Enhancing Integration to Build Back Better: Covid-19 and Adaptive Leadership

Assorted Vegetables Photo from Pexels

Coronavirus, a zoonotic disease, has demonstrated the strong interconnection between ecosystem health and human health. It has demonstrated that no sector can be able to conduct business in a degraded environment, and the need for integration and collaboration among sectors for the health of both people and nature.

Despite these challenges, there are opportunities to shape and define our work to ensure a more resilient ecosystem.

The second series of the Covid-19 and Adaptive leadership webinar, held on October 13, 2020, discussed key practices and integrated solutions for building back better in the midst of a pandemic. Organized by the Africa Biodiversity Collaborative Group (ABCG) and other conservation NGOs, the webinar featured an illustrious set of panelists from both the conservation and development sectors. They included, Alice Ruhweza, Africa Region Director, World Wildlife Fund International; Josphat Ngonyo, Executive Director, Africa Network for Animal Welfare; Lisa Parrot, Regional Programme and Quality Director, Save the Children; and was moderated Lucy Waruingi, Executive Director, African Conservation Centre.

While speaking on the topic of building back better through a green and just recovery, Alice talked about the immense opportunities that the pandemic provides for Africa to build back better through nature. Nature is a critical launch pad in this recovery. Alice highlighted the numerous ways through which nature can aid in the process of building back better through its contributions to the food system, the health system, and the important contribution of nature on the economy.

This pandemic has greatly undermined the resilience of communities. Josphat discussed the practical applications to support people and rural communities to build back better. Among the ways to support communities is through being inclusive in community participation, public support, community empowering and promoting sustainability. Core to this is building and nurturing partnership with communities and integrating them into conservation and development activities.

“There is a clear impact on the livelihoods, health and education system because of the pandemic,” Lisa said. Furthermore, the stress on the livelihoods of communities, has a direct threat to the environment through poaching, deforestation and other negative environmental practices as communities try to secure livelihoods. Lisa mentioned that it would be advantageous to adapt the One Health approach whereby health in the community encompasses the health of people, livestock, wildlife and the environment. This approach ensures that all sectors are provided for as they are interdependent.

The webinar called on the need to enhance integration and partnerships among the conservation, humanitarian, development and other sectors to holistically and effectively address the economic, social and environment concerns of our world.

Click below to watch the webinar recording

Related resources

WWF policy brief: Africa in the context of COVID-19

Save the Children’s report: Protect a Generation: The impact of COVID-19 on children’s lives

Caring classrooms: Lessons plans in humane education

A summary of the Covid and Adaptive Leadership webinar series I: Practices Conservation Leaders Can Employ to Cushion their Organizations During Crises


Linking Integrated Water Resource Management and Water, Sanitation and Hygiene

Most of sub-Saharan Africa is under pressure from increasing population growth, urbanization, and consumption, as well as poorly planned infrastructure development. All these factors are negatively impacting the quality and availability of freshwater resources. Major watersheds attract development, and the resulting development leads to increased pollution due to inadequate wastewater management infrastructure, as well as contributing to increasing and competing demands, which can lead to scarcity (ABCG 2019).


In an effort to bridge this gap, the Africa Biodiversity Collaborative Group (ABCG) Freshwater Conservation and Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (FW-WASH) task group organized a webinar focusing on Integrated Water Resource Management (IWRM) and Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) linkages in mainly rural settings and how Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) can advocate for their integration in policy and planning.

While speaking at the webinar, Ele Jan Saaf, a Senior Project Manager and Water Management Expert, noted that IWRM and WASH are divergent and emphasized the need to link rather than integrate them. He added that, the concepts of IWRM and WASH are different in that IWRM is a management concept. IWRM is responsible for providing water at the right place, right time, and of the right amount for WASH services or ecosystem services. On the other hand, WASH is a service delivery concept. It takes the water allocated to it by IWRM and ensures it is available as safe drinking water and also ensures the disposal of wastewater is done in a hygienic fashion.

Ele Jan advised WASH practitioners based on techniques the Watershed Program uses for lobbying and advocacy. “In Watershed we have a strong focus on lobbying and advocacy. We also have a strong focus on messaging and working with the CSO partners in our countries to make sure they are able to develop messaging and identify the target group for their lobbying and advocacy activities within the spheres of IWRM and WASH,” said Ele Jan.

When it comes to messaging in lobbying and advocacy, WASH practitioners should focus on clarifying where the links between IWRM and WASH are, focus on what can realistically be done, and link up with other initiatives working on similar issues to create momentum by sharing and cooperating.

When talking about water conservation to the communities, CSOs need to develop a language that is most effective and that can elicit action. This means explaining the linkage of IWRM and WASH using basic and relatable terms as opposed to using technical explanations that only specialists understand.

The work of ABCG and other CSOs to create awareness on maintenance and provision of safe and clean water for communities, is in line with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) 3 on health and 6 on water and sanitation. These are among the 17 universal goals set to help in fighting the urgent environmental, political and economic challenges being faced globally.

Watch the recorded version of the presentation on ‘IWRM and WASH linkages and how Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) can advocate for their integration in policy and planning’.

Download the Watershed’s Position Paper about the linkages between IWRM and WASH here:

Also, to learn more about how CSOs can develop an effective advocacy strategy, read ABCG’s Freshwater conservation and WASH advocacy strategy workshop facilitator’s guide.


Eight Steps for Creating an Effective Advocacy Strategy for Positive Conservation Outcomes

Water, poverty and environmental quality are closely linked. Across Africa, vulnerable groups are exposed to environmental risk factors such as unsafe water and climate change. Recognizing that the sustainability of freshwater resources and safe drinking water projects depend on conservation of the watershed, many conservation, health and Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) actors have come together to address the need for integrated planning processes for freshwater conservation and WASH at the district level.


In response to this need, the Africa Biodiversity Collaborative Group (ABCG) Freshwater Conservation and Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (FW-WASH) task group collaborated with IRC, an international WASH think-and-do tank to develop the ‘Freshwater Conservation and WASH Advocacy Strategy Workshop Facilitator’s Guide.’ The guide was launched on August 20, 2020 and lays out steps for conservation, WASH, and development practitioners to develop an advocacy strategy that can enable them deliver positive conservation outcomes. It highlights how to formulate effective messaging and activities for urging donors, policymakers and colleagues to unite and join forces for health through conservation and WASH investments.

The advocacy strategy guide will help promote the benefits of cross-sectoral policies such as conservation and WASH. By linking these sectors, there is an expectation of reduced watershed degradation and pollution that will help increase the health of watershed ecosystems and species.

Steps in Advocacy Strategy Design

Conservation, WASH and development practitioners can follow these eight steps to develop an effective advocacy strategy as highlighted in the guide: Step 1) Identify the advocacy issue, root causes and evidence base; Step 2) develop advocacy goals and objectives; Step 3) define decision makers and influencers; Step 4) identify opposition and obstacles; Step 5) determine advocacy strengths, limitations and partnerships; Step 6) create advocacy approaches and activities; Step 7) craft advocacy messages and Step 8) continually measure advocacy progress and apply adaptive management best practices throughout the life of the campaign.

Advocacy is a deliberate process that aims to inform and influence decision-makers by seeking changes that are evidence-based. The first step to developing an effective advocacy strategy is identifying the advocacy issue, root causes and evidence base. This process involves evaluating existing data to know the problem you are trying to address and why it is a problem. You should consider specificity, clarity and the amount of evidence at hand to prove the problem because your identified decision-makers need to understand why they should care about the issue at hand. In this step it is also important to think about the risks that accompany addressing the issue in your organization.

The second step is developing advocacy goals and objectives. Your goals should be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-based (SMART). At this point you have shifted from the general problem to a narrow and specific advocacy change you want to see.

Now that you have your goals and objectives, you need to identify and define decision-makers and influencers. This group consists of those with the power to make change such as politicians or public officials. Understanding their positions, interests and needs helps determine if the data and evidence you have is sufficient.

The next step would involve identifying your opposition and obstacles which can take the form of people or circumstances. With strong opposition to your advocacy issue, you need to identify additional data and evidence. The additional data addresses the specific reasons for your opposition. This now brings you down to knowing your advocacy strengths, limitations and partnerships. This step enables you or your organization to assess what advocacy specific skills you possess or if you can collaborate with other organizations.

The sixth step involves putting your data and evidence into use by utilizing various advocacy approaches and activities that will be effective in reaching your target. Understanding the many forms or approaches that advocacy can take such as lobbying and campaigns, provides an advantage of reaching different audiences.

With a suitable advocacy approach in mind, the seventh step is to craft your advocacy messages. “Your message should be clear to elicit action from your target audience,” said Peter Apell from The Jane Goodall Institute-Uganda, during the launch. Compelling advocacy messages ought to be brief, focused, optimistic and hopeful, solution-oriented and supported by evidence. An equally important aspect for messaging is selecting your messengers who should be: diverse, represent a range of seniority, effective public speakers and support your advocacy goal.

The final step is measuring advocacy progress and adaptive management where you review the goals and objectives; the data and evidence to support it; the approaches and activities; and the messaging to understand what is working and where adjustments need to made.

Learn more about the steps of creating an effective advocacy strategy for positive conservation outcomes by reading ABCG’s Freshwater Conservation and WASH Advocacy Strategy Workshop Facilitator’s Guide. You can also get an overview of the guide’s content by watching the webinar recording and presentation of the launch that took place on August 20, 2020.


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.


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’.


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 ( or Colleen Sorto (

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.


Leading a Conservation Organization in Times of Crisis

Leading During Covid 2020 webinar Flyer

The coronavirus pandemic has disrupted all areas of our life. What was considered normal is no longer normal. Amidst the illness and the loss of lives of thousands of people globally, are other numerous negative economic and social consequences that have come with lock downs, social distancing and other measures of containing the spread of the virus. Many people have lost their economic livelihoods, families have been separated due to travel restrictions, children have missed months of school, anxiety runs deep in the minds of many as they try to stay safe and worry about the safety of their loved ones, among other disruptions.

This global public health crisis has further gone to test the leadership of many nations, organizations and institutions. The conservation sector has not been spared. The sector has experienced disruptions in its fieldwork activities, office closures, income loss, among others. The leadership of these organizations have had to make tough decisions. Decisions that would see their organizations and employees cushioned from the economic and social shocks caused by the pandemic, decisions that would ensure the safety and well-being of their employees, and decisions that would ensure that they continue to stay committed to their missions in the new normal.

Coronavirus, a zoonotic disease, has further demonstrated the strong interconnection between ecosystem health and human health. According to unep, environment changes are key drivers of zoonotic diseases. Now more than ever, biodiversity organization are faced with the challenge of ensuring that their activities will trigger actions that contribute to stopping nature loss and avert future pandemics and other disasters.

This webinar will discuss key leadership practices that leaders of conservation organizations are employing in dealing and responding to the global pandemic. The event will enable conservation organizations learn from each other on how to effectively manage crises at the individual, organization and institutional levels, and discuss a range of opportunities for building more resilience in the current and future crises. Discussion topics will include, crisis management in times of pandemic and COVID-19 and its links with biodiversity.

The webinar speakers will include, Ademola Ajagbe – Africa Director, BirdLife International; Michael O’Brien – Senior Vice President Africa Field Division, Conservation International; Munira Bashir – Kenya Program Director, The Nature Conservancy (TNC);  and Luther Bois Anukur – Regional Director for Eastern and Southern Africa (ESARO), International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN). The event will be moderated by Lucy Waruingi – Executive Director, African Conservation Centre.

Register here to participate: