AFD and Conservation International Launch €11.6 million Project to Restore Degraded Rangelands in Southern Africa and Uplift Rural Communities

March 12, 2021

Initiative to serve as model for thriving rangelands, people and wildlife in the region

Pretoria, South Africa (March 12, 2021) – A €11.6 million project funded by the Agence Française de Développement (AFD), with complementary funding from the European Union, and implemented by Conservation International (CI) and partners was launched this week. The goal of the project is to restore and conserve 1 million hectares of biodiversity-rich habitats, and directly benefit 30,000 people in three critical Trans-frontier Conservation Areas (TFCAs) in South Africa, Botswana, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

The six-year project, named the Pro-nature Enterprises for the People of Southern Africa, will provide a range of incentives and support to rural communities in parts of the Kruger-Limpopo TFCA and Kavango-Zambezi TFCA to adopt sustainable practices that regenerate grass and water, reduce costly losses of wildlife and livestock and bring down high poverty rates. Additionally, the project will support communities, government institutions and tourism operators in the Lower Zambezi-Mana Pools TFCA to adopt sustainable fisheries co-management models. It includes a €5 million grant from AFD, €4 million co-finance from partners and €2.6 million from the French Global Environment Facility (still under appraisal). More than half of the beneficiaries will be women.

Under negotiated “Conservation Agreements,” rural communities will voluntarily commit to implement planned grazing of their livestock to minimize overgrazing, remove invasive vegetation that hamper grass growth and water availability, adopt human-wildlife conflict mitigation practices and adopt sustainable fisheries practices among other measures identified in consultations with local actors. In turn, they will receive support to improve quality of their livestock, reduce animal losses from wildlife predators, access facilitated livestock markets and receive support for sustainable fishing gear.

Moreover, the project will support communities to initiate investable community-based, “nature-friendly” rural enterprises that can deliver environmental and social outcomes. This will include strengthening their partnerships with private sector and impact investors.

The project will be implemented in Mnisi tribal lands (Kruger to Canyons, South Africa), Habu and Eretsha Communities (Okavango Delta, Botswana) Simalaha community (Zambia) and Chiawa community (Lower Zambezi-Mana pools in Zambia and Zimbabwe border). The field implementing partners are Peace Parks Foundation (PPF), Conservation South Africa (CSA), Wild Entrust, Communities Living among Wildlife Sustainably (CLAWS) and Conservation Lower Zambezi (CLZ).

“Considering the current global atmosphere of unpredictability and high risks the planet is facing, we must show that co-existence between human activity and wildlife is possible. We must continue to promote pro-nature enterprises for good. This project is a new model and a game changer for Southern Africa, the continent, Europe and the world”, said Ambassador of France to South Africa Aurélien Lechevallier.

“Unless addressed, severely degraded rangelands can easily become ‘wastelands’ that exacerbate poverty, vulnerability to climate change and human-wildlife conflicts. The problem is particularly pronounced in the trans-frontier conservation areas of Southern Africa. This project provides successful and scalable models and tools to address this challenge and secure significant wins for nature and people across Africa,” said Michael O’Brien-Onyeka, Senior Vice President, Conservation International, Africa Field Division.

The project seeks to address the challenges that rural communities living in and around wildlife areas face in building viable livelihoods out of their livestock, land and other resources. Outdated restrictions in place to cut risks of Foot and Mouth Disease from wildlife to livestock, including bans on livestock sales and extensive fencing to separate wildlife and livestock, have heightened poverty and land degradation and blocked wildlife routes.

The rangelands component of the project is based on the Herding for Health (H4H) model, an incentive-based conservation approach initiated by Conservation International and PPF to improve livelihoods of rural communities living in or around protected areas. CSA, Conservation International’s affiliate in South Africa, has piloted this successful restorative model for more than 10 years in three landscapes within the country. At the core of the model is Conservation International’s conservation agreements mechanism, which provides economic and other incentives or benefits to communities to improve management of their natural resources.

The sustainable fisheries component of the project will provide vital lessons on how communities, government institutions and tourism operators can collaborate to ensure proper and inclusive management of shared fisheries resources in a trans-boundary context.

This project also provides unique opportunities to document and amplify the H4H approach of incentive-based conservation and rural development across TFCAs in the region and beyond. It will help guide local public policies on community-based natural resource management models, which are currently non-functional in most of Southern Africa. Accordingly, the project will put in place peer-learning mechanisms including online community of practice, exchange visits and learning network meeting.

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Media Contacts:

Erica Penfold, Regional Communications Manager (Southern Africa), French Development Agency (AFD), Email: penfolde@afd.fr Telephone: +27(0)722611251

Ally Jamah, Regional Communications Manager, Conservation International, Africa Field Division, Email: ajamah@conservation.org Telephone: +254789252993

About Conservation International (CI)

CI works to protect the critical benefits that nature provides to people. Through science, partnerships and fieldwork, CI is driving innovation and investments in nature-based solutions to the climate crisis, supporting protections for critical habitats, and fostering economic development that is grounded in the conservation of nature. CI works in 30 countries around the world, empowering societies at all levels to create a cleaner, healthier and more sustainable planet. Follow CI's work on Conservation News, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.

About Agence Française de Développement (AFD)

AFD Group contributes to the implementation of France’s policy in the areas of development and international solidarity. The Group includes Agence Française de Développement (AFD), which finances the public sector and NGOs, as well as research and education in sustainable development; its subsidiary Proparco, which is dedicated to private sector financing; and soon, Expertise France, a technical cooperation agency. The Group finances, supports and accelerates transitions towards a fairer, more resilient world.

With our partners, we are building shared solutions with and for the people of the Global South. Our teams are active in more than 4,000 projects in the field – in overseas France, in some 115 countries and in crisis areas, working to promote the “common goods” that are climate, biodiversity, peace, gender equality, education and health. It’s our way of contributing to the commitment France and the French people have made to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. Towards a world in common.

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