Khartoum — Key national parks in Sudan are to receive increased protection and support for improved management, local communities, and ecotourism. The $23.6 million initiative is to be finance by the Global Environmental Facility and the remainder from UN and national contributions, and partners.

A joint statement from Khartoum on Sunday by the Higher Council for Environment and Natural Resources (HCENR), the Ministry of Finance & Economic Planning, and the United Nations Development Programme, points out that the announcement comes ahead of World Environment Day (June 5).

The five-year project will see more than 20,000 square kilometres of land and marine areas supported – across Dinder National Park, Jebel El Dair National Park, and the Red Sea-based Dungonab Bay – Mukkawar Island Marine National Park. “This will be complemented by assistance for nearby communities and businesses, national policies, and wildlife and park administration,” the statement says.

“This project will provide Sudan with opportunities to go into more development in all communities, to ensure biodiversity and protect natural resources,” said Dr Amin Saleh Yassin, Undersecretary of Sudan’s Ministry of Finance & Economic Planning. “We thank all partners for contributing and moving forward towards sustainable development.”

Sudan’s rich natural environment is impacted by the lack of strong protected areas, both at a policy level and operationally, and limited livelihood options for those living nearby. Project initiatives will enhance key sites, addressing environmental degradation and creating economic opportunities.

Within the parks, biodiversity will be supported via a range of targeted activities, including consultative demarcation of park boundaries and buffer zones with communities; rehabilitation of selected wetland sites, mangroves, and other areas; creation of wildlife corridors; efforts to address invasive species; and expanded monitoring of protected areas. Complementing this will be upgrades to park equipment and facilities.

Efforts to develop economic opportunities will include ecotourism – establishing tourism infrastructure and working with operators on eco-friendly activities – and expanding livelihood opportunities for the 62 communities inside and adjacent to the parks.

“This project and other interventions linked to it emphasise sustainable livelihoods and the ability of people to earn a living from the land in a sustainable way, while protecting Sudan’s natural resources,” said Yuri Afanasiev, UNDP Resident Representative in Sudan. “We hope this will contribute to the Government’s additional efforts supporting recovery in Sudan.”