and climate change resilience activities continue after the project ended. I do hope the North Efate experience will be replicated in other parts of Vanuatu. If it does, North Efate environmental champions will be in the best position to transfer to other communities the wealth of knowledge and experience they acquired.