MOST RESIDENTS OF THE MOUNTAIN COMMUNITIES IN IVANO-FRANKIVSK REGION OF UKRAINE AND MARAMURESH COUNTY OF ROMANIA ARE NOT FAMILIAR WITH THE TERM ‘BIODIVERSITY’

This is evidenced by the results of a basic sociological study devoted to the informal environmental education and public awareness in the field of nature protection, held by the project ‘CARPATHIAN FOREST SCHOOLs – a pilot cooperation for nature protection and environmental education’ in August-December 2020.

The study was performed in the project target regions – the Ivano-Frankivsk region of Ukraine and Maramures county of Romania. The objectives were (i) to assess how well the local communities are aware of biodiversity and its value; (ii) to determine the level of local stakeholders’ involvement in biodiversity conservation and nature education activities; 3) to assess the stajeholders’ capacities for biodiversity conservation and nature education.

In the Ivano-Frankivsk region, the study was conducted in 31 mountain settlements of present Kosiv, Ivano-Frankivsk, Kalush, Kolomyia, Nadvirna and Verkhovyna districts, and in Maramures County – in 10 settlements (communes) located within the territory of the Maramures Mountain Nature Park.

The interviews were held with 392 Ukrainian and 467 Romanian respondents over the age of 20, permanently residing in mountain settlements with a population of more than 500 people. The sample included almost equal representation of respondents of different age categories and genders. In both regions the largest group of respondents were people who have lived permanently in mountain settlements all their lives. Also, two thirds of respondents in both countries have general secondary or vocational education, and a third of respondents, respectively, completed higher education.

The study demonstrated that majority of residents of mountain communities in the Ivano-Frankivsk region and Maramures County do not consider biodiversity a value or are not familiar with this term. Thus, 72% of Ukrainian and 52.8% of Romanian respondents noted that the term ‘biodiversity’ are not known for them. The Ukrainian respondents who are aware of the biodiversity mostly perceive it at a hedonostic / utilitarian level, seeing the value of biodiversity in comfortable living conditions (59% of Ukrainian respondents). For comparison, in Romania the share of the respondents with similar attitude constitutes only 24.2%. Only 11.7% of respondents in Ukraine and twice as much (23.1%) in Romania consider biodiversity a prerequisite for local economic development. Slightly less, 7.7% of respondents in Ukraine and 16.3% in Romania consider biodiversity a prerequisite for recreation and tourism development in their communities. Only in few cases, local residents consider biodiversity as a matter of pride for their communities.

Respondents also generally do not perceive local nature as a favorable environment for outdoor education and upbringing of the younger generation. At the same time, Romanian respondents are more likely to associate biodiversity with the material and intangible values, probably possessing more voluminous or qualitative information (or more diverse experience) about it.

Majority of the respondents believe that insufficient attention is paid to environmental protection in their areas. The most apparent problems, in their opinion, are the negative consequences of the local enterprises (entrepreneurs) activities and improper household management in the mountain settlements, brought in by the unauthorized felling and removal of timber from forests by heavy vehicles, natural dumps, burning leaves, burning grass on the ground. At the same time, about half of Ukrainian respondents (48%) say that they receive enough information on environmental issues, while in Romania only 4.8% of respondents are satisfied with the amount of environmental information received.

Respondents in both target regions are more likely to trust their friends or neighbors than professionals. At the same time, a significant part of respondents in both countries receive environmental information from websites and social networks (48.2% in Ukraine and 46.9% in Romania). 41.3% of respondents in Romania and a much smaller number of Ukrainian respondents (16.6%) draw environmental information from the media. The main sources of environmental information for respondents in Ukraine are local governments (66.1%) and non-governmental organizations (55.9%). Romanian respondents consider regional authorities to be the most authoritative source of information (82.7%), while in Ukraine less than 1% of respondents receive environmental information from these authorities.

According to respondents from both regions, the environment is most affected by the activities of local and regional authorities. A significant proportion of respondents also recognize the role of NGOs in biodiversity conservation. At the same time, Romania has a significantly higher share of those who see the impact of educational institutions on the environment. In particular, 23.5% indicated the role of secondary schools, 14.3% – the impact of higher education institutions. In Ukraine, the influence of secondary schools is recognized by only 9.7%, and higher education institutions, the purpose of which is basic research and innovation – even less (6.9% of respondents). This can be explained by the fact that in mountain settlements the education sector is represented almost exclusively by schools.

The vast majority of respondents from the mountain settlements of Ivano-Frankivsk and Maramures do not participate in environmental activities at all: 73% of respondents in Ukraine and 87.6% of Romanian respondents admitted that they have not participated in environmental activities in the last 12 months. Also, in many cases, respondents are not even aware of environmental activities / initiatives in their area. At the same time, the environmental activity of a minority of respondents is mainly limited to cleaning areas, planting trees or cleaning water bodies and springs. The share of participants in flash mobs, youth eco-actions, seminars / trainings is minimal and testifies to the ecological passivity of young people as a general trend.

The respondents from both target regions are only in some cases willing to financially support environmental activities, in particular, nature education, investing mostly small amounts of funds. Therefore, it can be assumed that mountain dwellers are either unaware of the value of nature education or hope that such education (particularly for their children) will be funded from the public budget, grants or other sources.

The conducted baseline survey is an integral and organic part of the project. Its results are planned to be used in the framework of project activities – in particular, for the development of guidelines and the Carpathian Forest Schools curriculum, as well as for the project publications, planning the project awareness campaign. At the project final stage partners plan carrying out repeated study to measure the impact of the project awareness activity.

The project team believes that the findings of the baseline study can serve for further planning and decision making by officials of public authorities and local governments regarding the activities they undertake in the relevant fields. Besides, the study can be used for development of various policy documents, curricula, textbooks, manuals by teachers and academics, environment protection institutions, as well as civil society organizations . We sincerely hope that our work will be used to good advantage in the field of local development. The regional reports for both target regions and the summary information  (consolidated report) are provided at www.www.taif.org.ua.

Contact person  – Lada Malaniy, project PR and communication expert, email: office@www.taif.org.ua.

The Project “Carpathian Forest Schools – Pilot Cooperation for Nature Conservation and Environmental Education” – a 24 months project (October 1, 2019 – September 30th, 2021) is being implemented by the Tourist Association of Ivano-Frankivsk Region under the Hungary-Slovakia-Romania-Ukraine ENI Cross-Border Cooperation Programme 2014-2020 and is co-financed by the European Union. The project partners are the NFA ROMSILVA – Administration of Maramures Mountains Nature Park (Romania), Department of regional development and construction of Dolyna district state administration, and Vyhoda Village Council (Ukraine).

Project presentation

This press release has been produced with the financial assistance of the European Union and the Programme. The contents of this document are the sole responsibility of the Tourist Association of Ivano-Frankivsk region and can under no circumstances be regarded as reflecting the position of the Managing Authority/ Joint Technical Secretariat or the European Union.

Project “CARPATHIAN FOREST SCHOOLs – a pilot cooperation for nature protection and environmental education” is implemented by the Tourist Association of Ivano-Frankivsk Region under the Hungary-Slovakia-Romania-Ukraine ENI Cross-Border Cooperation Programme 2014-2020 (www.huskroua-cbc.net) and is co-financed by the European Union Project.

Project implementation period: October 1, 2019 – September 30, 2021. The total project budget – 672,333.53 Euro

Office in Ukraine: 26 Dnistrovska, St., Ivano-Frankivsk, 76018, tel.: +38 0342 720232, e-mail: office@www.taif.org.ua, web. www.www.taif.org.ua

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