Background

The Central American countries together comprise an area of ​​769,000 square kilometers. Although this is only 0.5% of the earth’s surface, it is home to 7% of the world's terrestrial species, including 210 endemic mammals and 24,000 plant species. Central America also acts as a natural bridge used by hundreds of species of migratory birds, and it is one of the most important places for biodiversity conservation of all the life forms that exist on Earth.

 

The region has already taken some measures to preserve its remarkable biodiversity, including the establishment of approximately 600 terrestrial protected areas and over 100 marine protected areas. To date, about 12% of the region’s territory is under some form of conservation protection. Regional cooperation has led to the establishment of innovative programs, such as the Mesoamerican Biological Corridor, which permits the interconnection of protected areas throughout the region through biodiversity friendly plantations, agroforestry systems and private reserves.

 

However, high levels of population growth and low income levels in Central America people have increased human pressure on the region’s natural resources and biodiversity, creating a tension between conservation and development. 22

 

Close to 95% of regional enterprises are Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs), and these generate 44% of employment and 34% of total production in the region. Many of these MSMEs are located in rural areas and depend mainly on natural resource inputs and activities. This leads to a loss of forest lands, pollution and soil degradation and contributes to a loss of biodiversity.

 

Central American MSMEs carry out productive activities including cocoa and coffee cultivation, extensive cattle raising, timber production, shrimp farming, aquaculture and cultivation of vegetable crops that require large quantities of inputs, as well as sugarcane production, slash and burn agriculture and tourism  - 80% of global tourism services are provided by MSMEs.

 

Because of their importance to and impact on the region’s economy and biodiversity, MSMEs have been identified by the Central American Bank for Economic Integration (CABEI), the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and the Global Environment Facility (GEF), as a target group for promoting the conservation of forests and mountains and coastal and marine ecosystems by changing their production and service practices and carrying out more biodiversity friendly business activities that are both sustainable and bankable.