Different territories, different stakeholders
There are six protected area categories defined by the IUCN and the World Commission on Protected Areas (WCPA). Management of the area differs depending on the category. Categorising protected areas is an efficient management tool that is unfortunately rarely implemented in African countries. Furthermore, the periphery of protected areas (buffer zones, peripheral zones, ecological corridors etc.) raise issues regarding their official status, management capacities or even their purpose (for instance corridors are recognised as being obsolete in terms of species management but they are important for extending protected areas). Depending on the country, these zones are defined differently in the legislation (set distance around the park, zone of influence, location of villages etc.). The communities’ rights (village structures, usage rights, bans etc.), when they are defined at all also vary from country to country.
The definition and delimitation of the periphery of a protected area raises the question as to the scope of protected area management. Should they/can they limit their role to the exact boundaries of the protected area? Should they/can they intervene beyond their territorial scope? Insofar as the actions carried out around a protected area can have a direct impact on it, it seems somewhat ineffective to restrict the manager’s scope to the strict boundaries of the conservation area. However, a manager’s mandate cannot be contrary to that of the local authorities, a traditional leader, a Mayor or other authority (particularly land development, transport, mining or legal authorities). This raises the issue of roles and responsibilities, but also capacities.
In all cases, the need to integrate the relevant decision-makers in the process of the PA management is now well recognized and should lead us to open widely the decision-making process. While there is a risk as some stakeholders may not act in the PA best interest, there are also plenty of opportunities as the decision made will be more relevant to the local situation, and therefore more durable.
Experience also shows that conservation processes are more sustainable when they are rooted at local level and rise to national scale, and actively involve the local communities concerned. Along with the formal PA managers, the latter constitute the main component of a multi-stakeholder development approach. This process can even be initiated on a transboundary scale, as shown by the case of the Great Limpopo Transboundary Conservation Area (see box).
A few priorities…
The management of a conservation area is a form of land management, a mix of skills and approaches that can come together on different scales for different issues:
Ideally, a model where conservation is covered by an institution that has a wide-reaching mandate should be promoted.
- Considerable resources are needed to protect the flora and fauna in protected areas,
- There must be a real capacity to steer the negotiation and contracting process with close operational partners and those throughout the country.
The notion of zoning and the peripheral area boundaries must be established according to their role
- A peripheral area supplements a protected area to enhance its role of conservation.
- Protected area managers must be more involved in the land development projects around their site.
- An approach based on local negotiation or, if necessary, committed to transboundary cooperation should be promoted.
- Civil society should play a more active role around protected areas, as they can support conservation in the democratic context and hence improve the sustainability of the protected area itself.
- The decision-making body must incorporate the relevant stakeholders and follow a “company board” model to ensure that decisions are adapted and durable.