The first meeting of the a forum for Stakeholders Engagement for Informed Decision-making, Threats Mitigation and Sustainable Freshwater Services Management in the Great Lakes Region of East and Central Africa took place in Kigali, Rwanda, on the 21st-22nd of February 2013. The forum convened by the Albertine Rift Conservation Society (ARCOS) with funding from the MacArthur Foundation brought together policy-makers, the private sector and civil society representatives to provide an opportunity for stakeholders to discuss common challenges and development pressures affecting ecosystem services and to exchange information, experiences and case studies.
This forum is part of a five-year project which seeks to promote better understanding of the status, threats and best practices on watersheds, wetlands and freshwater services in the region. Through this project, information on freshwater issues will be disseminated to the general public, the media and decision-makers for awareness raising and behavioural change in the region. The project will also enhance and support a regional network of watersheds and wetland managers, NGOs and community groups in integrated watershed and wetland management. Coordination and collaborative institutional framework between countries, national and regional water management institutions will be supported in order to improve freshwater ecosystem management in the region.
The Forum was well attended by inter-governmental, NGO and private sector representatives and resulted in a series of recommendations for integrated and collaborative action by the forum members to address many of the conservation challenges in the region. These included the establishment of a mechanism for data and information sharing and more proactive approaches to working with private sector to help mitigate some of the threats to freshwater ecosystems and biodiversity resulting from rapidly expanding development activities.
The project will be coordinated by ARCOS. Other Core Partners are IUCN ESARO, the Lake Tanganyika Authority (LTA), the Ramsar Centre for Eastern Africa (RAMCEA), Nile Basin Discourse (NBD), and the BirdLife International (Africa Partnership Secretariat).
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CALL FOR PROPOSALS
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The Great Lakes region is an area of astounding biodiversity and vital ecosystem services that support the livelihoods of millions of people. Two closely-linked and complementary funding opportunities were launched at the workshop, all of which aim to improve the conservation of these critical natural resources:
The Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF) is looking for proposals that aim to mainstream biodiversity into wider development policies, plans and projects to deliver the co-benefits of biodiversity conservation, improved local livelihoods and economic development in the Eastern Afromontane biodiversity hotspot. CEPF is also interested in proposals that aim to initiate and support sustainable financing and related actions for the conservation of priority KBAs (Key Biodiversity Areas) and corridors in the hotspot. The hotspot runs from Yemen in the Arabian Peninsula, to Mozambique and Zimbabwe in southern Africa, and includes 14 countries that are eligible for funding under this call for proposals.
The MacArthur Foundation is looking for projects in the Great Lakes Region of East and Central Africa that understand and respond to increased environmental pressures from development and climate change impacts; that create and expand incentives to conserve ecosystems; and that will assist the rural poor in managing their resources for multiple benefits – with special attention to vulnerable and marginalized groups (including women and ethnic minorities). Geographic focus will be on the Omo/Turkana, Tanganyika, and Malawi/Nyasa Lake Basin.