Day 2: Dr Mike Hoffmann

21 September 2011 | Blogs

Dr Mike Hoffmann, Senior Scientific Officer for the Species Survival Commission (SSC) shares his impressions on day 2 of the Eastern and Southern Africa Regional Conservation Forum.

It's the second day of the ESARO Regional Conservation Forum, and the forum sessions have been informative and well attended. However, as always, the most productive discussions and conversation takes place on the margin of the formal meetings. Having participated in two previous IUCN Congresses (as IUCN staff), but not previously in a Regional Conservation Forum, the Johannesburg meeting has been a useful opportunity to better understand how regional IUCN Members, Secretariat, Commission members and partners can input and contribute to the development of both the draft IUCN global and regional programmes.

Attending as a formal representative of the Species Survival Commission (SSC), it has been most useful to meet SSC members and to discuss opportunities for collaboration with IUCN Members and ESARO Secretariat staff.

Towards the end of 2010, the Endangered Wildlife Trust (an IUCN Member, and host of both the IUCN SSC African Rhino Specialist Group and recently established IUCN SSC Vulture Specialist Group) undertook a preliminary survey to assess the impact and activities of Specialist Groups (SG) in Eastern and Southern Africa. There seems to be a general interest in building up the representation of specialist group members in the Region; many have few members and these members are often located mainly in South Africa.

There is thus tremendous scope for seeking the participation of regional experts within SGs as well as to better link SGs or individual SG members to national conservation stakeholders to ensure that the gap between research recommendations and conservation action is breached. This dovetails neatly with SSC’s broader objective of encouraging the formation of national SSC groupings to allow for networking across the many Specialist Groups, Red List Authorities and Task Forces. Moving towards the formation of country-wide national SSC committees is seen as a key activity for the 2013-2016 quadrennium and countries like South Africa, Namibia, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and others could be key test-cases.

On the forum content itself, it has been satisfying to learn more about some of the novel and emerging mechanisms for improved forest management, coupled with practical demonstrations of these through local case-studies. Tuesday afternoon’s forum break-out discussion on financing forests in a changing climate delivered a number of useful contributions, including ways to improve participation by stakeholders in carbon markets, means to increase knowledge of - and access to -existing carbon funds, and opportunities for further support to natural resource-based small and medium enterprises to help lead rural development.

Importantly, however, these conclusions were prefaced by a caveat that carbon financing (including REDD+ schemes), is not a silver bullet, but just one available tool. As one delegate rightfully concluded, poor or ill-conceived financial investments have helped get us into the mess we’re in, but proper and careful financing, and financial structures and mechanisms, under the right circumstances and directions, are also the means to improve land-use, and especially forest management.

The forum part of the meeting gives way to the Members’ Business Assembly on Thursday.