Title: Evaluating management priorities and developing a business plan for the Palm Islands Nature Reserve
MPA: Palm Islands Nature Reserve
Beneficiary: Environment Protection Committee (EPC)
Partners: Palm Islands Nature Reserve Committee (PINRC)
Thematic: Sustainable Financing
Period of implementation (year): 2018-2019
Duration: 8 months
Total budget: 23 400 €
MedPAN financing: 17 000 €
Palm Islands Nature Reserve (PINR) is situated 5.5 km from the shore of Tripoli District, in Lebanon. The reserve covers an area of about 4.2 km2 and includes three flat sandy-rocky islands: Palm, Sanani and Ramkine. The Palm Islands are public property and were declared a protected area by Law 121 on 9 March 1992. The reserve is also a Ramsar site, Specially Protected Area and Important Bird Area.
The coastal and marine ecosystems around the islands are of global significance, as they represent breeding grounds for the endangered Loggerhead Turtle and Monk Seal. The islands are an important resting place for migratory birds (including rare and endangered species) and are rich in beach flora and medicinal plants. The reserve is open to the public for swimming and snorkelling during summer months, while the rest of the year access is restricted for wildlife protection. At Ramkine island, a submerged scuba diving trail extends for a length of about 400 meters.
The Management Plan of PINR (2000-2005) defines the activities to be carried out to achieve its conservation objectives. Although it requires to be updated, the plan has already been negotiated, drawn up and approved, and can therefore serve as a basis for the development of a business plan. A business plan is needed to define a long-term financial strategic vision for achieving the management plan, considering financial resources and needs, valuing ecosystem services, and raising funds / researching financial partners.
Before the project, the Lebanese law prevented nature reserves to request entrance fees at their main entrances, representing a major challenge for the MPA to collect and benefit from financial contributions from visitors.
MedPAN’s Small Project
The overarching aim of this project was to enable the management committee to effectively manage the reserve and conserve its biodiversity. For this purpose, the main objective of the study was to develop a business plan to ensure that sufficient funds are available to ensure continuous effective conservation management.
The specific objectives of the project were to:
- Evaluate the management priorities for Palm Islands so that the business plan could be based on realistic and significant priorities in terms of management;
- Provide a long-term financing and financial sustainability strategy through the identification of innovative financing mechanism;
- present the sustainable strategy through a business plan.
The project focused on the following activities: identifying relevant stakeholders and analysing their interests, assessing the legal requirements and gaps related to the financing of protected areas, researching business ideas and examples of sustainable use of natural resources, and developing a business plan considering basic financial expenses and forecasting sales.
PINR Business Model Development Methodology
The development of PINR business plan included the following steps:
- Creating a Business Plan Consultation Team (with representative stakeholders from local businesses, associations, visitors of the reserve, universities etc.);
- Meeting the Consultation Team to get updates on the management plan, prioritize activities needed on the islands, and assess funding needs in basic and ideal scenarios;
- Data/information collection: current funding, distribution of funding per type of expense (i.e. human resources, technical and environmental expenses, administrative expenses, transportation, and other/miscellaneous);
- Data/information analysis, scenarios for basic and ideal management, strategy for sustainable financing: funding sources, expenditures, revenues; estimation of financial gaps/needs; estimation of current and potential opportunities for revenue generation with identification and mobilization of donors;
- Development of the BP document.
The business plan is meant to: 1) improve managerial effectiveness and control over PINR activities; 2) attract and increase investments by public and private actors; 3) complement and facilitate the implementation of current management tools, such as management plan; and 4) guide investments and prioritize resource allocation to PINR.
Prioritization of management activities
Through a programme of field visits and stakeholder consultations (including visitors and tourism operators) conducted on Palm Islands Nature Reserve and in Mina and Tripoli municipalities, activities needed on Palm islands were prioritized as follows:
- Biodiversity management – maintenance of PINR, monitoring programmeme, addressing a threat when needed;
- PINR infrastructure – construction and/or refurbishing of physical infrastructures, human capacity and services e.g. information;
- Equipment for patrolling;
- Education and local community involvement for awareness raising and participation;
- Visitor information and control of visitors activities;
- Visitor facilities (related to PINR infrastructure but more focused on zonation and operationalisation of tourism and recreational activities);
- Investment in revenue-generation capacity – development of funding mechanisms, small business operations.
2017-2026 Business Plan
The business plan developed for PINR covered a period of 10 years and included the following components:
- A summary of expenses/costs including fixed assets, other investments such as research, education and missions, human resources, and recurring costs such as rent and insurance;
- Costs allocation to the following work programmemes in line with the management plan: resource management & protection, tourism & recreation, commercial & commodity uses, management & administration, community development & outreach, and facility operations & maintenance;
- A summary of revenues from public funding, self-financing, public sector funds and other sources;
- Cash flows, i.e. the comparison of costs with revenues, and financial gain or loss per year (financial gaps).
Current expenses were calculated based on the contributions from the government, municipalities, from renting beach equipment and from ongoing projects, whereas future expenses were estimated.
The development of the business plan raised the issue of “out of order” material and importance of considering the cost of equipment and infrastructure maintenance in long-term financial planning.
Strategy for sustainable financing
A sustainable financing strategy was prepared involving an analysis and description of funding options, potential sources of funds, and matching of funding needs with funding sources. This exercise yielded the definition of a common vision and general goal of where PINR will be in a 5 year time frame.
The Palm Island Nature Reserve is effectively managed to conserve globally significant biodiversity in Lebanon in perpetuity, through a partnership of government and community-based organizations which engenders active community participation in the funding, development, management and flow of benefits of the reserve.
Adequate sustainable funding for the essential management and development by the PINRC and its management team.
Strategic objectives were defined per strategy themes proposed by Sandwith.
Marketing and revenue generation opportunities were identified based on an ecosystem services assessment and eco-tourism ideas. A marketing plan was drafted introducing strategies and concepts for marketing the PINR.
The workshops conducted have increased the awareness of the stakeholders (including representatives of different authorities) and encouraged them to support the business and financial plans.
Study of and discussions on the financial and legal requirements related to implementing the management and business plans allowed for the creation of a new law on entrance fees which is expected to reduce the reserve’s financial gap.
An exercise of coming up with business ideas was helpful for understanding the stakeholders’ visions. Participants proposed business ideas and discussed about the potential benefits and threats related to these ideas.
The business plan highlighted the reserve’s need to increase its incomes to cover financial gaps, and yielded a law (just after the period of the project) that allows the collection of entrance fees. Presently, the PINR is working on the value of the entrance fee for the different categories of visitors (fishermen with their families, local community, students, NGOs, Tour operators, commercial filming on the reserve, commercial events in the water of the reserve (swimming, kiteboarding).