Central Africa: Management of protected areas and participatory approaches

8 / 2008 at 12:41 am 3 comments

“Co-management: a situation in which two or more social actors negotiate, define and guarantee amongst themselves a fair sharing of the management functions, entitlements and responsibilities for a given territory, area or set of natural resources.” (Borrini-Feyerabend et al., 2000) [1]

In the countries of Central Africa, numerous programmes have been undertaken since 1990 to demonstrate that protected areas can be more effectively managed through a participatory or “co-management” approach. There are three main reasons for the adoption of this approach:

  • Recognition of the limitations, if not the total failure, of policies that exclude certain actors from participating in the management of protected areas, especially since those excluded are often the most important actors.
  • The search for alternatives to these policies.
  • The desire to promote the adoption of protected area management “norms” developed with the effective participation of all actors involved. The assumption is that participation will guarantee respect for these norms and the continued survival of the protected areas.

An idealized approach

Today, almost all policies, legislation, decisions and activities related to the management of protected areas in Central Africa refer to co-management. The use of the term “co-management” with regard to decision-making processes would appear to imply that those responsible for administering protected areas have the knowledge, expertise and “modernity” required to solve any problems that arise.

This concept was first sparked among those responsible for protected areas by the publication of a series of preparatory studies for the Programme for the Conservation of the Forest Ecosystems in Central Africa (ECOFAC) [2], then spread like wildfire among theoretical and field researchers like Grazia Borrini-Feyerabend, Alain Karsenty, Jean Claude Nguinguiri, Vincent Ndangang, Norbert Gami, Michael B. Vabi, Tchala Abina, Aurélien Mofouma and Zéphirin Mogba, who have crisscrossed the region’s protected areas armed with tools and procedures to facilitate the co-management process. The intellectual and technical outputs of their work (reports, publications, methodologies, presentations at conferences and seminars, etc.) have come to form part of protected area management programmes.

Content of research outputs

What can be said about the content of these outputs? First of all, it should be clarified that, as in the case of previous approaches, the populations who live in and around protected areas are examined, explained, presented, represented and interpreted in a multitude of discourses and from different angles: historical, demographic, anthropological, sociocultural, socioeconomic, etc. While these studies may be necessary, given that they contribute basic data for activities aimed at development and conservation of biological diversity [3], they are not always directly applicable to development or conservation. The simple description of facts, which is what most of these studies amount to, is not enough to raise awareness of the need for the desired changes (the effective conservation of biodiversity, improvement of the living standards of local populations, co-management of natural resources).

Secondly, programmes for the conservation of protected areas seek to serve as the means for participation by local populations in the management of these areas. For instance, ECOFAC, a regional programme funded by the European Commission, declares its intent to distance itself from previous approaches focused on protecting patches of forest from local populations, and consequently “seeks to implement a policy aimed at the involvement of these populations in the rational management of resources in order to demonstrate that it is in their own interest to protect these areas in the long term.” From this perspective, it is assumed that the redistribution of the benefits derived from the conservation of forest ecosystems (salaries for project employees, income from tourism and game hunting activities, employment in the tourism or rural development sectors) will encourage local populations to participate in the conservation of natural resources in protected areas. In effect, the ECOFAC programme pays out around 10 million CFA francs monthly on salaries in the Dja Reserve (Cameroon) and 14 million in Odzala National Park (Republic of the Congo). It also supports economic activities that supposedly relieve pressure on natural resources in protected areas (fishing, farming, horticulture, forestry, crafts, wood sculpting, carpentry, etc.), implements labour-intensive techniques, promotes the use of local materials, renovates and repairs health care facilities, schools and roads (Vautherin, 1996), provides human resource training, and promotes community organisation. Thanks to ECOFAC, the communities of Idongo-Da in the north of the Central African Republic and the Lengui-Lengui reserve in the Republic of the Congo derive 60% and 30% of their total income, respectively, from tourism.

The experiences of the ECOFAC programme inspired similar initiatives in other areas. For example, the PROGECAP project included the recruitment of “eco-guards” from among local commercial hunters. This was a brilliant conservation measure, but ultimately precarious, since these are short-term projects and there is nothing to prevent the eco-guards from returning to their previous employment (as commercial hunters) once the projects have ended. These initiatives are also meant to involve the participation of local populations in the management of protected areas. However, while the communities may in fact participate in the management of protected areas in the sense that they benefit in some way from forest conservation, they can only be considered to “negotiate, define and guarantee a fair sharing of management functions, entitlements and responsibilities” with forestry companies to the extent that they receive a share of the benefits of this forestry activity (licensing fees, salaries as employees in the sector, etc.), and this is not the case. As Shiva points out, you cannot describe as “co-management” an approach that seeks the consent of local populations for the execution of conservation programmes but places control over all of the activities in the hands of external agents (who may be “experts”, NGOs, state officials or all of them at the same time).


We recognise that the models described above are not without merit, and they have been implemented throughout Central Africa for a good number of years. But we should now be focusing on the present and the future. In this regard, it would be neither legitimate nor scientifically acceptable to immediately extend these models to all of Central Africa. It would not be legitimate, because over the last 50 years (to limit ourselves to the post-colonial era), numerous strategies, theories, techniques, etc., have been implemented, and not always with the desired results. On the contrary, the system of protected areas has tended towards entropy: today, most are undergoing a process of disintegration, due to the multiplication of paradigms and management bodies and a lack of internal coherence. It would not be scientifically acceptable, either, because all too frequently, ideas are implemented without foreseeing the transition between the place where they are developed and the place where they are put into practice, and without testing their effectiveness in a limited area in order to determine, among other things:

  • The capacity of local populations to assimilate new activities.
  • The local populations’ interest in these activities.
  • The potential for linking new activities with existing knowledge and skills, in order to lessen the resistance to change and increase the acceptance of ecosystem conservation initiatives.
  • The increased effort that may be required by new activities as compared to traditional activities of harvesting natural resources.
  • The profitability of the new activities from the viewpoint of rural dwellers first and the national economy second, as well as the cost of new conservation and development measures in terms of social upheaval or cultural fragmentation, as was the case with the implementation of the Conkouati project in the Republic of the Congo, for example.

By: Assitou Ndinga, independent consultant, BP 2298, Brazzaville, Congo, email: ndinga_assitou@yahoo.fr. The full article is available at: http://www.wrm.org.uy/countries/Africaspeaks/Gestion_Aires_Protegees_En_Afrique.pdf

[1] Borrini-Feyerabend, G., Farvar, M. T., Nguinguiri, J. C. & Ndangang, V. A. (2000) Co-management of Natural Resources: Organising, Negotiating and Learning-by-Doing. Heidelberg (Germany): GTZ and IUCN.

[2] UICN (1988-1990) La série des analyses environnementales préparatoires au programme ECOFAC.

[3] Information on the relationships between humans and the natural environment: practical reasons for the use of biodiversity resources (human consumption or sale), frequency of extraction of these resources, reasons for the traditional choice of activities, techniques used, current composition of the population and migrations, traditions, customs, demographic growth, views on conservation, beliefs, taboos, local populations’ perception of projects, etc.


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3 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Liliana Cotto-Morales  |  8 / 2008 at 3:52 pm

    IN our own country, Puerto Rico, a Caribbean colony of the US, we face this paradoxes. More so, in the pristine island municipality of Vieques which was ocupied by the Navy for 6o years. They left on 2003, but their agencies remain to “protect the environment”
    We prepared a Guidelines for the Sustainable Development of Vieques” . What typo of organization would you recommend to do the job of promoting sustainability.

    From South to South, Liliana
    Urban sociologist and organizer of the Puerto Rican Social Forum (WSF, ASF)

  • 2. brian gamanya  |  12 / 2008 at 11:48 am


    The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), on behalf of the Namibian Ministry of Environment and Tourism (MET) is in support of Strengthening the Protected Area Network (SPAN) Project. First World Business Consultants is in search for a(n) expert(s) to contract on this short term work. The services of the consultant(s) are needed early in 2009. It is expected that this project will take approximately four months.

    The selected consultant(s) must demonstrate capabilities and experience to conduct an assessment of climate change in relation to protected areas and recommend possible responses and the evaluation of factors that make up such interventions. The successful consultant(s) must also have proven ability to finish and present work with a high degree of accuracy. The consultant(s) or team leader must have at least a Masters Degree or equivalent specialist work experience in the field of climate change.

    Applicants should provide clear, specific evidence of their background, qualifications and experience which are exclusively relevant to climate change scenarios, impacts and vulnerability assessments as well as a proposal outlining how they propose to undertake the project, the process and timeframes and a quote to complete the work.

    Namibia lies at the heart of the species-rich Namib-Karoo-Kaokoveld Desert Ecoregion (WWW Global 200Ecoregions). The country also has two globally significant “biodiversity hotspots”; namely the Sperrgebiet and Namib Escarpment. It has a high level of endemism and is an evolutionary hub for groups of organisms like melons, succulent plants, solifuges, geckos and tortoises. Namibia’s conservation efforts have made the country the stronghold for populations of mega fauna such as black rhinoceros (almost a third of the world population) and cheetah. The country has established an impressive system of Protected Areas (PAs), managed by the State, which constitutes a cornerstone of its conservation programme. This system comprises 20 national PAs, covering 17% of the terrestrial area (140,394 km2). In addition, fifty community-managed conservancies covers more than 118,704 km2. The national PAs contribute significantly to the national economy, with PA tourism accounting for 3-6 percent of the country’s GDP. It is expected that an increased annual spending on PAs by the Namibian Government would generates a positive rate of return of 32%. The Strengthening the Protected Area Network (SPAN) project is a 6-year project that officially started in 2006. It is a project of the MET, housed within the Directorate of Parks and Wildlife Management (DPWM) which is charged with management of the national PA network. The project is funded by the Global Environment Facility (GEF) through the UNDP. The SPAN Project’s goal is the sustainable management of renewable natural resources and protecting biodiversity while contributing to equitable economic and social development. The direct objective of the project is to improve management effectiveness of Namibia’s state

    PAs for biodiversity conservation. Climate change is the greatest environmental challenge facing the world today. Since the industrial revolution human activities have compounded natural climate change by increasing carbon emissions into the atmosphere. This legacy has produced an unprecedented rise in average global temperature. Rising temperatures will bring changes in weather patterns, rising sea levels and increased frequency and intensity of extreme weather. Although Namibia is considered a minor producer of greenhouse gases, it will be affected by these gases with respect to climate in the future. Namibia has therefore, in its national interest, decided to place more emphasis on its vulnerability to the effects of climate change and the adaptation actions that it needs to take to prevent and/or reduce the negative impacts of such effects. It is important to note that the southern part of Namibia is considered a transition zone, where climate models project different future conditions. The 1998 Climate Change Country Study identified seven areas or sectors where Namibia is most vulnerable to climate change. These include water resources, marine resources, agriculture, biodiversity ecosystems, coastal zones and systems, health and energy. The Initial National Communication was able to further define the degrees of vulnerability of each of these sectors or areas. It further identified the level of resources required to pre-empt or adapt to potential negative effects1.
    Furthermore, the impact of climate change is likely to be widespread in Namibia’s biodiversity conservation and wildlife management sector, as well as in associated tourism and wildlife products industries. Flooding is likely to increase, droughts and desertification will spread, wildlife, habitats and ecosystems could be badly affected. Biodiversity conservation and wildlife management strategies using the PAs as a cornerstone will need to have viable mitigation measures to reduce carbon emissions and also practical and cost effective adaptation measures to prepare for the unavoidable impacts already stored up in the climate system. These measures aim to ensure the long-term sustainability of the conservation outcomes and to safeguard associated social and economic benefits which the PA system brings to the country.

    This study focuses on 1) Vulnerability of wildlife to climate change in Namibia and effectiveness of the current PA network in safeguarding wildlife populations and biodiversity under different climate change scenarios; and 2) Economic impacts of climate change-ascribed wildlife and biodiversity losses on sectors dependent on wildlife resources such as tourism and game products industries. The study will include 4 landscape level case study sites, each of which includes a national PA(s).

    Specific Tasks
    The consultant/s will be expected to assess the impact of climate change on Namibia’s PAs. In particular four protected landscape conservation areas shall be selected as case study sites representing a range of Namibian ecosystems, from wetlands in the north, woodlands in the centre, desert along the coast and arid lands in the south. Each site will contain at least one national PA and the study will aim to review the effectiveness of the PAs within each protected landscape conservation area in sustaining wildlife population and biodiversity as well as examining development options in the face of climate change. In each case and overall the following factors shall be identified:
    1. Summarise the existing literature and known information with regard to climate change projections in
    protected areas and in Namibia 2. Identify the obvious information and knowledge gaps in Namibia in relation to climate change and climate change in protected areas 3. Identify the impacts and risks of climate change to these ecosystems i.e. species extinction, fire, weed
    spread, increased drought or flooding 4. Identify the degree/extent that these impacts and risks may have on the ecosystem in the short, medium and long term 5. Conduct a sensitivity analysis of wildlife, flora and fauna, habitats and water resources to different levels of climate change risk using the best fitting global climate change models and estimate in quantitative terms what this will mean for a) land productivity in terms of ecosystem integrity and b) game productivity. 6. Highlight the potential ecological impact of these factors on the protected area i.e. species extinction 7. Identify the social and economic costs of these changes on the protected area system including loss of economic benefits associated with PA tourism 8. Assess social and economic costs for 1) failure to adapt (the default situation) and 2) adaptation options 9. Identify methods and interventions for how the impacts and risk of climate change can be avoided, remedied or mitigated, including the ecological, social and economic value of these interventions 10. Identify indicators and methods for measuring the extent of climate change impact on Namibia’s protected areas 11. Quantify the existing carbon sequestration (millions of tonnes CO2) that results from each case study site and all protected areas in Namibia 12. Identify the opportunities for protected areas to sequester or off-set further carbon emissions and obtain revenue from such activities 13. The consultancy should provide recommendation about the interventions, procedures and institutional arrangements required for climate change considerations, including adaptation measures so that they are further enhanced and accounted for in protected area policies and management.
    To inform this process a separate literature review will also be required. This will need to focus on the impact of climate change in protected areas and the impact of climate change in Namibia and the region.

    The key outcomes from this consultancy will be 1) a literature review on the impact of climate change in a)protected areas and b) on Namibia and in the region; 2) A report scoping and assessing the impact of climate in Namibia’s protected areas, identifying their vulnerability, providing specific vulnerability indicators, determining the economic and social costs associated with adaptation and making adaptation recommendations on key policy and management interventions as response measures to be adopted; 3) A colour, A1, poster that explains the ecological, social and economic impact of climate change on Namibia’s protected areas and some of the management interventions that may be needed to mitigate these impacts; 4) A map of Namibia indicating location of case study areas (selected 4 sites); 5) A 5-10 pages policy summary report comprising key messages from the vulnerability assessment which should include: i) model agreement – yes or no ii) direction/magnitude of changes ii) primary and secondary impacts iv) impacts that are not possible to model and why v) interaction with non-climate stressors; 6) A power point presentation targeted to national and regional politicians and policy-makers .

    Potential references:
    Dunne, N., 2003. Global warming- tracking, the effects of climate change on plants. Plant and Garden News 18 (3): 1 – 4
    Engelbrecht, A.; Golding, A; Hietkamp, s. and Scholes, B, 2004. The potential for sequestration of carbon
    dioxide in South Africa. Contract Report 86DD/HT33W9. CSIR, Pretoria
    Friedenthal, J.; Kristiansen, T. And Malmdorf, T., 2004. Kyoto protocol carbon trading opportunities for
    municipalities in South Africa to develop revenue generating CDM Projects. Technical Papers, Paper B.
    IMESA Conference, Shorten Publications
    Mills, A.; O?Connor, T.; Skowno, A.; De Wet, B.; Donalson, J.; Lechmere-Oertel, R. and Sigwela, A., 2003.
    Farming for carbon credits: implications for land use decisions in South Africa Rangelands. Proceedings of the 7th International Rangelands Congress. Durban, 26th July to 01st August
    Grwambi, B., undated. Carbon Sequestration and Trading: An Opportunity for Farmers and Landowners to Earn Additional Income. Principal Agricultural Economist, Department of Agriculture Western Cape.
    Bomhard, B., Richardson, D.M., Donaldson, J.S., Hughes, G.O., Midgley, G.F., Raimondo, D.C., Rebelo,
    A.G., Rouget, M. & Thuiller,W. (2005) Potential impacts of future land use and climate change on the Red List status of the Proteaceae in the Cape Floristic Region, South Africa. Global Change Biology, 11:1452-1468
    Ministry of Environment and Tourism (2002) Namibia’s Initial National Communication on Climate Change to the United Nations, Windhoek, Namibia.
    Midgley, G.F., Hannah, L., Millar, D., Thuiller, W. & Booth A. (2003) Developing regional and species-level assessments of climate change impacts on biodiversity: A preliminary study in the Cape Floristic Region.
    Biological Conservation 112:87-97
    Midgley, G.F., Hannah, L., Millar, D., Rutherford, M.C. & Powrie, L.W. (2002) Assessing the vulnerability of species richness to anthropogenic climate change in a biodiversity hotspot. Global Ecology and Biogeography
    Midgley, G.F. 1, Chapman, R.A. 2, Hewitson, B. 3, Johnston, P. 3, de Wit, M. 4,Ziervogel, G. 3, Mukheibir, P.
    5, van Niekerk, L. 2, Tadross, M. 3, van Wilgen, B.W. 2, Kgope, B. 1, Morant, P.D. 2, Theron, A. 2, Scholes, R.J. 6, Forsyth, G.G. 2 (2005) A Status Quo, Vulnerability and Adaptation Assessment of the Physical and Socio-economic Effects of Climate Change in the Western Cape. Report to the Western Cape Government, Cape Town, South Africa. CSIR Report No. ENV-S-C 2005-073, Stellenbosch
    Department of Environmental Affairs and Development Planning,Western Cape, (in Prep), A climate change strategy and action plan for the Western Cape, Cape Town, South Africa
    South Africa?s Initial National Communication Under The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, ISBN No. 0-9584773-1-0.

    Namibia is about to proclaim the 26,000 km² Sperrgebiet National Park, increasing Namibia’s PA coverage to about 17% of its surface area. Much of the Sperrgebiet falls under the succulent Karoo biome, one of the world’s few arid biodiversity hotspots. The Sperrgebiet means “forbidden area” in German and has been off limits to the public as a national diamond mining concession area. SPAN Project has assisted with preparing a solid foundation for the new park. This includes development of park management, business, and tourism plans and with a co-management mechanism with stakeholders such as the mining and fishery sectors.
    National Parks, National Wildlife Refuges, and other protected areas harbor unique environments and wildlife not found elsewhere. This raises particular concerns about the vulnerability of these ecosystems to a changing climate. Many parks and refuges are designated to protect rare natural features or particular species of plants and animals. Changes in climate could create new stresses on natural communities, and, in the absence of adaptation, lead to the loss of valued resources.

    Yours Sincerely,

    Brian Gamanya
    First World Business Consultants Namibia
    C/o Green Bay Magazine
    Email: green-bay@in.com
    Tel: +264 81 3565325
    8 Avocet Street
    Hochland Pack
    Pelican Square

  • 3. wetland mitigation  |  1 / 2013 at 11:52 pm

    It’s going to be end of mine day, but before end I am reading this wonderful piece of writing to improve my knowledge.


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