Wester Ross welcomes managing director of Canadian Biosphere Reserve

members of the Wester Ross Biosphere Reserve with Jean-Philippe L. Messier
Hannah Downey

The Wester Ross UNESCO Biosphere (WRB) recently welcomed the Manicouagan-Uapishka World Biosphere Reserve (RMBMU) from Quebec, Canada to learn more about employing social economy strategies.

Jean-Philippe L. Messier, Managing Director of the RMBMU, explained how the creation of business units within the mandate of the Biosphere generates the necessary income to sustain operational costs. RMBMU has two such units: MU Conseils which specialises in the design and management of participatory processes, and their research facility, Station Uapishka. These units have been so productive that the organisation has an operating surplus.

He added: "The vast majority of (Biosphere) reserves are based on public funding models that prevent them from generating surpluses that can be reinvested in the community.” This sort of reinvestment is integral as a way to support the rural, yet vibrant communities of Wester Ross. WRB is novel in the UK Biosphere network and further afield as the organisation is entirely community-led.

Natasha Hutchison, WRB Coordinator said: “Our colleagues in RMBMU have been in our exact financial position. There is much we can learn from their entrepreneurial model, and we hope to adapt it for implementation here in the northwest Highlands. The path they have walked with great success is one on which we would like to embark.”

This collaborative approach between Biosphere organisations is common within the world network which has more than 700 sites in 120 countries.