LeAP Project

The Kasane Conference made a recommendation to “Establish, facilitate and support information-sharing mechanisms… to develop knowledge, expertise and best practice in practical experience of involving local people in managing wildlife resources, and in action to tackle IWT”. This project responds to that recommendation by establishing a “learning and action” platform which comprises 1) an online information portal and 2) an on-the-ground forum for locally-driven initiatives from different countries to meet, share lessons and inject community voices into IWT policy-making.

This project addresses site-level poaching of high-value species in source countries (with a particular focus on African elephants but drawing on experience of poaching other species in other countries where valuable lessons can be learned).

Responses to IWT in Africa have focussed on increasingly militarised approaches state-led  law enforcement. It is clear, from the continuation of poaching, that enforcement approaches are not enough on their own. Furthermore, such approaches have resulted in some reported cases of heavy-handedness and even human rights abuses. In these cases poverty has been exacerbated by deliberate destruction of property and livestock, as well as death, injury or imprisonment of key household members (often income earners). In less extreme cases, poorly targeted enforcement activities have undermined local confidence in conservation authorities, resulting in further disincentives for communities to cooperate with enforcement authorities and conserve or sustainably manage wildlife.

In a number of localities however, poaching has been reduced (even if not completely eradicated) through empowering communities to manage and protect wildlife including motivating or supporting them to be active partners in enforcement efforts. Such experiences are, however, in danger of being overlooked in the rush to tackle IWT. In part this is because the current spate of poaching has put the conservation community into crisis mode and there is a scramble to find rapid-response solutions that can be rolled out at scale – a model that community-based approaches are perceived not to fit. But there is also a problem of a lack of knowledge as to different types of community-based approaches and the conditions under which they will and won’t work. Furthermore, communities themselves are rarely consulted in IWT programme design processes and lack capacity and voice to engage in policy debate, meaning policies and programmes often do not reflect their priorities and views.

The project’s overarching theory of change is that solutions to sustainable development challenges (including IWT) must come from the bottom up — grounded in local context and local evidence, owned and driven by local people — and that local experience can help shape effective national and global policy too. This theory is reflected in the methodology of this project, in which we first build a strong body of evidence on the role of communities in tackling IWT and then build capacity and voice of community-based organisations to wield that evidence, including through more effective dialogue and interactions with key national and international decision-makers that shape anti-IWT policy and practice (including governments, donors and NGOs). Our approach thus entails:

  1. Build the evidence base: Building on the nascent CCC database, we will establish an interactive online portal (with co-funding from GIZ) for collecting and disseminating evidence and examples of community-based initiatives to tackle IWT. We will collect written and oral (via video) evidence on effective approaches to supporting communities in tackling IWT (both in externally driven projects (we will identify major IWT funding and implementation programmes to identify these) where, for example, community members are often employed as game guards and in community-driven conservation initiatives such as Indigenous and Community Conserved Areas (ICCAs)). We will work with country partners to document experience from their own countries – through community consultations – but also draw on evidence from other countries that are sources of species and commodities for IWT. Using the IIED-IUCN Theory of Change for Engaging Communities in Tackling IWT  as an analytical framework, we will use the evidence to generate lessons learned on what works and what doesn’t and share this – though briefings and guidance material – with IWT project funders and implementers.
  2. Strengthen voice and dialogue: Country partners will convene national- or landscape- level IWT dialogues that bring together communities, government policy-makers and IWT project funders and implementers in key IWT hotspots. The dialogues will explore how to better support community-based efforts to tackle IWT using the evidence collected under output 1. Tanzania and Zambia will act as pilots in this process but we will document the lessons learned from the dialogue process and share this widely with others to encourage similar processes in other countries. We will also map policy opportunities at the regional (African Union, EAC and SADC) and international (London Conference 2018, CITES) level and find opportunities to insert community voices into those processes.  
  3. Facilitate South-South learning: We will use a mix of face-to-face and online interactions to share case studies and experiences – both in community approaches to tackling IWT and also in strategies for engaging with, and influencing, IWT decision-makers and programme implementers.  A dynamic community of practice will be fostered, building on the network of contacts already built up through the Beyond Enforcement activities. Recognising that online resources and learning opportunities are not accessible to all we will prioritise support for more remote communities in face to face learning exchanges include at least one African and one international event, bringing communities from many countries together. We are also seeking additional co-financing for an innovative bicycle – powered cinema to further share community experiences in remote locations.