|Thursday, 16 July 2009 23:00|
We talked to Jorge Estuardo Ordoñez Betancourt, Project Officer of the Foundation for Conservation in Guatemala - FCG, one of the institutions involved in the development of MARFIN, a financial model software created to structure financial information of Protected Areas. Jorge explains how MARFIN was developed and what are its main features.
What is the financial model MARFIN and what were the main motivations for developing it? What problems does MARFIN intend to solve?
MARFIN is a software that allows to compose the financial structure of a protected area, taking into account the smallest expenditure or revenue. It was developed with the purpose of knowing the financial gap for all coastal and marine protected areas in the Mesoamerican Reef (MAR) Region. It is worth mentioning that the financial information of the protected areas is very limited or nonexistent, is dispersed or their budgets are based on available funds, ignoring the real needs of these areas. For these reasons, the model aims to project with a certain level of accuracy, the costs and revenues for the protected areas to find out what is missing and properly plan the fundraising process.
How was it developed, who coordinated the project implementation, with which resources?
The creation of the tool was initiated by WWF, who invited MAR Fund to participate from the beginning. WWF managed funds from various donors since the beginning.
The most recent source of funding, the allow the tool placement in the Internet, has been from USAID as part of its Program for the Conservation of Central American Basins through the project called: Tools for collecting and managing funds for conservation in the Gulf of Honduras, which has been channeled through the Foundation for Conservation in Guatemala - FCG - and implemented by MAR Fund.
Is there is coordinator that is responsible for the model, which could have an overview of all the numbers of all PAs?
There isn’t a general coordinator of the tool. The model can be applied to different groups of protected areas. For example, in the case of the MAR Region, MAR Fund is the one who has the database. There is also a database for a network of nine marine protected areas in the Gulf of California, which is coordinated from this region.
The Internet model is currently installed on the server of the National Council of Protected Areas of Guatemala (CONAP for its name in Spanish) and applies the criteria for the Guatemalan System of Protected Areas (SIGAP). However, it is customizable and can be adapted to the criteria and accounts classification in other countries or regions and can be placed on other servers.
Anyone who wishes to apply the tool, for example, for the protected area system in a given country, can do it. The tool can be modified in its terminology, so that fits the needs of that country. For example, you can adjust the accounts handled by the Peruvian state.
So, it is not only for marine and coastal areas, it can be used for terrestrial protected areas or otherwise, for protected areas in other regions, right? Initially the tool was developed to meet the financial planning needs of marine and coastal protected areas of the MAR system (Mesoamerican Reef system). However, it has transpired in a way that its functionality can be applied to any protected area, anywhere in the world. The analysis unit in the program is the protected area. You can develop analysis and projections by areas groups by size, by management category, etc.
So, it is not only for marine and coastal areas, it can be used for terrestrial protected areas or otherwise, for protected areas in other regions, right?
Initially the tool was developed to meet the financial planning needs of marine and coastal protected areas of the MAR system (Mesoamerican Reef system). However, it has transpired in a way that its functionality can be applied to any protected area, anywhere in the world. The analysis unit in the program is the protected area. You can develop analysis and projections by areas groups by size, by management category, etc.
What are the system’s main features?
MARFIN Web 3.0 is a web based application or program, developed in Visual Basic and ASP.Net. It is connected to a centralized data repository called the Data Base which is SQLServer 2005. As mentioned above, the system collects information that enables to understand current and future costs of managing protected areas and then provides financial scenarios, present and future, to manage protected areas.
For the cost projections it may consider financial assumptions such as inflation, devaluation and price contingencies. Version 3.0 was designed in order to have centralized financial information in a database in a server so it can be accessed remotely via the Internet anywhere in the world. With this tool, the information is unified under the same criteria, is centralized and financial projections can be developed, which contributes to the generation of plans in the short, medium and long term that support the management of protected areas system.In your opinion, what is the path to cover the protected areas financial gap and how environmental funds can act in this sense?
One way is to use this tool to know not only the financial gap, but also to understand the real needs that a given protected area has, in addition to knowing in what items, such as infrastructure, personnel, etc., those needs are evident. With this information, managers can plan in a more sustained way how and for what needs funds must be raised. It is not just filling gaps, but to be aware of what needs should be filled over time through fundraising processes.
In the case of Guatemala, counting with such information, the National Council of Protected Areas can handle even national budget funds to cover the needs of the SIGAP, which currently are not covered as part of this budget. Once knowing this financial gap, environmental funds play an important role in managing funds that benefit protected areas in different regions of the world. This way, you can manage resources that are better targeted to the real needs of each protected area.