Zebras and wildebeest in the Serengeti in Tanzania

Nature conservation and biodiversity Creating, safeguarding and extending protected areas

Protected areas such as national parks, biosphere reserves and world natural heritage sites are crucial to the conservation of biodiversity. They help protect ecosystems, provide a haven for endangered species and preserve genetic resources for future generations.

Still from the BMZ video "Protecting Biodiversity in Tanzania

Protecting biodiversity in Tanzania

There are currently around 250,000 protected areas worldwide, covering a total of nearly 50 million square kilometres – an area that has quadrupled since 1990. Worldwide, 16.2 per cent of the Earth’s land area and 7.7 per cent of its coasts and oceans are protected. Protected areas hold some 20 per cent of terrestrial carbon and supply one out of three of the world’s 100 largest cities with drinking water.

However, many areas that play a key part in the conservation of global species diversity do not yet have protected status. Almost 40 per cent of all Key Biodiversity Areas (KBAs) currently have no formal protection.


A young giant tortoise is measured.

A young giant tortoise is measured.

A young giant tortoise is measured.

Protected areas are coming under increasing pressure as a result of population growth, the rising demand for resources and agricultural land, and climate change. In addition, many countries have neither the human nor the financial resources to ensure the effective protection and sustainable management of such areas. This means that in many cases protection exists only on paper. There is a great need for financial and technical support.

The challenges include the lack of ecological corridors to link protected areas, the limited acceptance of protected areas by local communities and poaching by heavily armed groups of organised criminals.

New Global Biodiversity Framework

A new Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF) is due to be agreed at the 15th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity, which is expected to be held in China at the end of 2021. Germany is urging the formulation of ambitious targets for the extent and quality of protected areas. As a member of the High Ambition Coalition for Nature and People (External link), Germany supports the aim of placing 30 per cent of the Earth’s land area and oceans under protection by 2030.

German activities

The Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) is one of the world’s largest bilateral donors in the field of nature conservation. Around half of the BMZ’s total spending on biodiversity conservation of 400 million euros per year (increasing to 600 million euros in 2021) is channelled into support for protected areas. This support goes to more than 650 protected areas, covering a total of over two million square kilometres (more than five times the area of Germany), in 78 countries.

The BMZ’s approach is guided by the principle of conservation for development: helping its partner countries combine biodiversity conservation with measures that safeguard the livelihood base of the local population. With the involvement of local people, sustainable practices are promoted that have the potential to boost incomes or open up new sources of earnings in areas such as nature tourism. This may be achieved by, for example, improving infrastructure and value chains.

Women gamekeepers in Khaudum National Park in Namibia. The park is part of the transboundary national park project KAZA, which is funded by the BMZ.

Women gamekeepers in Khaudum National Park in Namibia. The park is part of the transboundary national park project KAZA, which is funded by the BMZ.

Women gamekeepers in Khaudum National Park in Namibia. The park is part of the transboundary national park project KAZA, which is funded by the BMZ.

To open up development opportunities and ensure observance of human rights, traditional usage rights must be respected, the participatory rights of indigenous peoples and local communities must be strengthened and easily accessible grievance mechanisms must be set up. The BMZ advises partner governments and organisations on issues including good governance, the development of participatory management approaches and the networking of protected areas, sometimes across national borders.

For example, the BMZ is helping Angola, Botswana, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe connect their national protected areas to form the world’s largest transboundary terrestrial protected area (the Kavango-Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area (External link), KAZA). The BMZ has committed more than 35 million euros to the project to date.

Green Value

Mangrove Forest

Through the Green Value initiative the BMZ aims to highlight the socio-economic value of protected areas in Africa for prosperity and development. The approach involves determining the status of ecosystems in protected areas and the interactions with various population groups and sectors of the economy. Working with various partners, the natural capital of six African countries is being analysed. The initiative helps to make decision-makers and the general public aware of the need to preserve protected areas as the “backbone of natural capital” in Africa and to increase investment in their conservation.

New financing schemes

Black lechwe in Bangweulu Wetlands National Park, Zambia

The BMZ is involved in designing innovative financing schemes and it supports the implementation and further development of these schemes. For example, the Legacy Landscapes Fund, established in December 2020, provides long-term financial security for protected areas of outstanding importance for global biodiversity in developing and emerging countries. The fund receives resources from public and private sources (foundations).

The BMZ has already contributed 80 million euros to the foundation capital of the Blue Action Fund (External link), which was founded by Germany in 2016. Other contributors to the Fund are Sweden, France and the European Union. The Blue Action Fund is now one of the largest marine conservation funds in the world.