- What We Do
- Agriculture and Food Security
- Democracy, Human Rights and Governance
- Economic Growth and Trade
- Ending Extreme Poverty
- Environment and Global Climate Change
- Global Climate Change
- Conserving Biodiversity and Forests
- Securing Land Tenure and Resource Rights
- Sustainable Land Management
- Environmental Compliance
- Knowledge Management for Environment and Natural Resources
- Sustainable Tourism
- UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20)
- Gender Equality and Women's Empowerment
- Global Health
- Water and Sanitation
- Working in Crises and Conflict
- U.S. Global Development Lab
“Biodiversity is not just a luxury for the rich,
it is a necessity for the poor.”
- Pavan Sukhdev, Environmental Economist
Conserving the diversity of life on earth is fundamental to human well being. Once considered a niche issue or special interest, biodiversity conservation is now recognized as critical to achieving equitable and sustainable development. A new Biodiversity Policy describes USAID’s commitment and approach to conserving species and ecosystems, and our focus on integrating biodiversity with other sectors for improved conservation and development outcomes.
USAID invests about $200 million each year to conserve biodiversity in more than 50 countries, making us one of the world’s largest funders in this sector. Our programs work in partnership with foreign governments, civil society, the private sector, and local communities to comprehensively address both direct threats and the underlying drivers of biodiversity loss. While most effort is focused on biologically significant areas, we also work in cities to strengthen policies, raise public awareness, and tackle challenges like wildlife trafficking.
Every country has important biodiversity, but biodiversity is concentrated in tropical forests, where 70 percent of all plants and animals live. USAID’s forest conservation portfolio goes beyond biodiversity programs to include efforts focused on stabilizing soils and water supplies, mitigating climate change, preventing flooding and storm surge, and promoting food security.
Biodiversity and forests sustain lives:
- At least 1.6 billion people depend on forests for some part of their livelihood.
- About 2.6 billion people in developing countries depend on wild fisheries for protein and income.
- Billions of people use forest goods and services daily, from timber and fruit to clean air and water.
Conservation is development:
- Ecotourism and other conservation enterprises create jobs and generate income in underserved areas, keeping people from slipping into extreme poverty.
- Conservation zones in wetlands and coastal areas make fishing more lucrative and sustainable while protecting communities from storm surge and flooding.
- Community forest management user groups have helped maintain order during conflict and restore governance systems in other sectors.
Biodiversity loss has accelerated from just a few species going extinct each year to an estimated 1,000 species disappearing annually. The collective actions of seven billion people are degrading the natural resource base and threaten to erode development gains around the world. As biodiverse ecosystems break down, people who cannot find alternative, and often more costly, ways to meet basic needs risk slipping into extreme poverty.
One of the main threats to biodiversity addressed by USAID is unsustainable and illegal overexploitation of natural resources, especially wildlife, timber and fish. Wildlife trafficking has emerged as one of the Agency’s highest priorities, with poaching undermining conservation achievements, economic prospects, and security, and the $10-20 billion annual illegal trade in elephant ivory, rhino horn and other wildlife parts financing criminal syndicates and terrorist groups. USAID has tripled its support to address this crisis, with up to $40 million being invested this year in the first line of defense against poachers and traffickers, bolstering community conservation, reducing demand for wildlife products, and developing innovative solutions.
USAID’s strategic, long-term partnerships are generating results:
- No rhinos, tigers or elephants were poached in Nepal in 2013, and tiger populations are up 63 percent since 2009. Nearly 20 years of USAID support has helped communities take control of their forests and wildlife, with 40 percent of Nepalis now benefiting from community forest management.
- An 11-partner USAID alliance with seafood restaurants and others helped make the the lucrative Caribbean spiny lobster fishery safer for fisherman and more sustainable for everyone. In 2013, with help from alliance partners, the Miskito Indians of Honduras designed the biggest marine protected area in Central America, with 3.7 million acres of fishery grounds and cays for their exclusive use.
- In Kenya’s arid northern rangelands, natural resource management in 26 community conservancies earned about $1.3 million in 2013 while improving livestock productivity and reducing ethnic conflict across six million acres. Wildlife numbers are up, with elephant sightings in one conservancy increasing from 3,000 to 11,000 during a recent five-year period despite a rise in ivory trafficking nationally.
- Having established its first national park, Band-e Amir, in 2009, Afghanistan hired its first female park rangers to serve there in 2013. The four women received the same training as their male colleagues before the busy summer season when more than 4,000 tourists visit each month.
- East of Colombia’s El Cocuy National Park, cattle ranchers secured an 11-mile natural corridor for jaguars by installing stables and solar-powered electric fences. The corridor has reduced predation on livestock and retaliatory killing of jaguars, improved cattle ranching systems, and brought electric power to this off-grid zone.
- Ranger-based monitoring covered 95 percent of Rwanda’s Nyungwe National Park in 2013, helping park managers prioritize patrol effort and reduce illegal activities by 32 percent over the previous year. With accidental fires from wild honey harvest now markedly reduced, forests are regenerating with help from partners. USAID is now rolling out the next generation system and software supporting ranger-based monitoring, the Spatial Monitoring and Reporting Tool (SMART), in countries across the Congo Basin as part of a comprehensive response to wildlife trafficking.
Explore the other pages in this section to learn more about how USAID conservation programs are making an impact on biodiversity and human well-being.
NEW AND NOTABLE:
Conservation is Development (Video)
Science and Technology (PDF)
Last updated: August 12, 2014