The Citi Foundation and WWF reviewed the results of the successful conservation program.
The pilot program was launched in 2011 to promote the development of small business as a means for preserving the unique natural environment of the Altai Mountains. The aim of the program is to raise the level of employment among rural residents of the Altai Republic through a business basics training course and business plan contest. Through this program 580 people completed the training course and 150 of them subsequently participated in the business plan contest. 30 business plans were then chosen for financing in the form of micro grants totaling 1.3 million rubles.
The Citi Foundation and WWF announced the continuation of this entrepreneurship development program in the Altai Republic and its expansion into the Republic of Tuva. As a part of this new phase of the program, more than 500 people will undergo training on how to open one’s own business with an emphasis on ecotourism followed by a business plan contest with subsequent financing of the best proposals.
Programme experts regard the green tourism and ecotourism initiatives to be developed with focus on national culture and winter tourism development. The local dwellers will be assisted in marketing, pricing for souvenirs and service.
“We believe that it is very important to give beginning entrepreneurs confidence in their abilities, to teach them the necessary skills and to demonstrate that they too can start their own business,” says Tatiana Avramenko, Community Relations Officer at Citi Russia. “Boosting the entrepreneurial activity of Russia’s population, particularly in isolated and rural regions of the country, is vital for the sustainable economic development of our country, which is why supporting small business is a top priority for Citi’s social investments in Russia.”
“Without a doubt, the economic effect and associated benefits in terms of nature conservation will only be fully apparent several years down the road, when the businesses achieve sustainability,” says Alexander Bondarev, head of the Altai-Sayan division of WWF Russia. “Nonetheless, according to the analysis of the Assistance Fund, the first results are already visible: the 30 projects which received support are considered sustainable; thanks to the program new jobs have appeared in the Altai Republic; the gross value of the goods and services created by participants of the project in the period from September to December amounted to 751,000 rubles. Through the sales of their products the project participants received 300,000 rubles as an additional income.”
The main partner for this program in the Altai Republic is the Assistance Fund, a microfinance support fund created in 2008 with support from the UNDP/GEF Project “Biodiversity Conservation in the Russian Portion of the Altai-Sayan Ecoregion”.