When faced with a pressing situation, the reaction of organisations responsible for conservation or stakeholders working in this field is to set in place immediate measures which are often too thinly spread. The large conservation programmes developed in Africa usually enable considerable support to be provided at a given time for protected area development and improved management, but they are not sustainable and do not have a long-term structuring effect on the institutions in charge of conservation. The situation worsens as soon as these programmes come to an end. Considerable sums have been invested over the past years without protected areas having really reached a sustainable level of protection and management.
While there are success stories in very particular contexts, it must be admitted that conservation programmes of recent years, particularly in French-speaking Africa, have been ineffective. This is due to the highly segmented approach to conservation: each donor, operator, NGO or government works in isolation, without discussion and according to their own timetable and without a long-term vision. Thus, as the situation worsens, we always propose the same solutions, convinced that what did not work yesterday will do so tomorrow! Thinking of the long-term runs somewhat against current trends (liberalism, immediate profit seeking, limited short-term project approach), however conservation takes time.
Useful tools already exist, most of them been often inadequately or incompletely applied (such as costs control and reduction, benefits increasing, resources diversification etc.); others need to be invented depending on the different contexts specific to each conservation entity.
A tool currently being developed concerns environmental trust funds. In theory it is a simple mechanism. But it requires commitment from a higher level than the government because it requires a sustainable change in mentalities and the way agencies work (optimisation of costs). This is how the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) also set up its sustainable financing mechanism. The scale can be supranational, as is the case of the Sangha Tri Nations Foundation in Central Africa, but this makes the approach much more complex, although obviously much more interesting (working at the scale of a complete ecosystem).
Another tool is particularly under the spotlight due to its revenue-generating potential and its sustainability: the REDD. Indeed, since the 2007 United Nations Conference on climate change in Bali (Indonesia), the principle of giving financial incentives to developing countries to reduce their green-house gas emissions caused by environmental degradation and deforestation (REDD) was accepted by the international political sphere. REDD is now followed by a “+” and includes conservation (of protected areas or native reserves for instance), the certification of sustainable forest management and improved forest carbon stocks (for instance reforestation and regeneration initiatives providing community advantages). Furthermore, agriculture is recognised as an important source of greenhouse gas emissions, giving impetus for the adoption of improved farming and livestock raising practices to reduce emissions.
Where to From Here?
Faced with ecosystem degradation, the notion of time is logically put under pressure by short-term emergencies and results are determined by available means. However, it is essential to sign up for the long term and with regular resources if achievements are to be sustainable.
We must work within two timeframes, the short and the long term, promote new partnerships and be able to steer the actions carried out within conservation programmes.
- This requires the conservation vision to be promoted in an integrated and collaborative approach, in the long term, with an adjustable and flexible strategy.
- Conservation actions should have a range of creative and innovative financing sources: setting up public-private partnerships, on-going training programmes, sustainable financing, maximizing benefits, reducing recurrent costs etc. These aspects require considerable investment in human and financial resources and donors, multilateral and bilateral cooperation agencies must particularly make this investment.
The promotion of small initiatives can be envisaged as a transition tool. Small initiatives play an important role in terms of mobilising local populations, raising funds rapidly and responding well to short-term issues.
Continuity is given to conservation programmes so they are no longer broken down into phases. Too many conservation projects fail due to excessive downtime between phases. These programmes must be built as the central pillar for all partners. Therefore, to move towards this approach there must be complementarity between long term programmes and short term initiatives to respond rapidly to urgent situations, to between-project phases if necessary and to the need for long-term intervention.