Transfrontier Conservation Areas (TFCAs) are founded on the realization that natural resources straddle international boundaries and are a shared asset with the potential to meaningfully contribute to the conservation of biodiversity as well as the welfare and socio-economic development of rural communities. While the former objective has been in the forefront of TFCA development over the last 20 years, it becomes more and more evident amongst the TFCA practitioners that without the latter TFCAs may not survive the next 20 years. Although guiding documents such as the SADC TFCA Programme emphasize the importance of communities within TFCAs by stressing that these have an intrinsic right to be involved in the decision making process and need to benefit from these initiatives, most TFCAs were conceived with little engagement of local stakeholders. One of the greatest challenges for realizing the great potential of transboundary conservation areas in SADC depends on adjusting governance structures, planning and implementation of activities in TFCA to allow for meaningful and effective stakeholder engagement at all levels.
Addressing this gap, the SADC TFCA Network Steering Committee in February 2017, recommended the development of a regional guideline for community engagement in TFCAs, especially addressing the areas of transboundary governance, planning, decision-making and implementation.
Against this background the SADC FANR and GIZ Programme on Transboundary Use and Protection of Natural Resources (TUPNR) have selected a consultant to develop such a guiding framework.
As part of the development process, SADC FANR and GIZ have invited thirty acknowledged experts and practitioners from various organizations from the region, to an expert workshop held February 1-2 2018 in Johannesburg. The experts came to review and update the current Situation Analysis Report (SAR); identify key aspects for the development of the SADC Guidelines on Community Engagement in SADC TFCAs; identify lessons learnt, good practices and share experiences to complete the SAR; and recommend the proposed structure for the Guidelines on community engagement in SADC TFCAs.
During fruitful deliberations, the experts identified key lessons learnt, good practices and experiences in TFCA to facilitate the completion of the situation analysis report. The workshop further recommended a structure for the guideline.
For increasing the level of meaningful community involvement in cross-border natural resource management in TFCAs, the experts identified a number of essential factors. They include considered that communities must be owners of land with clear and secure land tenure, that more rights regarding use and ownership of wildlife must be devolved from central government to local rights holders, that communities are no longer passive beneficiaries of land/resources but involve themselves more actively and directly, and that checks and balances need to be introduced. Another important aspect is the harmonizing policies across countries sharing a TFCA.
Based on the results of the workshop, the consultant will prepare a Situation Analysis Report (SAR) and draft the guideline. The draft will then be presented during a validation workshop to Member States in July 2018.