November 28, 2023

GAZELLE Project has been launched

GAZELLE Project has been launched

GEF-Powered Transformation: An Ambitious Integrated Project for Biodiversity Conservation, Sustainable Land Management, and Ecosystem Restoration Launched in the Dedoplistskaro Biosphere Reserve, Georgia

Backed by the Global Environmental Facility, and in collaboration with Ministry of Environmental Protection and Agriculture of Georgia (MEPA), UNEP, REC Caucasus, and other national and international stakeholders, the Dedoplistskaro Biosphere Reserve embarks on a groundbreaking journey that not only champions biodiversity conservation but also promotes the recovery of damaged ecosystems through the introduction of sustainable land management. The project, titled “Transforming Policy and Investment through Improving BR Zonation, Ecosystem Management, and Restoration of Degraded Drylands of the Dedoplistskaro Biosphere Reserve in Georgia to Generate Multiple Environmental and Socio-Economic Benefits (GAZELLE)”, aspires to be a beacon of sustainable development, showcasing the power of global cooperation in environmental stewardship.

Granted UNESCO status in June 2022, the Biosphere Reserve of Dedoplistskaro is a crucial component of the Caucasus Biodiversity Hotspot. It harbors rare and endangered species and serves as a vital migratory hub for birds. While its landscapes, ranging from grasslands to woodlands, host an astonishing array of wildlife, the sanctuary faces challenges like climate change and human-induced damage, such as deforestation and overgrazing. These issues, leading to soil erosion and disrupted nutrient cycles, demand urgent action. The project aspires to address these challenges by reinforcing national legislation, implementing collaborative management practices, and effectively managing knowledge.

“The initial significant step, the establishment of a biosphere reserve, has already been taken. The subsequent phases, particularly the formation of an effective management body, are already within our control,” highlighted Mr. Nikoloz Janiashvili, the mayor of Dedoplistskaro municipality, at the first working meeting on November 24, 2023.

The project’s mission is twofold: environmental – to enhance biodiversity conservation and promote sustainable land practices for the recovery of degraded land; and social as well – in terms of supporting the livelihoods of the Dedoplistskaro municipality. As Mr. Nikoloz Janiashvili noted, “The biosphere reserve accommodates economic activities, strengthening the population alongside biodiversity protection; and this project marks the second step towards reaping the benefits that the biosphere reserve can bring to the population.”

Anticipated benefits include the restoration of 10,000 hectares of land, improved practices on 20,000 hectares, and the mitigation of 1.7 million MtCO2 greenhouse gas emissions. These efforts will contribute not only to global environmental well-being but will also directly impact the lives of approximately 5,000 people. As Ersin Esen, the Programme Management Officer from the UNEP European Office, mentioned, “This project presents a unique opportunity for Georgia, serving as a strategic investment in advancing national development goals and achieving global goals.”

The creation of the Dedoplistskaro Biosphere Reserve in 2022 marked the beginning of a long journey. As Dedoplistskaro embraces this project, it not only safeguards its natural heritage but also paves the way for a future where conservation and human prosperity walk hand in hand. “We are confronted with environmental challenges that demand the success of this project. The time is now to act together,” stated Mr. Esen.