Sustainable use is the use of species and ecosystems at a level that maintains their potential to meet current and future human needs and aspirations and prevents their long- term decline. Sustainable use takes place as part of complex social-ecological and political economic systems, and its long-term viability is affected by environmental, cultural, economic, social, and political dynamics.
We collaborate with partners, primarily rural communities and network organisations, who inform our work and approaches. We reinforce their ability, through organisation, platforms, and technical knowledge, to represent their own perspectives and preferences on the issues that affect them.
International opposition to sustainable use as a conservation strategy on ideological grounds is increasing, particularly in the global North. This opposition denies the rights of rural people to manage and benefit from their natural resources and shrinks the space and opportunity for Africans to voice their perspectives and exercise their rights. Among the harmful effects of the powerful anti-consumptive use voices is adverse influence on wild product markets, donor support for programmes and private sector involvement in the trade in wild products.
Amplifying voices provides a platform and facilitates entry points to a variety of communication channels for communities to challenge, present their views and advocate on their own behalf.
We seek to ensure that African perspectives influence international policy making processes, pursuing a favourable policy environment that ensures communities are prominent partners in decisions affecting their livelihoods. We facilitate African inputs into international, regional and national agreements and information outreach, networking and capacity building.
Our work is supported by national and regional legislation and policy and science based approaches in southern Africa devolving rights over natural resources to local communities.
Namibia and Mozambique are just two examples of the most inclusive frameworks:
Namibia – Nature Conservation Amendment Act 5 of 1996, which gives local communities rights over wildlife and tourism on their land, if they form a management institution called a conservancy.
Mozambique – Conservation Law 5/2017, that provides for a category of Community Conservation Area as part of the formal protected area system defined as an area of conservation of sustainable use in the community public domain.
Southern African Development Community (SADC) Protocol on tourism, wildlife conservation and law enforcement – which calls on States Parties to ‘take measures facilitating community based natural resources management practices in wildlife management and wildlife law enforcement. It calls for economic and social incentives for the conservation and sustainable use of wildlife.
Convention concerning the protection of the world cultural and natural heritage (World Heritage Convention), which promotes multi-sectoral initiatives and integrates cultural and biological conservation
Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) Article 8j, which is relevant to safe-guarding intellectual property rights and benefit sharing.
Convention to Combat Desertification (CCD), whose principles include the participation of local communities, partnerships, co-operation at all levels and consideration of the needs of developing countries.
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which stresses the rights of all people to land and equal participation in decision making.
IUCN principles and guidelines on indigenous and traditional peoples and protected areas (IUCN Resolution 1.53 of 1996, amended in 1998) calls for the recognition of indigenous people’s rights, agreements between them and conservation agencies, decentralization and transparency, benefit sharing.
UN Declaration on the Rights of Peasants and Other People Living in Rural Areas (UN Human Rights Council Resolution 39/12 2018) explicitly states that ‘Peasants and other people working in rural areas have the right to access and to use in a sustainable manner the natural resources present in their communities that are required to enjoy adequate living conditions. They also have the right to participate in the management of these resources.
Conservation efforts are most effective and sustainable when they are built on aligning rights and incentives and when they incorporate realistic incentives at all levels – particularly the local – for maintaining and protecting nature. Our work is supported by several international conventions and protocols that call for economic and social incentives for conservation and benefit sharing. We believe that the most effective advocates for ensuring equitable benefit sharing of natural resources are local people, the custodians of those resources. We also recognise that local voices are strengthened and amplified by working in close coordination with broader networks, government agencies, NGOs and technical experts who can provide additional evidence and insights.
We work with communities and assist in the identification of ways to sustainably use, share benefits from, and protect their natural resources for long-lasting benefit for people and wild resources based on their rights, existing knowledge and practices in sustainable use and in line with their cultures. Through capacity development they can:
Define their rights to resources
Build and expand enterprises
Enhance livelihoods and secure education, health, and other social and economic prospects for future generations
Build, support and strengthen community organisations, leadership, and ownership for transparent governance of projects and programmes.