How ABCG is Implementing Community Forestry in the Democratic Republic of Congo: WRI’s Natural Resources Policy Specialist Explains

Prince Baraka Lucungu, WRICommunity-Based Forest Management (CBFM) is the management, by communities or smallholders, of forests and agroforests they own, as well as the management of state-owned forests (some of which share customary tenure and rights under traditional laws and practice) by communities. The Africa Biodiversity Collaborative Group (ABCG) through its CBFM thematic working group is implementing the Community-Based Forest Management project in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). CBFM builds upon ABCG’s previous work on community forests under the Land and Resource Tenure Rights thematic area and is being implemented by ABCG members, World Resources Institute (WRI) and the Jane Goodall Institute (JGI).

ABCG talked to Prince Baraka, Natural Resources Policy Specialist at WRI to find out more about the project.

1. What is the importance of CBFM in DRC?

DRC is a country endowed with high forest cover with more than a half of the remaining Congo Basin rainforest found in the region (WRI). According to the World Bank, the Congo Basin rainforest is the second-largest tropical forest on Earth and comprises of about 70% of Africa’s forest cover. These forest’s ecosystem products and services supports the livelihoods of millions of people who live in these areas and beyond making CBFM an important management aspect.

In Community-Based Forest Management, the community takes greater ownership in the management and governance of the forests. With limited state resources for forestry management due to the country’s socio-political and socio-economic situation, implementing this project in DRC offers a cheaper and more effective approach to manage forests. Secondly, state governance of forest resources has proven to be challenging and inadequate in ensuring sustainability of forests. It is also a strategy for reducing poverty and improving conservation by empowering communities to manage their forest resources directly.

“Community forestry is an opportunity to explore conservation out of protected areas, and should be used as a tool to improve local governance and the well-being of forests” Prince Baraka

2. What strategy is the project employing in implementing CBFM in DRC?

We are employing two strategies, the first one looks at promoting and understanding best practices in the implementation of CBFM management plans in DRC for improved conservation outcomes. In this, we are trying to encourage a way of valuing community forestry as a conservation tool and equally as a local development tool. The second strategy focuses on better understanding the impacts of CBFM on forest cover in different landscapes through analysis of satellite imagery and other spatial data across diverse CBFM scenarios.

3. Tell us about some of the approaches you are employing in implementing the strategies.

We have been working on enabling the appropriate policy environment that supports CBFM. To this end, we collaborated with DRC’s Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development, and other partners, to develop the Ministerial Decree No. 025 which was signed into law in February 2016. It provides rules governing concession management by forest communities. In 2018 and 2019, WRI supported in the development of another Ministerial order which allowed the environment ministry to create a steering committee for the national strategy on community forestry in DRC. Additionally, we have been working on bringing institutional support and involvement in the development of important model tools such as legal frameworks that would support the implementation of CBFM. Further, we have developed an important guide for managing community forests in DRC, titled ‘Guide opérationnel d’élaboration des plans simples de gestion des concessions forestières des communautés locales’.

4. Elaborate further on the guide, ‘Guide opérationnel d’élaboration des plans simples de gestion des concessions forestières des communautés locales’ and its significance to the success of CBFM.

The name of the guide loosely translates to ‘Guide for the elaboration of simple management plans for forest concessions of local communities’ in English. The guide is a reference tool to assist Local Community Forest Concession (CFCL) user groups to set clear goals for management that will improve quality of life of communities whose forests constitute reserves of biodiversity and forest-dependent livelihoods. This offers an opportunity for them to engage in the project activities thereby being the core actors in managing their resources. The guide was developed by WRI (with co-financing from USAID CARPE SCAEMPS program) in collaboration with the Division of Community Forestry and was validated by stakeholders in Kinshasa, DRC in May 2019. In collaboration with the Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development, translation of the guide into local languages is ongoing. It will serve as the basis for WRI-led distribution to local actors and awareness raising on its application.

5. What are the positive outcomes witnessed as a result of using the guide and model tools developed?

One successful outcome has been the acceptance and validation of the guide by the highest political level, the Minister of Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development, and communities in Maniema and Kwilu Provinces. The adoption of these model tools has further led to an increase in the number of community forests attained, efficiency in administration service delivery in the provinces, and governance processes are now improved and harmonized.

6. What is the value-add to community members being involved in the project and in which provinces is CBFM being implemented?

By being involved in CBFM activities, community members make actors aware of their needs and concerns. This helps in the design and delivery of interventions that are beneficial to community members such as establishment of Local Community Forest Concession governance structures. Secondly, it enables communities to realize the importance of biodiversity conservation through their active involvement in the whole process of implementing the simple management plan. Lastly, involving communities promotes responsibility, better management of community forests, resource efficiency and reduces management costs for the government and partners as the activities are done by community members themselves. The CBFM project is being carried out in several provinces namely Maniema, Maindombe, Kwilu, Tshopo, Tshuapa, Mongala, North-Kivu and Equateur.

7. Who are some of your local partners in implementing CBFM in DRC?

The partnerships we form are critical for the success of our work, in implementing CBFM, we have partnered with Groupe d’Action pour Sauver l’Homme et son Environnement (GASHE) in Equateur, Réseau pour la Conservation et la Réhabilitation des Ecosystèmes Forestiers (Réseau CREF) in North Kivu, Centre d’Appui à la Gestion Durable des Forêts Tropicales (CAGDFT) and Conseil pour la défense environnementale par la légalité et la traçabilité (CODELT).

8. What are the challenges faced in implementing this project?

Encountering resistance from local communities who refuse to let go of their land can pose a big challenge to this work. Resistance can also come from movements of environmental civil society organizations who regards this process as a dispossession of communities from their land. Therefore, it is difficult to create community forests under the status of a national park, as this option is negatively perceived by the communities. This explains why we are moving more and more towards the creation of reserves and community conservation areas, because it is essential to have the support of local communities who customarily own their forests. Currently, with a view to guaranteeing the preservation of biodiversity, the forest concessions of local communities are considered to be an opportunity to extend conservation areas outside protected areas.

9. Which technique is WRI using to reach and engage with communities during this period of the
COVID-19 pandemic?

WRI staff now have less interaction with the communities and other partners due to the set COVID-19 guidelines. Communication challenges as a result of limited internet access further makes it difficult to engage with the communities as well as implement the planned activities on the ground. To continue our operations during this period, we are working more closely with local NGOs who are able to reach the communities and incorporate the use of the tools we helped to develop.

10. What would you recommend other actors to put emphasis on to ensure the success of CBFM?

It is important for all actors to ensure that community forestry effectively contributes to biodiversity conservation and local development particularly by promoting the local economic fabric through enhancement of natural resources. Promoting the economic benefits to communities is important in increasing the economic value of community forests that contributes to better management of the natural resources.

To learn more about essentials of making community forestry work in the Democratic Republic of Congo, read, In the Democratic Republic of Congo, 3 Essentials for Making Community Forestry Work, by WRI.

The Link between Nature and Pandemics

The Link between Nature and Pandemics

Over the years we have experienced a rising trend in emergence of zoonotic diseases such as MERS, SARS, Ebola and now COVID-19. These diseases are as a result of virus transmission from animals or insects to the human population. The occurrence of zoonotic diseases especially COVID-19 is a reminder of the interrelationship between human beings and nature. It is another step towards the realization that exploitation of natural resources by people can have a negative impact on our health, economies and ecosystem.

World Wildlife Fund’s WWF international science team conducted a review of scientific and government literature to determine where and how nature and zoonotic pathogen pathways intersect. During a webinar presentation of WWF’s literature review dubbed ‘Beyond Boundaries: Emerging zoonotic diseases, nature and human well-being’, Rebecca Shaw, Chief Scientist, WWF highlighted the three critical drivers accelerating the emergence of zoonotic diseases as:

  • Land-use change for agriculture which results in degradation of nature
  • Intensification and expansion of agriculture and animal production to meet increasing demand for animal protein worldwide
  • High-risk trade and consumption of wild meat as a delicacy or alternative protein

According to the review, the outcomes of these activities are increased exposure and vulnerability of humans to animal pathogens. Since the pathogens that cause these diseases keep mutating, the increased frequency of interaction between animals and humans poses more danger increasing the probability of zoonosis.

The covid-19 pandemic has demonstrated the importance of a collective response by governments, civil society organizations, industries and the public towards transformative action to protect natural ecosystems thereby preventing future pandemics. In a report ‘COVID-19: Urgent Call to Protect People and Nature’, WWF calls upon these sectors to promote the recovery of natural ecosystems and create a nature positive world by 2030. The organization has put forward three recommendations that will help avoid future pandemics:

  • Stop illegal, unregulated and high-risk wildlife trade and consumption
  • Support sustainable food systems that stop encroachment on nature
  • Build a more sustainable relationship between people and nature through sustainable and just economic recovery approaches with defined and holistic goals

Find out more about zoonotic diseases and how we can reduce the risk of future pandemics by reading the WWF report or watching this recent webinar with Rebecca Shaw, Chief Scientist, WWF.



ABCG LRTR On going deforestation of Namwai Forest Reserve in Ihenga Village Tanzania

Supporting Communities in Tanzania Adapt to Climate Change through Forest Restoration

ABCG LRTR On going deforestation of Namwai Forest Reserve in Ihenga Village Tanzania

Africa is thought to be the most vulnerable continent to climate change given its predominately climate-dependent livelihoods, extensive water-stressed populations, and low adaptive capacity. Weak economies, institutions, and governance structures all contribute to the low adaptive capacity. Human activities have been a leading cause of climate change through activities such as fossil fuel burning and deforestation. Among the major climate change impacts include variations in rainfall patterns, extreme weather, habitat loss, and new disease challenges.

Climate change has direct impacts on ecosystems and biodiversity, but may also indirectly impact nature through human adaptation responses which are less understood. Through its Managing Global Change Impacts working group, the Africa Biodiversity Collaborative Group (ABCG) has surveyed coping responses of human communities to climate change in 10 African countries as well as the biodiversity impacts of those responses.

A survey by ABCG in Tanzania revealed that communities are experiencing hotter, drier, windier, and unpredictable seasonality due to climate change. ABCG member, the African Wildlife Foundation (AWF), led the survey in Tanzania’s Kilombero Valley, an internationally significant biodiversity area in 2017. AWF interviewed key informants who were able to offer an overview of community circumstances across the valley. Findings from the survey revealed that many communities responses to climate change are having a negative impact on biodiversity compounding the global crisis.

Located in the southern part of Tanzania, the Kilombero Valley is an important ecosystem supporting the livelihoods of the local communities living in the area and other parts of the country. The valley sustains a vibrant agricultural sector, is home to a Ramsar site, and separates the Selous Game Reserve and the largest block of Eastern Arc Mountains which features several protected areas.

Climate observations and livelihood impacts

Community members cited significant climate impacts on their livelihoods including extensive crop failures due to lack of water, increased human-wildlife conflict from crop-raiding by wildlife, an increased prevalence of diseases in humans and livestock, and decreased fish harvests.

Impacts on biodiversity

To cope with these climate-induced changes, communities are clearing natural areas to expand cropland in a bid to increase their harvest, overgrazing areas with their livestock, and illegally hunting wildlife. Collectively these responses are having undesirable impacts on biodiversity particularly due to agriculture expansion into previously natural areas. A study published in 2019 that analysed the land cover changes of the Kilombero Valley in the last 30 years found that at least 60% of Kilombero Valley wetlands have been converted to cultivated land. Local wildlife populations such as the endangered and endemic puku are declining as their habitat is reduced or degraded and they face heightened hunting pressure. The valley has experienced an overall decline in wildlife abundance and diversity.

Nature plays a crucial role in providing essential goods and service to humanity. From food provision, timber, tourism, to delivering water for hydropower. Efforts that would support to restore and preserve the rich biodiversity of the Kilombero Valley through supporting communities in stopping practices that contribute to its degradation are important in securing and preserving the health of the valley.

Promoting alternative response

ABCG GCI reforestation activity in Mngeta Valley Tanzania organized the African Wildlife Foundation and the Tanzania Forest Working Group Community members participating in the reforestation activity in Mngeta Valley, Tanzania, organized by the African Wildlife Foundation and the Tanzania Forest Working Group

In 2019, AWF and partners organized community meetings to discuss the survey findings and formulate alternative but effective responses to climate change that will not have negative impacts on biodiversity. A forest restoration assessment performed by AWF and partners identified 38,656 ha of degraded areas in Kilombero’s Mngeta Valley suited to methods such as agroforestry, reforestation, afforestation, natural regeneration and riparian rehabilitation.

Guided by the assessment, AWF and the Tanzania Forest Working Group launched a reforestation activity targeting 1500 hectares involving communities in the Mngeta Valley in February 2020 where 22,347 tree seedlings were planted. Another 35,000 seedlings are yet to planted later in 2020. The reforested area will improve water provisioning to support agriculture and other activities while helping to reestablish ecological connectivity between the Kilombero Nature Reserve and Uzungwa Nature Forest Reserve where the valley lies.

The loss and destruction of natural habitat has been on the rise over the last decades. ABCG is working to stop this destruction by working together with the communities to develop interventions that would support them cope with climate change without affecting biodiversity.

For more information contact:

Related resources

For more information about the ABCG Global Change Impact work: Why its Important to Understand the effects of Humans Comping Responses to Climate Change on Nature

Climate change survey country reports: Climate Crowd 

Status of Land Use Planning, Land Tenure and Biodiversity Conservation: A Focus of Udzungwa-Magombera-Selous Landscape and Mngeta Corridor in Kilombero District


The Africa Biodiversity Collaborative Group (ABCG) is a consortium of seven international conservation non-governmental organizations (NGOs): African Wildlife Foundation (AWF), Conservation International (CI), the Jane Goodall Institute (JGI), The Nature Conservancy (TNC), Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), World Resources Institute (WRI) and World Wildlife Fund (WWF). ABCG is supported by USAID to advance understanding of critical conservation challenges and their solutions in sub-Saharan Africa.

African Elephant pcredit Nikhil Advani

Enhancing Nature Protection in times COVID-19 Pandemic News Roundup

African Elephant pcredit Nikhil AdvaniOn April 22, 2020 the world celebrated Earth day, marking its 50th anniversary. The event reminded us the great task that we have as humanity of protecting our environment. This year’s celebrations come at a point in time when the world is fighting the effects of Corona virus, a global pandemic that has demonstrated how our survival on earth is very much dependent on how we take care of our planet. Scientists further warn that future pandemics could even be deadlier if we don’t take action now and protect our environment.

This news round is a compilation of insights and opinion pieces on the importance of nature protection amidst the pandemic shared by experts working in ABCG member organizations and other partners.

Veld Sanitation guide developed by Conservation South Africa to link conservation and WASH behaviorsOne of the assured ways for protecting ourselves against the pandemic is through proper hand washing and sanitation. Two ABCG’s FW-WASH task members from Conservation International, working on activities to integrate freshwater conservation (FW) and Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) so as to improve both conservation and human health outcomes, reflect on the current pandemic and their work.

News Roundup

Time to renew the relationship between people and nature
Earth Day comes at a time when we are in the midst of the COVID-19 global health crisis that has infected over 2.5 million people and killed over 175,000 people worldwide. Today’s health crisis highlights the urgent need for an in-depth reflection on the relationship between human beings and nature, the risks associated with current economic development pathways, and how we can better protect ourselves and enhance our resilience to future pandemics. Today on Earth Day, we call on African leaders to come together to secure a New Deal for Nature and People that prioritises a coordinated approach across human and environmental health. Source, medium.

Conservation in crisis: ecotourism collapse threatens communities and wildlife
From the vast plains of the Masai Mara in Kenya to the delicate corals of the Aldabra atoll in the Seychelles, conservation work to protect some of the world’s most important ecosystems is facing crisis following a collapse in ecotourism during the Covid-19 pandemic. Throughout the pandemic, scientists have repeatedly urged humanity to reset its relationship with nature or suffer worse outbreaks. But the economic consequences of the Covid-19 lockdown have raised fears of a surge in poaching, illegal fishing and deforestation in life-sustaining ecosystems, with tens of thousands of jobs in the ecotourism sector at risk around the world. Source, the guardian.

To prevent the next pandemic, we must transform our relationship with nature
The transmission of zoonotic diseases from animals to humans has long been recognised as a serious threat by global health experts. Studies show that 75% of all emerging diseases come from wildlife, with recent years witnessing the emergence of SARS (from civet cats), MERS (from dromedary camels) and Ebola. In order to prevent the next pandemic, then, it is crucial that we greatly reduce the opportunities for viruses to jump from animals to people. First and foremost, the loss and degradation of natural habitats must be recognised as a key driver of emerging infectious diseases from wildlife. Source, medium.

Conservationists fear African animal poaching will increase during COVID-19 pandemic
The coronavirus pandemic has disrupted tourism the globe over, grounding travelers and shutting down nonessential businesses. For Matt Brown of the Nature Conservancy, that spells trouble for the wildlife the environmental organization works to protect. Until now, tourism was on the rise in Africa. Some 67 million tourists visited Africa in 2018, up 7% from the year before, according to the World Tourism Organization’s latest international tourism report. But in recent weeks, tourism — along with life as hundreds of millions of people know it — has ground to a halt across Africa. Source, abcnews.

Quarantining also means caring for our great ape relatives
Gorillas and other great apes are particularly susceptible to pathogens from humans, and the coronavirus responsible for COVID-19 poses a very serious risk to their survival. Protecting our closest wild relatives and closing wildlife markets for human consumption are both critical steps towards ensuring healthy futures for all, writes Elizabeth L. Bennett, Vice President for Species Conservation, Wildlife Conservation Society. Source, IUCN.

Veld Sanitation guide developed by Conservation South Africa to link conservation and WASH behaviors

Advocacy for WASH in Watersheds is Needed Now More Than Ever in the COVID-19 Era

Authored by Colleen Sorto, Director, Development Partnerships, Center for Communities and Conservation, Conservation International and ABCG’s FW-WASH task lead. 

Veld Sanitation guide developed by Conservation South Africa to link conservation and WASH behaviors

Like everyone, COVID-19 is never far from my mind these days. I’ve been taking small actions from my computer by resharing vital handwashing and other water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) behavior messaging. Thinking about the communities we work with around the world who lack reliable access to clean water, I’ve been scouring the internet for advice from partners in the WASH sector working on the front lines.

During my search, a colleague at IRC asked if I was interested in joining a webinar about advocacy and COVID-19 that they were hosting among their Watershed partners. To be honest, I was kind of surprised. Why would I be thinking about policy changes needed to integrate plans for WASH and protecting water sources at a time like this? As governments battle the virus, what could an organization like Conservation International (CI) offer?

As Watershed colleagues on the webinar “Adapting your advocacy to COVID-19 health crisis” shared their experiences, I quickly concluded that perhaps we had more to contribute than I thought.

With support from the US Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Africa Biodiversity Collaborative Group (ABCG), CI and partners are developing advocacy strategy resources to help promote the benefits of cross-sectoral (i.e. conservation and WASH) policies. Conservation South Africa, CI’s local affiliate, is applying the methodology in the Alfred Nzo District Municipality of South Africa’s Eastern Cape Province. The Jane Goodall Institute is piloting the methodology in local villages in the Albertine Rift region of Hoima and Masindi Districts in Uganda. And ABCG’s Nairobi-based Community of Practice aims to build capacity in sub-Saharan Africa, led by CI and the ABCG Secretariat, for advancing integrated freshwater conservation-WASH projects.

As I listened to colleagues from Kenya, Bangladesh and Ghana, I was struck by three thoughts about our collective steps to respond to the virus and to act to protect communities involved in CI’s WASH in Watersheds initiatives.

  1. At this moment of crisis, WASH comes first. WASH saves lives. Our work to strengthen the connection between healthy, freshwater ecosystems and healthy people means we are committed “banner carriers” for WASH. It’s essential for the well-being of the communities where CI works. The increased vulnerability of communities without WASH face from COVID-19 only further emphasizes that point.
  2. Don’t pause, prepare. It feels like now is the time to take a pause on our advocacy plans, but actually we should be preparing for what will come next. After the world has responded to the immediate needs of the COVID-19 crisis, recovery plans will need to be developed and coordinated among global, national and local governments for economies, people and – we hope – nature. We need to be prepared to make the case for why safeguarding freshwater ecosystems needs to be part of all recovery plans, or we will be even more vulnerable.
  3. People need nature to thrive. One day, hopefully soon, the corona virus crisis will be behind us. Social media is prompting those of us hunkered down at home to be thinking if we as humanity need to define a “new normal.” Did this happen because we lost the balance between our needs and nature? CI has first-hand experience developing solutions for people and nature to thrive together. Our work in community-led restoration of rangelands, co-developing integrated health and ecosystem behavior change resources, and empowering local champions to manage shared water resources can be pathways for recovery and resetting our relationship with Mother Nature.

Many thanks to IRC for hosting the webinar and spurring colleagues to thoughtfully revise and update our advocacy strategies to respond to the new challenges we face due to COVID-19. I take to heart the lesson about doing our homework to be ready and will prepare for opportunities for watershed conservation to be integrated into our plans to heal and recover together.

Read ABCG’s advocacy efforts: Why is Advocacy Key to Natural Resource Management?

For more information contact:

Read the original article, , LinkedIn article, April 22, 2020.

Students at Karongo Primary school washing their hands at the newly installed water tank at their school

Coronavirus Drives Home the Importance of Hand Washing – ABCG’s Steering Committee Member Janet Edmond

Students at Karongo Primary school washing their hands at the newly installed water tank at their school‘Since I was in kindergarten in the little red schoolhouse in coastal Rhode Island, I have received handwashing messages in many forms – upbeat songs, large placards near sinks, and stern warnings from parents and grandparents. Flash forward to today, with repeated handwashing messages to prevent the further spread of COVID-19 reinforcing in my mind the fundamental links between personal hygiene, human health and clean water.

‘Coronavirus drives home the importance of hand washing as essential for protecting human health. We take for granted that many communities around the world can’t simply turn on a tap to practice good hygiene. According the UN, 2.2 billion people lack access to safely managed drinking water services and 4.2 billion people lack safely managed sanitation services. Worldwide, two in five people do not have a basic handwashing facility with soap and water at home.

‘Conservation International (CI) works to spotlight and secure the critical benefits that nature provides to humanity. We recognize that reliable access to water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) is foundational to achieving our conservation mission. If communities lack WASH, how can they find the time and energy and good health required for environmental stewardship?

‘Since 2010, at CI we have been pushing ourselves and peers in the conservation and human development sectors to connect WASH and watershed conservation. We are driven by a theory of change in which watershed conservation and WASH efforts not only reinforce each other, but their sustained success hinges on their mutual dependence.

‘CI is moving from theory to action through engagement with individual community members up through district and national planners and policymakers.

‘As its name suggests, our WASH in Watersheds (WiW) program integrates WASH and watershed conservation, with a focus on how CI can engage local communities as land and water stewards and achieve more effective and long-lasting conservation and health and well-being outcomes as a result.

CI efforts to date include:

  1. Promoting more cross-sectoral planning at community and watershed scales: With support from the US Agency for International Development-funded Africa Biodiversity Collaborative Group (ABCG), CI answered the call for improved integrated programming with guidelines. We have built effective and practical field-level experiences through tested approaches in South Africa and shared lessons learned with our colleagues at the Jane Goodall Institute, who are promoting improved WASH and conservation measures in the Albertine Rift in Uganda. CI leads the ABCG working group on freshwater conservation and WASH.
  2. Proving the WiW theory of change in critical watersheds and water-scarce areas: Since 2011, Conservation South Africa (CSA), the local in-country affiliate of CI, has implemented the WiW framework in the Eastern Cape’s upper uMzimvubu River Basin, to improve water resource sustainability and climate change resilience. One of the main lessons learned from this work is that WASH activities create incentives and co-benefits for conservation in communities. The initiative included a gender analysis report identifying the different ways in which men and women community members should be engaged around sanitation and hygiene activities.
  3. Advocating for improved policy at municipal and district levels: CI and CSA are designing a roadmap for advocacy in the Mzimvubu basin. Building on existing relationships in this landscape, CSA is influencing key stakeholders and local government in adopting best practices and in developing appropriate policies. Together with fellow ABCG member The Jane Goodall Institute and WASH partner IRC, CSA is demonstrating how local-level policy mechanisms can lead to replicable models for scale-up of integrated freshwater conservation and WASH programming.
  4. Highlighting the ABCG Community of Practice recommendations to examine threats to freshwater conservation in Africa: On February 25, 2020, the Kenya Water and Sanitation Civil Society Network (KEWASNET) and ABCG hosted a dialogue called, “Rapid Urbanization, Infrastructure Development, and Water Conservation in Kenya,” in Nairobi, Kenya. Participants from the public, private and civil society sectors, as well as university students, called on African policymakers to prioritize freshwater conservation as a top development priority in national and regional plans.

‘Over the coming months, CI and partners will be expanding our WiW work to include lessons learned and best practices in more of our in-country demonstration sites, creating tools for engaging all levels of government to adopt an integrated view of water resources, and examining the human health aspects of handwashing and good hygiene as a fundamental component watershed conservation.

‘When I was little, I never imagined how much handwashing would play a role in my work. CI is committed to fostering approaches that meet basic human needs as enabling factors for ecosystem and human health. On this World Water Day, we look for opportunities like this to come together to care for nature and ourselves.

Read the original article by Janet Edmond, WASH and Watershed Conservation go hand in hand, published in the IUCN Commission on Environmental, Economic and Social Policy News, Mar 22, 2020.

About the author

Janet Edmond is Senior Director, Inclusive Partnerships for Sustainable Conservation, at Conservation International (CI). She has worked on the social components of conservation and human well-being, including helping to build CI’s rights-based approach. Janet works to foster effective partnerships with health and development NGOs, promote transparent and transformative stakeholder engagement and address conflict in environmental management. She has more than 25 years of experience in development and conservation, with a focus on linking human health and ecosystem health. Janet is also ABCG’s Steering Committee member from CI.  

Photo description: Students at Karongo Primary school washing their hands at the newly installed water tank at their school. Photo credit: JGI

2019 Frankfurt Zoological Society Brownbag Banner Image

Get Up to Speed On These Innovative Biodiversity Conservation Approaches and Solutions

2019 Frankfurt Zoological Society Brownbag Banner Image

One of our key goals at ABCG is to encourage the exchange of information and knowledge among stakeholders while providing an opportunity for technical experts to connect and engage.

In 2019, we co-hosted 11 brown bag presentations and events on diverse and critical topics on biodiversity conservation. The topics ranged from family planning and conservation, illegal wildlife trade, the conservation of rhinos in various parts of Africa, innovative conservation initiatives such as Spatial Monitoring and Reporting Tool (SMART) and First Line of Defence against Illegal Wildlife Trade (FLoD) and innovative approaches for engaging local communities in conservation.

We have summarized these presentations and made available the webinar recordings on the ABCG website. Here is a listing of the events:

  1. Healthy People Healthier Planet – Why Family Planning is Relevant to Conservation, by Giulia Besana, The Nature Conservancy
  2. Local Communities: First Line of Defense against Illegal Wildlife Trade (FLoD), by Holly Dublin and Akshay Vishwanath, IUCN 
  3. Rhino Conservation Forum: A Private Screening and Panel Discussions Forum 
  4. Engaging local community in sustaining the large population of elephants in Tsavo-Mkomazi Landscap, by Kenneth Kimitei & George Okwaro, African Wildlife Foundation 
  5. Black Rhinos of the Serengeti: A Success Story for Tanzania by Rian Labuschagne, FZS- Serengeti Conservation Program 
  6. Conservation Through the Eyes of Communities: An Innovative Approach to Community-Led Conservation in Northern Kenya, by Tom Lalampaa, Northern Rangelands Trust
  7. Cranes: Flagships for Biodiversity Conservation and Sustainable Livelihoods in Africa, by Richard Beilfuss, International Crane Foundation 
  8. The African rhino situation: Is it getting better? by Michael Knight, World Wildlife Fund 
  9. Establishing Wildlife Crime Units to Boost the Fight Against Poaching and Illegal Wildlife Trade in the Congo Basin, by Alain Ononino, World Wide Fund 
  10. Conservation International’s Virtual reality film ‘My Africa’ & From conflict to coexistence: How peace and security underpin conservation in Northern Kenya, by Matthew Lewis, Conservation International 
  11. SMART: Improving Effectiveness of Protected Areas Globally, by Drew T. Cronin, Program Manager, SMART Partnership 

The protection of our environment requires a coordinated approach and an important step in this is through information and knowledge sharing. To participate as a featured speaker, please contact Evelyn Namvua at and view the Guidelines to Speakers here.

Madagascar countryside

Recommendations for Policymakers from The African Landscapes Dialogue in Arusha

Madagascar countryside

In November 2019, ABCG together with other organizations supported to host the African Landscapes Dialogue that was held in Arusha Tanzania. The dialogue brought together 136 landscape leaders from 18 sub-Saharan countries implementing different initiatives in the landscapes to share knowledge, experiences and lessons on the integrated landscape management approach.

Integrated landscape approaches have been widely accepted by major global policy instruments as they offer better efficiency in meeting landscape and global challenges such as climate change, biodiversity conservation and food production.

A policy brief synthesizing discussion from the dialogue on the role of integrated landscape managemen has been published. The report provides 10 recommendations on how integrated landscape management can contribute to the CBD Post-2020 Biodiversity Framework.

Ten Recommendations from Africa for the Post-2020 Biodiversity Agenda

Provide policy support for locally-led landscape partnerships
1. Support and strengthen long term, locally-led and area-based landscape initiatives
2. Create national policy and enabling frameworks that make space for community-led
landscape initiatives
3. Plan with communities and promote more broadly land use planning methods that embrace integrated landscapes at larger scales (regional, national and transboundary)
4. Work through existing integrated landscape initiatives

Build ‘green’ landscape economies
5. Manage agricultural systems for biodiversity conservation
6. Integrate biodiversity consideration and natural infrastructure into urban landscape planning
7. Generate direct community benefits from protecting wildlife and biodiversity and link wildlife economy to market
8. Mobilize finance for integrated landscape investments that support biodiversity.

Measure landscape-level performance
9. Set landscape biodiversity targets
10. Build local skills and invest in Community Resource Centres for locally-led landscape
monitoring and research

Photo: ABCG

FWWASH COP Meeting 2020 Group Photo

Getting Urban Infrastructure and Sustainable Water Resource Management Right

Originally published by the African Wildlife Foundation

FWWASH COP Meeting 2020 Group Photo

‘The Freshwater Conservation and Water Sanitation and Health (WASH) Integration Community of Practice meeting on the theme, Rapid Urbanization, Infrastructure Development, and Water Conservation in Kenya, took place in Nairobi, Kenya on February 25, 2020. Convened by the Kenya Water and Sanitation Civil Society Network (KEWASNET) and the Africa Biodiversity Collaborative Group (ABCG), the meeting attracted participants from the public, private and civil society sectors as well as university students.

‘As Africa changes, it is essential that healthy ecosystems are included in development plans. There is a need to negotiate space for conservation as well. It helps to identify threats and solutions around access to water to eventually improve efficiency, collaboration, and impact. Water security is indispensable in sustainable growth as well as in development.

At the meeting, discussions revolved around three key themes, 1) An understanding of water resource management and the value of freshwater ecosystems, 2) The role of water governance and urban planning in mediating urban water demand and supply, and environmental protection, and 3) The cost of meeting FW-WASH challenges in the face of rapid urbanization.

“ABCG, through its thematic working group focusing on the integration of freshwater conservation and Water, Sanitation and Hygience (WASH), initiated this community of practice to bring together stakeholders working in conservation, development, and WASH sectors to learn and exchange practical experiences and resources as well as to address pertinent issues,” said Evelyn Namvua, ABCG Communication and Engagement Specialist.

ABCG FW-WASH CoP Meeting Nairobi February 2020

While discussing on the benefits of freshwater ecosystem, participants observed the need to increase awareness among citizens about the importance of the critical (provisioning, supporting, regulating, and cultural) services provided by the ecosystem as an important requirement that could positively transform how we treat and protect our environment.

The role of the government in sustainable water management was stated as critical to the success of many intervention projects. There’s need for a structural revolution particularly in integrating politics into program design to ensure that the program attains its full benefits. On the other hand, civil society organizations and other actors involved in water resource management need to engage with the local and national governments to support them in planning and coming up with policies that would ensure sustainable water resource management.

“As the national government is budgeting for water resource management, it is important that county governments also plug in and include it in their budget plans. Banks can also fund some of the infrastructure. However, all these revolve around sustainable governance,” said Martin Mulongo, the Water and Sanitation Specialist at the U.S. Agency for International Development.

‘United Nations-Habitat estimates that by 2030, the urban population in Africa will double. Therefore, the meeting sought to find a balance between the provision of clean water and the protection of Kenya’s water catchment areas while promoting urbanization without any compromising the other. Across the continent, key water catchment areas are facing severe degradation due to land-use changes, poorly planned infrastructure, urbanization, and population growth.

‘Urbanization brings about not only a national but also a positive global change. It facilitates the growth of hubs for innovation, creativity, and growth. Additionally, it accounts for 85 percent of global Gross Domestic Product. With the proper development of urban infrastructure, national and regional Sustainable Development Goals can easily be attained.

Read the article on the AWF website: AWF Promotes Freshwater Conservation as Top Development Priority, published March 03, 2020

Photos: Click here to view the event photos 

About ABCG Freshwater Conservation and WASH activities

ABCG is working to reduce watershed degradation and pollution to increase the health of watershed ecosystems and species by linking freshwater conservation, access and Water, Sanitation and Hygiene. Pilot projects in Uganda and South Africa, examine the effectiveness of implementing integrated development and conservation projects from a freshwater ecosystems perspective. Activities are contributing to the conservation of freshwater ecosystems and improving efficient use of diminishing water resources due to climate change, that lead to increased access to potable water and improved human health.

About the FW-WASH CoP

Recognizing the need to better share information on FW-WASH initiatives, the ABCG FW-WASH task group initiated the CoP with the aim of establishing an integrated learning and knowledge sharing platform between FW-WASH practitioners in a supportive and collaborative environment. The main goal of the CoP is to bring together WASH and conservation practitioners to reduce water catchment degradation and pollution, and improved health of freshwater ecosystems and people. 

Zebras drinking water in Amboseli National Park by Fabrizio Frigeni/unsplash

Our 2019 Annual Report

Zebras drinking water in Amboseli National Park by Fabrizio Frigeni/unsplash

ABCG’s overarching goals of mainstreaming biodiversity in human well-being and development agendas, promoting good conservation practices, and strengthening the role of social and development institutions in biodiversity conservation and human well-being, are being pursued within the context of six thematic foci:

  1. Land Use Management
  2. Global Change Impacts on Biodiversity
  3. Community-Based Forest Management
  4. Global Health Linkages to Conservation: Population Health and Environment
  5. Global Health Linkages to Conservation: Fresh-Water, Sanitation and Hygiene
  6. Gender Integration

Our 2019 Annual Report provides progress made on these thematic tasks.

Implementation highlights in these thematic foci include:

Land Use Management (LUM): The working group made significant progress in developing a land-use planning training course, which will provide an introduction to the theory and practical starting points of integrating biodiversity into land-use planning. The training course will build capacity of African governments and stakeholders in the use of tools and methodologies in order to influence land use planning. The training course will be released in the second quarter of FY 2020. The working group has also been working to infuse LUM recommendations into land use plans for 13 villages within the Southern Agricultural Growth Corridor of Tanzania (SAGCOT) Kilombero Cluster. The planning aims to sustainably improve agricultural practices for 2,000 farmers while considering conservation and ecosystem service values where farms encroach on Kilombero Nature Reserve and Ruipa Wildlife Corridor habitat and connectivity areas.

Managing Global Change Impact (GCI): In 2017, the Global Change Impacts group (GCI) identified how changes in climate are affecting livelihoods and how communities’ responses to those changes are affecting biodiversity through community interviews. The results show that 35% of the total adaptation responses conducted by local communities have a negative impact on biodiversity. Many of these spontaneous responses to climate change also reduce communities’ resilience and the ability to adapt to changing future conditions. The working group has conducted workshops with the communities that they interviewed in Kenya, Tanzania, and Madagascar to report on the findings from the analysis of survey responses and discuss pilot adaptation projects that will help communities adapt to climate change while protecting biodiversity. These projects will be implemented in FY 2020.

Community-Based Forest Management (CBFM): Three local community forest concessions (CFCL) dossiers (files of required documents for allocation) in Walikale province, DRC that would enable communities secure rights to manage their land and sustainably manage the forests were finalized by this working group. The working group also created a Community of Practice to contribute to the understanding and implementation of CBFM management plans in DRC. In order to have a better understanding of the working context in DRC, the working group has been holding consultations with different stakeholders engaged in the community forest policy process.

Global Health Linkages to Biodiversity Conservation—Population, Health and Environment (PHE): The PHE working group members collaborated on a series of planning meetings with health and development organizations with complementary PHE goals, including Population Reference Bureau (PRB), Pathfinder International, and John Snow International, as well as USAID staff. The meetings were aimed at leveraging collaboration with partners, sharing task activities and expected outcomes, and receiving feedback on how to improve and strengthen activities.

Global Health Linkages to Biodiversity Conservation—Fresh Water Sanitation and Hygiene (FW-WASH): The FW-WASH task has been focusing on translating on-the-ground successes into policy action. The working group organized successful advocacy trainings for project teams in USA, Uganda, and South Africa to enable project teams scale up their work through influencing key stakeholders and local government to adopt FW-WASH best practices and in the development of appropriate policies that conservation.

Integrating Gender and Vulnerable Populations in Activity Design and Implementation: ABCG technical leads and gender experts convened for a day-long Gender Integration Workshop. Following the workshop, ABCG technical leads agreed to incorporate at least two gender indicators concerning the learning question. By integrating gender dimensions in all thematic and cross-cutting program components, ABCG aims to more explicitly address the issues that limit the ability of women and vulnerable populations to participate fully in conservation and natural resource management.

Download the report here>