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ABCG Launches New Phase of Partnership with USAID to Enhance Collaboration for African Biodiversity

ABCGIII news article cover ImageThe Africa Biodiversity Collaborative Group (ABCG) has received a new award from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), continuing its long running partnership to bring together conservation actors to jointly identify and implement solutions to address critical threats to biodiversity in Africa. This new two-year award, ABCG III: Collaboration for African Biodiversity, will support an expanded ABCG coalition to implement a strategy to capitalize on ABCG’s collective strengths for enhanced collaboration at scale.

Owing to USAID’s long-term support, ABCG has become an established thought leader in creating innovative conservation solutions by fostering collaborative and adaptive learning opportunities that help practitioners improve, scale and replicate, while generating valuable user-driven knowledge that is disseminated globally. Through this new award, ABCG will continue the development and expansion of its partnership model in Africa to better support the continent’s growing conservation community by strengthening collaboration with African institutions, diversifying its funding model, and adopting new structures and operational procedures. “USAID’s investment in institutional development will support an updated approach to thought leadership, knowledge management, and outreach suited to drive collaboration on the conservation of Africa’s wildlife in the modern African context,” says Rebecca Goodman, ABCG Director.

The objectives of this new phase are threefold: 1) Strengthen African partner institutions and incorporate them more systematically into ABCG efforts to generate knowledge and influence conservation practice; 2) Focus ABCG’s programmatic approach to deliver value for African biodiversity and attract new members, and; 3) Diversify funding sources and increase overall resources to render more sustainable the important roles that ABCG has assumed in support of biodiversity conservation in Africa.

Since the late 1990s, ABCG has pursued a myriad of conservation issues by assessing the critical threats to biodiversity in Africa and determining thematic focus areas. This work has generated a portfolio of innovative conservation approaches that can be practically applied across contexts, and has supported collaboration among ABCG Members and their local partners. In ABCG II (2015-2021), the coalition embarked on the process of developing a new road map that will see ABCG capitalize on its strengths and maximize its contribution to conserving biodiversity in Africa. Through this new award, the coalition will begin to implement the new opportunities defined in the road map that will see it optimize its activities and ensure the sustainability of the coalition.

About ABCG
ABCG is a coalition of seven leading conservation organizations with field-based activities in Africa, including the African Wildlife Foundation (AWF), Conservation International (CI), the Jane Goodall Institute (JGI), The Nature Conservancy (TNC), World Resources Institute (WRI), World Wildlife Fund (WWF), and the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS). ABCG works collectively to advance the understanding of critical biodiversity challenges and their solutions in sub-Saharan Africa by: Identifying and prioritizing emerging and high-priority conservation issues in the region; Fostering technical and information exchange through partnerships with African institutions and civil society, and; Synthesizing collective lessons from field activities and sharing them with a broader multi-sector community for data-driven decision-making and policy integration.

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Practices Conservation Leaders Can Employ to Cushion their Organizations During Crises

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected various dimensions of our lives including the leadership of nations, organizations and institutions. Among those severely affected is the conservation sector which is facing reduced revenues due to a decline in tourism, reduced field activities for many staff and office closures. These challenges have forced leaders to make tough decisions in order to cushion their organizations and employees from the economic, social and other shocks caused by the pandemic. During these uncertain times, leaders need to employ adaptive management skills that will enable them lead effectively.

With the aim of sharing leadership practices that conservation leaders in Africa are implementing in response to COVID-19, a consortium of organizations including the Africa Biodiversity Collaborative Group (ABCG) organized a webinar titled, COVID-19 and Adaptive leadership, which was held on August 11, 2020. This important and timely discussion involved the leadership of different conservation organizations: Michael O’Brien-Onyeka, Senior Vice President Conservation International-Africa; Munira Bashir, Kenya Program Director, The Nature Conservancy; Ademola Ajagbe, Africa Director, Birdlife International; Luther Bois Anukur, Regional Director, Eastern & Southern Africa, IUCN; and was moderated by Lucy Waruingi, Executive Director, African Conservation Centre.

COVID19 and Adaptive Leadership

While speaking about crisis management in times of a pandemic, Ademola Ajagbe said, “COVID-19 has brought us to a watershed in the history of leadership as never faced before. It is very easy to underestimate the impact of this pandemic on our staff, families and even on ourselves especially when it comes to the drastic change in our lifestyle and mental health. These changes are creating anxiety, fear and a sense of insecurity that is affecting everyone including leaders.”

To cope with the situation Ademola mentioned that leaders need to develop flexibility in how their staff work, unlearning, learning and relearning approaches on how to deliver the organization’s work. Leaders should be transparent with their teams when making changes that may affect their employees. Ademola further added that leaders should know what to prioritize and how to change the approaches used in their programs to maintain organizational productivity even during this crisis.

Still on the topic of crisis management, Michael O’Brien-Onyeka stated that organizations need to have a contingency plan as a method of preparation for future crises. In times of crisis, this would involve measures such as taking pay-cuts to avoid laying off staff, restructuring teams to ensure productivity during the uncertainty, and having flexible working hours among other measures.

With disruptions in conservation activities especially ongoing fieldwork projects, Munira Bashir mentioned that like other organizations, The Nature Conservancy, has had to adjust its work plan by increasing the project durations or postponing some activities due to the set COVID-19 guidelines.

Speaking on the topic of COVID-19 and its link with biodiversity, Luther Anukur acknowledged that the African conservation status was already in crisis before COVID-19 due to low funding for the effective management of protected areas. Furthermore, the threats to biodiversity loss as a result of human activity, wildlife trade, pollution, among other threats were high.

Luther highlighted two key lessons learnt during this pandemic period with regards to conservation, firstly, the current business model of funding conservation is inadequate and there is need to reduce overreliance on governments, aid and tourism revenue as a source of funding because they also have their shortcomings. Secondly, there is a need to position conservation in the right place of the national economy and national development, making it possible to link conservation and development since Africa’s economies to a large extent depend on ecosystem services.

As a recommendation to salvage the economy of African conservation sectors, Munira suggested that African countries should find ways of aggressively marketing domestic tourism, in order to raise their tourism revenue as they are currently losing out on revenue from international tourism.

“Every adversity carries along with it the seed of an equal or greater benefit” Napoleon Hill. This is a period when conservation leaders can form synergies and pull resources together to ensure the conservation sector keeps thriving even when faced with such catastrophes.

To learn more about how conservation leaders can maintain productivity in their organizations during this pandemic, listen to the recorded webinar on ‘COVID-19 and Adaptive Leadership’.

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ABCG Launches Freshwater Conservation and WASH Advocacy Strategy Facilitators Guide

FW-WASH FACILITATOR'S GUIDE LAUNCHThe Africa Biodiversity Collaborative Group (ABCG) members, Conservation International and the Jane Goodall Institute in collaboration with IRC WASH have developed the Freshwater Conservation and WASH Advocacy Strategy Workshop Facilitator’s Guide. Launched on August 20, 2020, through a webinar presentation, the guide lays out steps that conservation, WASH, and development practitioners can use to develop an advocacy strategy that can enable them deliver positive conservation outcomes.

Building on years of experience, the ABCG FW-WASH task group has translated decades of on-the-ground successes into long- lasting policy action. Recognizing the integral role advocacy plays in creating and sustaining momentum for progress on conservation and human health policies, the FW-WASH task group developed and ground truthed the guide.

The Freshwater Conservation and WASH Advocacy Strategy Workshop Guide consists of five parts, the main Facilitator’s Guide and 4 appendices:

  1. Advocacy Strategy Workshop Facilitator’s Guide
  2. Appendix 1: Advocacy Strategy Workshop PowerPoint Presentation
  3. Appendix 2: Country Context Presentation Template
  4. Appendix 3: Facilitator Workbook
  5. Appendix 4: Participant Workbook

The expected outcome of the guide is to have ABCG members and partners increase institutional capacity to address policy gaps and challenges to multisectoral, integrated FW-WASH policy in sub-Saharan Africa. Participants will build skills in advocacy strategy creation, communications, and advocating for changes in policy.

The objectives of the document are to:

  1. Provide individuals with guidelines for developing basic advocacy and facilitation skills and a process for building advocacy capacity of organizations working on FW-WASH.
  2. Present content and activities designed to develop basic skills in advocacy strategy design.
  3. Provide a platform for sharing existing advocacy experiences and expertise across one or more organizations.

When using this guide, please use the suggested citation below.

Suggested Citation: Walter, E., Sorto, C., Edmond, J., Mercurio, S. and Rozenberg, E. 2020. Freshwater Conservation and WASH Advocacy Strategy Workshop: Facilitator’s Guide. Washington, DC: Africa Biodiversity Collaborative Group and IRC.

For questions about the methodology in the guide, please contact Elynn Walter (walter@ircwash.org) or Colleen Sorto (csorto@conservation.org).

Download the guide here: Freshwater Conservation and WASH Advocacy Strategy Workshop Facilitator’s Guide

Watch the recorded virtual launch of the guide here: Webinar recording and presentation of the Freshwater Conservation and WASH Advocacy Guide launch

About ABCG FW-WASH Task Group

ABCG is reducing watershed degradation and improving the health of freshwater ecosystems through linking freshwater conservation (FW) and water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH). In response to human-induced threats to biodiversity and freshwater resources in Africa, ABCG partners, Conservation International and the Jane Goodall Institute brought together conservation and development actors to address these multisectoral issues and develop solutions for improved human and ecosystem health in sub-Saharan Africa.

Population, Health and Environment

The Contribution of Voluntary Family Planning and Reproductive Health to Global Health and Sustainable Development in Cameroon

There is a strong and direct link between human health and ecosystem health, both depend on each other. The current COVID-19 pandemic continues to exemplify this interrelationship and the need to find a balance where both nature and people thrive.

To promote this healthy interrelationship, the Africa Biodiversity Collaborative Group (ABCG) through the Population Health and Environment (PHE) working group, is implementing effective approaches that integrate biodiversity conservation and activities that contribute to improved global health. Centered on a holistic approach to health and environment, the PHE project includes the promotion of proper nutrition and food security through training on sustainable agriculture. It also incorporates improving sanitation and access to clean water through activities such as reducing deforestation, improving water quality and reducing pollution to nearby watersheds. Moreover, the approach focuses on providing knowledge and promoting better access to health services such as access to family planning and reproductive health services, to improve family well-being.

The human health aspect is important to environmental health because, a healthy community is better placed to take care of their environment and improve the welfare of the ecosystem. World Wildlife Fund (WWF), a member of ABCG is leading the execution of the PHE project working with community members to improve human and environmental health in the buffer zones of Lobeke National Park, Southeast Cameroon.

“We are working with members of the community, in collaboration with our government health partner and local non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to address multiple factors that affect their health by imparting them with knowledge and building their capacity on health issues,” says Nathalie Simoneau, Lead Specialist, Gender and Social Inclusion at WWF.

As part of the project efforts on building capacity of different stakeholder groups on health issues, in 2019 WWF staff mobilized and sensitized 474 key stakeholders in order for them to have inputs in the project design, framing and implementation. The stakeholders comprised of the WWF and the Ministry of Forests and Fauna conservation staff, administrative, health and municipal authorities and community leaders (men and women of the Baka and Bantu groups) in Cameroon.

Improving skills and capacity of adult women and youth is an important avenue for ensuring the uptake of the PHE approach. WWF’s health partners conducted 12 capacity building sessions for women community focal points where a total of 280 adult women and teenagers from the Baka and Bantu groups actively participated. The sessions highlighted three themes: human reproduction and reproductive health, prevention of unwanted pregnancies in teenage girls and adult women, the prevalence of early pregnancies and prevention of maternal and child mortality, during pregnancy and post-natal. The sessions also addressed the health risks associated with teenage pregnancy and consequences that early pregnancy can have on the potential of teenage girls to live a productive and healthy life.

The women focal points were involved in activities such as group discussions, brainstorming, short presentations and sharing among participants and trainers. The trainees also had an opportunity to explore the root causes of high maternal and child mortality rates in their communities. Poverty and a lack of means to feed pregnant mothers and young children, complications during pregnancy and at birth, and high frequency of pregnancies were identified as leading causes of high maternal and child mortality.

Apart from capacity building sessions, the project also promotes reproductive health services and voluntary access to family planning methods to women and couples through the help of trained community health focal points. Trained community health focal points promote the use of barrier methods like male and female condoms and natural methods (fertility awareness in women) among the community members, and provide guidance on how to access hormonal contraceptives from the health centers as needed. 

In the months of January to March, 2020 women focal points led the equal distribution of 21,336 condoms to Moloundou, Yenga and Salapoumbé Health Centers. They also referred health-related issues like family planning counselling or pre and post-natal visits to the nearest health centers.

“Through our health partners’ efforts, we are providing these services to promote women and infants’ health outcomes thereby supporting to decrease child mortality and morbidity rates in the project area. Healthy timing and spacing of pregnancies result in fewer medical complications for women and lead to healthier mothers and babies,” Nathalie Simoneau adds.

Community members who live around Lobeke National Park can now boast of improved knowledge and health to enable them to take better care of the environment they so deeply depend upon.

For more information contact: Nathalie.Simoneau(at)wwfus.org