Making Protected Areas an Integral Part of Development

November 17, 2014


A fisherman on Lake Iranduba in the Amazon region near Manaus, Brazil. 

Photo: Julio Pantoja / World Bank

  • Successful protected areas return benefits to the people that have long depended on their resources
  • Protected areas make the core of our natural infrastructure and are an integral part of economic development
  • Long-term financing is key to sustain protected area systems

Working with the Global Environment Facility, the World Bank helped the Brazilian Government implement a series of protected areas that have reversed deforestation in the Amazon and returned benefits to communities. Awarded the U.S. Treasury Development Impact Honor award in 2012, the Amazon Region Protected Areas Program (ARPA) is among the most successful land management programs on the planet.

In the run up to the World Parks Congress, we spoke with Adriana Moreira, team leader for ARPA, about the project’s success and how she plans to apply the lessons she learned into a new project that aims to triple the marine area under protection in Brazil while directly benefiting 800,000 people.

1. What lessons did you learn from your work in the Amazon?

We learned three important lessons: (1) involve the community from the beginning, (2) use financing mechanisms with an exit strategy, (3) use a landscape approach. 

The most important lesson is that it is crucial to involve the local community from the start of project development. This ensures that resources and benefits flow to the people who rely on them directly and that laws will be upheld.

We also learned the importance of innovative financing. Many projects are financed for just a few years and need to find other ways to continue on in the future. Working with foundations, the private sector and multi-lateral groups, we secured US$215 million for 25 years. After that, increased government budget and revenue from tourism to the protected areas will cover maintenance costs. This exit-strategy ensures that financing does not have an expiration date. 


A school bus in the Amazon. 

Photo: Adriana Moreira / World Bank

" Returning benefits to the people who rely on an area's resources are crucial for a protected area to succeed.  "

Adriana Moreira

Senior Environmental Specialist, Environment and Natural Resources Global Practice, World Bank

2. How did the Amazon Regional Protected Areas (ARPA) benefit traditional communities in the Amazon?

Returning benefits to the people who rely on an area's resources are crucial for a protected area to succeed. In some areas, traditional communities had sole access to the land or retained fishing and hunting rights that were otherwise regulated. Families also gained access to government programs that provided conditional cash transfers and rewards for following management plans and enforcing regulations.   

Lastly, we were successful because of the vast system of protected areas. Rather than implementing individual parks or reserves, we looked at the landscape as a whole while designing the system of protected areas.

3. How will you replicate the lessons you learned in the Amazon in your marine management plans?

In marine management, as with the Amazon, we will look at traditional community needs first; biodiversity opportunities second; and finally, the needs of the extractive or fishing industries. This gives secure access to communities without handicapping ecosystem productivity or the private sector’s returns to the economy. This way we harmonize production and protection.

Also, we are taking a "seascape" approach that is similar to what we did in the Amazon. This means looking outside the borders of the protected area, at the interactions between land and water use within and beyond the borders of the protected area.

4. In what ways is marine management fundamentally different from land management?

For one, we know far less about marine ecosystems than we do about forests. Mapping biodiversity hotspots is much harder and much more expensive in the ocean than it is on land.

The greatest difference is in enforcement. Some of the Amazon protected areas are so large, they are bigger than countries. Marine spaces are even larger. In the Amazon, enforcement is done by local populations or experts on foot, by car or boat or via aerial surveillance with borders marked with simple signs. In the ocean, enforcement must happen by power-boat, which is more expensive and labor intensive.

It is also harder to define the limits in a marine habitat. Land areas have natural and traditional boundaries such as rivers and when necessary we can easily put up signs. In the ocean, borders must be marked with buoys anchored to the seafloor, which, as you can imagine, is technically complicated.

Only 1.57% of Brazil’s seaboard territory is currently a protected area. The new project aims to expand coverage to 120,000 km2 of new territory, and help preserve a coastal zone that is one of the world’s richest and most diverse. Protected areas—which now cover around 15% of the planet’s land and 3% of its ocean—are an important tool for better resource management. As World Bank experience in Brazil has shown, protected areas can help preserve natural resources and boost the livelihoods of local communities.