Diversifying the economic base in conservancies – Benefits from bushesJuly 15, 2012
Hunting in Namibia’s communal conservancies – A decade of wildlife utilisationJuly 15, 2012
by Greg Stuart-Hill, NACSO Natural Resource Working Group
Namibian legislation allows communities to benefit from wildlife on condition that they actively care for and manage it. Effective wildlife management requires an understanding of what is happening and so conservancies need a monitoring system to get this information. But how does a community with limited access to education and technology collect wildlife data? Bring back pen and paper and a good pair of walking boots…
In 2000, a more effective system emerged. Known as the Event Book, it is designed primarily around meeting the needs of local resource managers. Its name derives from monitoring events that occur randomly, such as fire, poaching, human-wildlife conflict, mortalities, and so on. However, it also makes provision for systematic monitoring of resources.
The Event Book differs from traditional monitoring in that the community decides what should be monitored, analysis is undertaken by conservancy members and technicians only facilitate the monitoring system design.
What exactly is the Event Book System?
The Event Book is a personalised A5 ring file maintained by each community ranger. Rangers carry the book wherever they go and record information as it comes to hand. The file contains a diary and set of yellow cards – one for each monitoring topic. There is a card for poaching, a card for human-wildlife conflict, a card for rainfall, and so on. As events occur, rangers select the appropriate card and record the event. The collected data is transferred to a reporting chart on a monthly basis. At the end of each year, the old cards are archived, and a fresh set of cards is inserted into the file. Importantly, the people collecting the data also analyse and interpret it.
For each monitoring topic there is a complete, modularised kit that consists of a data collection card, a monthly reporting chart and a long-term reporting chart. Colour coding is used to avoid confusion between these data-flow levels (yellow for data collection; blue for reporting per month; and red/pink for tracking changes over years).
Community leaders and rangers decide what topics to monitor. To make the final selection of topics clear, a ‘job description poster’ is constructed. Also known as a mind map, the poster contains pictures and icons to assist less literate community members.
To support local design and ownership, yet still provide scientific integrity, the system is modularised by topic. Twenty-one modules, representing a shopping list of potential topics that a community could monitor, have been developed thus far.
Once the conservancy selects what it wants, the technical support team assembles a kit containing these modules. The kit is updated at the end of each year and costs only about US$10 per year.
New conservancies normally start with only three or four modules. Over time, as needs and skills develop, they add more modules, eventually covering a wide spectrum of issues – all at their own pace.
Data analysis is extremely simple. Every month the field rangers hold a meeting and then complete the monthly reporting charts. These are designed as large-format templates that can be displayed at community meetings. The reporting principle is that one ‘block’ on a chart refers to one ‘event’. To report on poaching for example, a block is coloured in for each poaching incident. In some instances one block may represent standard values such as 5 mm of rainfall or 10 animals seen whilst on patrol.
At the end of each year, the totals for the year are transferred onto the long-term reporting charts. These are similar to the monthly reporting charts and use the same method of colouring- in blocks. The reporting charts are presented at community meetings and, incorporating their local knowledge, members reach management decisions through consensus.
Year-end auditing, reporting and archiving
At the end of each year, there is an annual audit of the system, conducted by external stakeholders (Government, donors, NGOs and/or neighbours). It’s a tough process, but it’s also a time to brush up on skills and discuss results. At the end of the audit, all the year’s data is archived in the conservancies ‘filing box’ and then the system is prepared for the coming year – by installing a new diary and fresh cards in each ranger’s Event Book and issuing a new pack of blue reporting charts to the senior ranger.
Conservancies take great pride in their annual reports and there is considerable peer pressure between conservancies to have the best Event Book System. In one area of the country there is an extremely active competition with prizes being awarded.
Pen and paper versus computers
The entire system is paper-based, which is appropriate for remote communities and avoids the maintenance problems of computers and ever-changing technology. All papers are filed in a custom filing box. This formalises the system in an environment where conservancies often have no office.
The data is owned by the conservancy and any data extraction is done by copying it. If a stakeholder requires data, only a copy may be taken away. Original raw data never leaves the community! With their permission, summary data from all conservancies is captured into a central computer database and used to create a national overview of the performance of the CBNRM programme. So, whilst the system is based on pen and paper, it is highly compatible with computers.
Impact of the Event Book
The initial objective of the system was simply for local communities to improve their decision-making. Communities have used the results towards improving their management, which has contributed to spectacular increases in wildlife numbers in many parts of Namibia. They have also used the results to reduce human wildlife conflicts, thereby making wildlife more acceptable to rural people.
Apart from direct conservation bene-fits, one of the greatest benefits has been empowerment. Communities have a better sense of what is going on in their area, which puts them in a better position to engage with stakeholders. The increase in conservancy pride and commitment has been remarkable, leading to Government, NGOs and investors taking conservancies more seriously.
Interestingly, one of the greatest spin-off impacts has been the evolution of organisational management systems. The Event Book approach is now being used to formalise other conservancy management systems such as financial and enterprise management. It is also being used to gauge the effectiveness of community office bearers and has contributed to the institutional strengthening of a number of conservancies.
The Event Book System was first started in late 2000 in a few community wildlife areas. Over time, neighbouring communities saw the system in operation and also requested implementation. Success in the communal conservancies prompted the Ministry of Environment and Tourism to adopt the same approach in national parks. Exchange visits to Namibia have resulted in similar systems being developed in Mozambique and Tanzania (including marine parks), Botswana and most recently Cambodia. What started as a local initiative is turning into a system with worldwide applications.
This article appeared in the 2010/11 edition of Conservation and the Environment in Namibia.