A wide variety of management structures
Most PAs in Africa are under the supervision of the State, generally through centralized departments within a Ministry for the Environment. Depending on the country, this arrangement produces varying results, but it is often characterized by low motivation and poor impact in terms of conservation. Examples of structures more autonomous and independent (from the State) exist (Madagascar, Kenya…) and have interesting results, but a thorough analysis of their limitations and advantages is needed to understand the way it could work in different contexts. There is not a recipe or a model, but rather a multitude of ways to move forward to develop an ad hoc structure for each country, taking into account the history and the available means.
Strengths and weaknesses often misunderstood
What characterizes most of the structures responsible for the management of PA is their immobility. They usually repeat the same process every year. It is thus difficult to know what should be kept or what should be changed in the way they do operate because there is no critical analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of the institution. In some cases, when the critical size of the organ in charge of PA management is not reached (not enough staff to cover all sectors), the conservation partners (NGOs, civil society, private sector … ), whose capacity for action is greater and whose sustainability is less uncertain, shall replace them. But here too, evaluating the pros and cons is rarely done and it is not uncommon to see the models duplicated simply because they exist, not because they are effective.
Many opportunities exist
Most of the weaknesses of the management structures could find simple solutions in good methods of recruitment, proper selection of personnel, skills training and personal improvement, mentoring, promotion and staff rewarding etc. These solutions are not necessarily expensive, but they require professional managers to meet the challenges and propose pragmatic and useful changes. Among the solutions readily available, use more local labor (allowing greater ownership of the AP), open the positions to more varied profiles, define appropriate tasks, outsource by contract to other stakeholders if more capable to get good results …
Reinforcing skills of structures in charge of overseeing the management of PA is a strong lever to achieve a change in modes of governance:
- administration in charge of protected areas should be particularly enhanced to become a professional stakeholder who can apply new management methods.
- This means that decisions will be taken on the basis of transparent assessments of the results, strengths or weaknesses. This needs more a revolution in the way we think than an in-depth organizational reform.
- The development of new management structures (whatever their status may be, including new types of governance such as the private sector) or reforming existing ones with staff who are qualified should be considered when necessary, if the existing has shown its limits and that they are clearly known. It’s very difficult to develop a new governance model and far much easier to improve the existing one, if possible.
- Monitoring and evaluation of these new structures should also be promoted as models evolve and maximum performance should remain. The “culture of performance” should be the spirit.