A pilot project in Burkina Faso, Botswana and Kenya implemented by BirdLife Africa Partners, has confirmed that communities do benefit from the sustainable use of natural resources. Over the last four years, the 'Improving Livelihoods' scheme has demonstrated clear links between biodiversity conservation and poverty reduction.
"The livelihood security of millions of rural people all over Africa is inextricably linked with biodiversity and the use of biological resources, either through the direct use of the goods which they supply to people, or indirectly through the wider environmental and cultural services", said Dr Hazell Shokellu Thompson, BirdLife Director for Africa and Secretariat Head. "This is what BirdLife in Africa has been showcasing through this project and it's satisfying to see results".
Women who have been implementing this project through Fondation des Amis de la Nature (BirdLife in Burkina Faso) have greatly benefited from the sale of products from parkia grains - increasing their incomes by 50%. As a result they are now taking great care of the indigenous trees that produce these grains, and enhancing biodiversity by planting more.
In Kenya, the Kijabe Environment Volunteers are one of BirdLife's Site Support Groups (SSGs), with NatureKenya (BirdLife in Kenya). They have been providing local communities with the information and resources they need to advance environmentally friendly businesses, implementing a management plan for the local forest and are providing practical livelihood and conservation training.
At Botswana's Lake Ngami IBA, canoeing bird guides are benefiting from their chaperoning activities by earning about 35 pula (just over 220 Euros or 280 US Dollars) from each tourist. Furthermore, Vulnerable Cape Vulture Gyps coprotheres at the Mannyelanong Hill IBA are breeding more successfully, due to intervention of the Cape Vulture Environment Club, which is implementing the Mannyelanong management plan in collaboration with the Wildlife Division. This involves activities such as reducing human disturbance to vulture breeding sites. Both these projects are supported by BirdLife Botswana (BirdLife in Botswana).
However, as well as celebrating successes, stakeholders were now keen to push the project forward. "Our IBAs are in rural settings where often the poorest are also found, and continuing to emphasise this link between biodiversity conservation and poverty reduction is crucial", stressed Jane Gaithuma, BirdLife Regional Project Manager and Policy and Advocacy Coordinator for Africa.
"We are excited by the outcomes of this project, but clearer tangible results are needed to show win-win solutions for linking biodiversity conservation with poverty reduction", added Dr Karin Gerhardt, representative for the Swedish Biodiversity Project (SwedBio), who funded the scheme. "It is important for conservation organisations like BirdLife to scale up the project within the piloting countries, particularly on the level of empowerment, capacity building, linking today's knowledge about the 'free' ecosystem services and local knowledge. The Lessons learnt from the pilot project should be disseminated to the conservation and development NGOs, Governments, Donors and international policy maker".
There is already a scale up of the project through the collaboration between the Spanish Agency for International Cooperation and Development and BirdLife Africa Partners. This is being implemented in Kenya, and will expand into Ethiopia and South Africa. BirdLife Africa hopes to continue work started in all these countries in the years to come.