The Ramsar Convention was the first international convention to promote the engagement of the business sector directly in the conservation and wise use of wetlands. The first partnership agreement, signed on 27 January 1998, resulted in the creation of the “Danone – Evian Fund for Water” for the protection of wetlands as well as providing the Ramsar Secretariat with support to raise awareness of global water and wetlands-related challenges through Ramsar’s World Wetlands Day annual campaign (2 February). The World Wetlands Day campaign has grown from fewer than 30 countries in 1998 to over 160 countries in 2013.
The partnership grew in 2008 when the Ramsar Convention, the Danone Group and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) signed a second agreement to create the “Danone Fund for Nature” with ambitious objectives: to restore degraded coastal wetlands, re-develop local economies, and combat climate change and poverty. This evolved into the Livelihoods Fund, operational since 2011. The Livelihoods Fund provides its investors (Danone, Crédit Agricole, Schneider Electric, Hermès, SAP, La Poste, Voyageurs du Monde, CDC Climat and Firmenich) with a return of high-quality carbon offsets with strong social, economic and environmental impact. There are currently six active projects in the Fund portfolio: three in mangrove restoration (Oceanium-Senegal, NEWS-India, and YAGASU-Indonesia), two agroforestry and reforestation projects (Naandi-India and Fundaeco-Guatemala) and one rural energy project (Climate Pal-Kenya). To date, more than 100 million trees have been replanted, contributing to increased food security for the local populations through the restoration of their ecosystems, their main source of sustenance.
Also in 2008, the partnership launched the “Evian Water Protection Institutes” to assist communities in managing water resources and improving their livelihoods. To date, three field projects have been implemented successfully with local NGOs and communities at Ramsar Sites in Argentina, Nepal and Thailand. A fourth project in Japan at the Lower Maruyama River Basin Ramsar Site began in 2013 to restore habitat for Oriental White Storks.
In 2009, the boundaries of the partnership expanded further with the classification of the evian® water catchment area as a Ramsar Site (“Impluvium d'Evian” Site no. 1833). It is the first natural spring water infiltration zone recognized as a wetland of international importance. The Association for the Protection of the Evian Mineral Water Catchment Area (APIEME) has a mandate to protect the source of the water. This association and the designation of the impluvium brought together the Government of France, Ramsar, local stakeholders including the Evian Water Company, and the surrounding communities. Each year tens of thousands of people visit Evian’s Buvette Cachat facility, the impluvium, and “Les Jardins de l’eau, Pré Curieux” in Evian-les-Bains, France, to learn about wetlands and water.
This partnership will continue to expand its impact in the future with plans for broader communications about the conservation and wise use of water and wetlands, continued campaigning for World Wetlands Day 2014 in nearly 170 countries, and with NGO partners and communities around the world.