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IBAs with sustainable uses

Translating biodiversity monitoring into action

BirdLife Partners from eight countries attended a workshop in Uganda recently to discuss how to turn monitoring results from Africa’s Protected Area / Important Bird Area (IBA) network into policies and actions that ensure their sustainable use and also improve the livelihoods of local communities.

The workshop was organised to share ideas and learn lessons from across the BirdLife Africa Partnership on how to use advocacy skills to convert monitoring results into better conservation for IBAs. “Advocacy is about changing policies and attitudes, drawing people’s attention to pressing issues or environmental problems, and directing policy and decision-makers towards solutions”, said Jane Gaithuma - Regional Policy and Advocacy Co-coordinator, BirdLife Africa Partnership Secretariat.

At present 163 African IBAs are also Protected Areas. These sites are monitored to establish the state of their bird populations, identify the pressures that they face and to outline responses which counter these pressures.

Humans are responsible for many threats to IBAs. Expanding and intensifying agriculture and forestry destroy and degrade habitats. Ever-spreading infrastructure, invasive alien species, pollution and overexploitation all pose serious problems. Climate change, with impacts already visible, may be the most serious threat of all.“African countries are most vulnerable to it’s [climate change] devastating impacts and least able to adapt”, said Jessica Eriyo - Honourable Minister of Environment of the Republic of Uganda – who opened the workshop. “Climate change is affecting wildlife in the same manner it is affecting the people”, Ms Eriyo added. In keeping with the theme of the workshop, the Minister encouraged delegates to engage in ‘advocacy with a meaning’ in order to address challenges facing both the people and the environment.

Participants committed themselves to: influence Governments to designate IBAs as legally Protected Areas and allocate adequate resources for enforcement of the conservation policies; influence landowners to adopt wise-use principles in water catchments and basins; lobby for inclusion of birds species as indicators for biodiversity within National Biodiversity Strategy Action Plans (NBSAP); and, ensure full enforcement of national Environmental Impact Assessment regulations, among other actions.

“Influencing policy decisions should be part of our efforts to achieve lasting impact on biodiversity conservation and development”, noted Dr Hazell Thompson - Regional Director of the BirdLife Africa Partnership Secretariat. “By using advocacy, we are recognising that reduction in biodiversity loss can stem both from decisions made or not made at the household level, within community leadership structures, national governments levels, international organisations and influential institutions”.

The workshop was facilitated by a team of experts with regional and international experience and included lectures, discussions, group exercises, case studies from Burkina Faso, Kenya, Nigeria, Uganda, Tunisia and a field visit to Lutembe Bay IBA.“The whole process of maintaining a monitoring system is useless if the results are not applied by management agencies in decision-making”, said Achilles Byaruhanga, Executive Director of Nature Uganda (BirdLife in Uganda). “The use of scientifically sound information from IBA and economic evaluation studies has helped to establish Nature Uganda’s credibility amongst decision-makers”.

The workshop was held in Entebbe, Uganda, and attended by Senior Protected Area Managers alongside the Chief Executives of eight BirdLife Partners.

“The involvement of the Senior Protected Area personnel in this workshop was very strategic in strengthening Government-NGO Partnerships, institutionalisation of monitoring, and improving how fast and effective research and monitoring results are translated into action”, said Thandiwe Chikomo, Regional Project Manager of the Africa IBA/PA Monitoring Project for the BirdLife Africa Partnership Secretariat.

The workshop was organised and sponsored by the BirdLife Africa IBA/PA Monitoring Project funded by the European Commission through the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB, BirdLife in the UK) and was hosted by Nature Uganda.

4th July 2014