Table of Contents
This workshop sprang from several interests:
The objective of the workshop was to share information about the status of conservation biology in Africa and to discuss ways to strengthen it, especially through regional and international collaboration.
Workshop sessions were structured around two themes: conservation research and its communication and application, and human resource development. Presentations and discussions focused on conservation science in non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and public agencies; graduate education; marine science and conservation; invertebrate conservation; long-term ecological research; women in conservation biology; creating an Africa section of SCB; and conservation biology in primary and secondary education. Appendix 2 provides the workshop programme.
Breakout groups were asked to define actionable next steps to meet specific needs in the aforementioned areas, with projects that could be implemented through regional partnerships as well as with U.S. partners, including SCB. The outcome of the workshop was thus a set of recommendations for further work to strengthen African conservation biology.
Workshop participants numbered 36; eight were women. The following countries were represented: Ghana, Côte d'Ivoire, Republic of Congo (Brazzaville), Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Namibia, South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Madagascar, and United States. Participants were from a broad range of stakeholders in conservation biology: national parks management agencies, universities, NGOs, primary and secondary educators, research centres (national, international, and private), professional societies, donors, and graduate students. Appendix 3 provides a list of participants; Appendix 4 gives contact information for each.
The workshop was co-organized by the American Association for the Advancement of Science Africa Program, Society for Conservation Biology, and International Livestock Research Institute.
This report provides a synthetic review of the workshop, identifying major points of consensus that emerged from its presentations and discussions. Copies of papers given at the workshop are available upon request from the AAAS Africa Program.
Africa has made and continues to make important strides in conservation and conservation biology. Research and training institutions have existed for decades, but today conservation science in parts of Africa is faltering. Collectively, the capacity for conservation science and its application is great across Africa. Yet, currently, the whole is not greater than the sum of its parts. The challenge is to further develop this existing, fragmented capacity, creating linkages among institutions, both at subregional and regional levels, and building on it in order to promote better science in the management and preservation of Africa's spectacular biological diversity.
Research, Communication, and Application
An overall concern voiced at the workshop was how to translate conservation research into practical action. This requires attention to three areas: communication, setting the research agenda, and directly applying scientific methods to practical problems.
Communication is a clear priority -- both within the research community and between it and other stakeholders. There is little interaction among local centers of research, management, and education; a lack of cohesion among institutions and programmes that share the goal of conserving biological diversity. Intra-continental linkages are weak.
Site-based networks, like those developed under the Long Term Ecological Research (LTER) Program, can provide a dedicated platform for communication and conservation science across Africa. Some are taking form, like the LTER networks in Southern and Eastern Africa. Similar initiatives should be supported in other parts of Africa. The LTER model creates an infrastructure to address critical questions (e.g., impacts of climate change) that require long-term research and monitoring, integrating across temporal and spatial scales, species assemblages, ecosystems, and disciplines. The network approach facilitates comparing similar processes under diverse ecological conditions.
Efforts are also underway to strengthen the research and monitoring functions of the Man and Biosphere (MAB) network of Biosphere Reserves (e.g., the Biosphere Reserve Integrated Monitoring Programme, BRIM). As of September 2001, there are 57 Biosphere Reserves in 28 African countries.  AfriMab is the regional network for African Biosphere Reserves. There is no a priori reason why initiatives like LTER and BRIM cannot coordinate closely, sharing sites, data, etc.
To achieve its networking goals, conservation biology should also coordinate with other existing networks in order to avoid duplication of effort. Some are discipline-centered, like those comprising Bio-NET International for taxonomy (Safrinet, Eafrinet, Wafrinet, and Nafrinet); others are NGO based, like the East Africa Wildlife Society and Western Indian Ocean Marine Science Association.
There is also great need to better communicate conservation science to managers and policymakers; to communicate the successes of conservation research and how research is done. In defining a communications strategy for conservation biology, focussing on stakeholders from outside the research community, the overall concern is what should be communicated to who and how? And, what is the desired effect (outcome) on each target audience and how to evaluate success? The stakeholders are many (managers, local communities, politicians, policy makers, NGOs, educators, etc.), as are the possible channels (email, the media, popular articles, white papers, conferences, etc.). Workshop participants highlighted the need to develop and institutionalize a process for identifying and prioritizing target groups, creating the message(s), identifying the most effective delivery method(s), and identifying the messengers. The process could be piloted in a few regions, beginning with action planning workshops, implemented through NGOs, professional associations, or research centres, and, following evaluation, adapted elsewhere.
In communicating with diverse parties, conservation biologists must tread a fine line between advocacy and objective information sharing. Recommendations on management and policy issues can be made without compromising objectivity. Scientists should seek to inform management, policy making, and education, and hope that their contributions will in turn demonstrate the value of their work, promote greater participation in it, and strengthen a constituency for it.
In defining an African research agenda, there must be a balance between working at the cutting edge of theory versus doing applied research. Scientists, for example, often seek to complete large databases, while managers need immediate, usable information. The two sets of concerns, of course, are not mutually exclusive. A balance might be found through a series of regional priority-setting exercises that draw together researchers with managers, educators, policymakers and other stakeholders from outside the research community. One example is the work by SCB to convene expert groups first in 1989 and again in 2000 to determine major research priorities for the near future. Through similar activities, researchers will better understand the practical challenges and research needs of conservation, while managers will better understand the concerns and needs of researchers.
An immediate entry point for both strengthening conservation biology networking and setting research priorities would be a series of regional science forums around specific conservation themes, in anticipation of the "Rio +10" conference and next World Parks Congress, both to be held in Africa. An African conservation research agenda would be strengthened within a context of global perspectives; and, the perspectives and needs of conservation science would be better integrated into forthcoming international meetings.
As elsewhere in the world, conservation biology in Africa has a direct stake in conservation itself -- through the maintenance of field research opportunities vital to a better understanding of the environment and to applying new knowledge to policy change and implementation. Protected areas in Africa provide research opportunities found nowhere else and of global importance -- for example, studying human-wildlife interactions, the origins and maintenance of high levels of biodiversity, and the world's only remaining assemblage of large herbivores and predators. In turn, scientists should help conserve these opportunities -- whether by paying fees or by directing their research at least in part to immediate local needs. Their work, for example, can help set management priorities (e.g., for ecotourism development) and provide information for interpretive centers and other education efforts.
The methods of conservation biology have direct application in many areas. Environmental impact assessment (EIA) guidelines and methods often do not explicitly account for biodiversity concerns and their links to local, national, and regional development. There is need to improve EIA policies and practice through stronger linkages with conservation biology in order to not only anticipate and mitigate potential negative impacts on biological diversity, but also to proactively explore development alternatives that would enhance biodiversity. Through such applications, conservation biology can make itself as central to development planing as are public health, food security, etc.
Conservation science also has a major role to play in developing sound methods for monitoring and evaluating the effectiveness of conservation actions. It can help elucidate the ecosystem patterns and processes that sustain goods and services, and develop methods (e.g., modeling) for anticipating when they would be irreparably damaged by human actions (or reparable only at great cost), and for monitoring their condition.
Graduate Education and Research
Graduate education is key to strengthening and sustaining conservation science in Africa. While centers of strength exist -- for example, at Makerere University and the Percy FitzPatrick Institute in South Africa -- many countries lack graduate programmes in conservation biology. New programmes may be necessary in some regions, but weaknesses in graduate education may also be effectively addressed through partnerships among existing programmes.
Collectively, the capacity for high quality graduate education in conservation science is large in Africa, and there is enormous potential for institutions to help each other to rise to international stature in research and training. Yet, many programmes are unawares of or unfamiliar with each other. There is need to further regionalize programmes, creating more "virtual" ones that link institutions within and between regions, as well as involve institutions from outside Africa. Universities could have reciprocal arrangement among themselves, as well as with research institutions, for exchange of students, faculty, and external examiners. Linkages with research centers, as well as with NGOs and management agencies can address weaknesses arising from the fact that graduate courses are sometimes taught by faculty with little practical experience.
Partnerships -- a major theme for this workshop -- must be pursued as a two-way process. They must begin from a premise of complementarity between partners, rather than one of dependency. Strong regionalism requires identifying and building on national capacities that are each strong in their own way and complementing of each of other.
Graduate programs should take greater account of the range of skills that conservation scientists and practitioners need to be effective. Workshop participants highlighted several areas for particular attention:
Curricula might, for example, add courses in proposal writing and communications, increase the involvement of government policymakers, and further provide for practical experiences with public agencies or NGOs.
Other areas of weakness in graduate education mentioned by participants include:
The latter weakness could be addressed by co-supervision of students with local institutions and by providing travel support for supervisors in scholarship budgets.
Mentoring is increasingly considered important to recruiting and retaining students in many fields. This is particularly the case when, as in conservation science, there are many career paths outside the academic mainstream and it is unclear how the initiate choses among them and prepares for one. Again, strong linkages between universities and other institutions can help create an enabling environment for student support and mentoring from outside the "academy."
A first step in strengthening graduate education for conservation biology in Africa would be a comprehensive review of courses and programmes on the continent. This would be more than a catalogue of offerings, but involve experts from within and outside Africa to evaluate programmes, with the aim of identifying specific strengths, deficiencies, and partnership opportunities. These evaluations might be updated on a regular basis, either at a continental or regional level. They would also serve as a platform to create a network or association of programmes for ongoing communication and exchanges, helping overcome their isolation from each other.
Women in Conservation Biology
The under-representation of women in conservation biology is not unique. As in other scientific fields, there is a high attrition of women along the "pipeline," from primary school to graduate programs and beyond. The challenge is to grow the pool of women conservation biologists, while ensuring the discipline works to retain them at all levels.
The problem is not only one of equity. One outcome of increasing the participation of women is to broaden the scope and quality of problem solving in conservation biology. Women play major roles in using natural resources like water and firewood, producing food, and providing for household and community livelihoods in much of Africa. Their multiple roles make women key stakeholders for conservation and their unique perspectives inform research questions and enrich the answers. Greater emphasis is placed on cooperative problem solving approaches. Overall, a more capable workforce is created.
Professional associations for conservation biology need to adopt a focus on gender issues, identifying role models, perhaps in collaboration with other organizations that are more focused on women's issues -- like the Forum of African Women Educationalists. They need to raise the visibility of women, their accomplishments and contributions, and help popularize the field. Conservation biologists can join the broader effort to encourage girls into science by exposing them to accomplished women, participating in mentoring programs, and supporting outreach and volunteer programs for primary and secondary schools.
There are concerns not only for encouraging young women to enter conservation biology but also for retaining them, particularly as they advance professionally. A major concern is the lack of mentors and role models for women at higher leadership levels. For many, the topmost levels in, for example, universities, are a lonely place. This is in some respects a deficiency that time will remedy as more women enter conservation biology and rise though the ranks. However, such change cannot be taken for granted and will require dedicated attention to promote and sustain -- e.g., through focused attention to mentoring programs at the higher levels and by drawing from the commercial business sector for models that support a more diverse and capable workforce (e.g., flextime and telecommuting).
Funders also have an important role to play by mainstreaming gender considerations into criteria for funding programs and projects. One funder practice that remains problematic, but easily remedied, is the maximum age criterion for fellowships. Too often, women, who delay completing their doctoral degrees to start families find themselves excluded from fellowship opportunities. A simple solution is to set the age limit instead as a certain number of years after receiving a Ph.D.
Conservation Biology and Primary, Secondary Education
School-based conservation education -- whether formal (in the classroom as part of the curriculum, as in Namibia) or informal (through clubs like those under the Roots and Shoots Program) -- is gaining strength throughout Africa. Incorporating conservation science into primary and secondary teaching, though, is further behind. It is symptomatic of the broader deficiencies in science education.
Conservation biologists can do more as part of a broader effort to encourage students into science. There is a need to highlight conservation scientists in schools -- not only to tell students what they do, but also how they got into science, what inspires them, how they work. Scientists can partner with teachers to design simple field projects that readily engage students with both scientific methods and conservation issues (for example, a "backyard" study of species-areas relationships). Students can also directly assist conservation scientists in their research -- as is occurring in partnership with NGOs like the Cheetah Conservation Fund.
Conservation and science can come together by teaching science through conservation issues. For example, teaching genetics using the cheetah not only illustrates basic genetic principles, but also engages students with the cheetah's conservation needs. There is a growing range of education models for teaching science through issues of public concern, in order to improve science literacy, promote interest in science, and promote responsible civic engagement with these issues. Many are being developed and tested outside Africa, but would benefit from collaborative learning ventures with African educators and scientists (e.g., exchange visits, workshops, joint teaching programs). Through reciprocal exchange of skills and knowledge, the models would be enriched through attention to African perspectives and experiences, while Africa would have the opportunity to adapt them to its needs.
In working to strengthen conservation biology in Africa, it is important to recognize that some challenges and external constraints are shared with many other disciplines. Some have already been noted -- the under-representation of women and shortcomings in primary/secondary education, for example. Conservation biologists need to work in concert with their colleagues in other sciences to effect change.
Like other disciplines, conservation biology in Africa suffers from information access that is constrained in part by shortcomings in telecommunications infrastructure and policies. Libraries and individuals are limited as the Internet becomes the predominate means of publishing and distributing journals and other literature. Increasingly, funding opportunities are advertised solely through the Internet. Electronic publishing significantly reduces some costs and has helped open the door to free or subsidized delivery of information; but, it does not overcome the policy and infrastructure failures. The conservation biology community in Africa must clearly join the chorus for improved telecommunications on the continent.
In the short term, email access is common and any networking or information sharing initiative should take advantage of it. Web based information "portals" or gateways should allow for email access. CD technologies can also be used to great effect. A website's basic architecture can be downloaded on a personal computer and its content regularly updated through CD distributions.
Institutional weaknesses also plague conservation biology and affect universities, research centres, and public as well as private agencies. The sustainability of institutional investments -- whether for equipment, training, etc. -- is not always fulfilled, in part because donors often are reluctant to take a comprehensive and long-term approach to institutional capacity building. Strong institutions are not built through short-term investments in a few select areas. The technical capacities of an organization and its people have little chance to fulfill their promise in the absence of strong management, transparent and accountable financial systems for fiscal soundness, a clear and effective process for strategic planning, opportunities for personal advancement, a safe and comfortable workplace, etc.
At the same time, recipient institutions do not always plan for the recurring costs of maintaining new investments -- for example, in equipment. And, many conservation institutions in Africa are publicly supported. In the face of competing priorities, governments have had difficulty ensuring adequate support for conservation, science, and higher education.
Donor resources are shifting away from conservation research to direct application. While there is need to take urgent action on the ground if Africa's biological diversity is to be conserved, the knowledge base to inform action is far from complete. Basic knowledge of species distributions, especially for groups other than mammals and birds, is poorly developed. Ecosystem-level understanding of the interplay between biotic, abiotic, and human components is in its infancy.
Lack of commitment to conservation research and its institutions brings us back to the vital need for conservation biologists to communicate better what they do, why it is important, and to clearly link their work to the development needs of their countries. They should do this not just for governments. An informed public can also be a powerful guide for government interest and action.
An Africa Section of the Society for Conservation Biology
Workshop participants agreed that the creation of an Africa SCB section would be an important step towards addressing the networking needs identified in the workshop, overcoming some of the constraints identified above, and implementing some of the workshop recommendations. One immediate outcome of the meeting was the formation of an interim steering committee to create the section. The section will aim to be a pan-African conservation network to bring scientists and practitioners together in a virtual and real way through various activities identified by the group. And, the section will strengthen an African voice within the SCB.
While endorsing the Africa section, workshop participants offered the following suggestions:
Participants acknowledged that at the present time, creating an independent society for conservation biology in Africa is neither desirable, nor sustainable. The section, though, could be the start of a process towards that end, perhaps culminating in an independent affiliate of the SCB.
The interim steering committee for the Africa section will focus its efforts on several priorities:
The committee expects to launch the section at the next SCB meeting, to be held in Kent, England in July 2002. A committee subgroup is organizing a symposium for the meeting that will showcase emerging conservation issues in Africa. Titled, "Living with Wildlife in Africa: Conservation Challenges and Opportunities," the symposium will feature leading conservationists and scientists from Africa. They will speak on a broad spectrum of issues, ranging from climate change, pollinator conservation, and forests to ethnobotany, the impact of HIV/AIDS, and community-based conservation. The symposium will highlight the successes as well as the failures of conservation biology in Africa, and further discussion on ways to strengthen it. Plans are also being made to publish the symposium papers.
The Interim Steering committee includes Paula Kahumbu (Acting Chair), Trinto Mugangu (representing Central Africa), William Oduro and Egnankou Wadja (West Africa), Chris Chimimba and Joan Jaganyi (Southern Africa), and Nyawira Muthiga (marine ecosystems). Alan Rodgers and Paula will represent East Africa. Sanjayan Muttulingam and Alastair McNeilage represent non-African members.
To join the Africa section an individual must be a member of the SCB and then he/she can simply send a message to firstname.lastname@example.org stating their interest. An individual can join only one regional section as a voting member; but can be a non-voting member in other sections. The committee welcomes the assistance of SCB members and others in publicizing the Africa section, sponsoring African memberships, as well as in assisting the section in a voluntary capacity (fund raising, bulletin design, information exchange, etc).
 See Appendix 1 for a summary of results from the survey Assessing Networking Needs for Conservation Biology in Africa.
 See workshop paper by Western.
 See workshop papers by Bagine, Faramalala, Marker, and Oduro.
 See workshop paper by van Jaarsveld.
 See http://www.bionet-intl.org/ for information on Bio-NET International and http://www.natmus.cul.na/safrinet/ for information on Safrinet. See http://eawildlife.org/ for information on the East Africa Wildlife Society and http://pages.intnet.mu/ams/wiomsa.htm for the Western Indian Ocean Marine Science Association.
 See M.E. Soulé and G.H. Orians, editors, Conservation Biology: Research Priorities for the Next Decade. Island Press, 2001.
 See paper by Claire Brooke, Bird Life International, prepared for the Conference on Impact Assessment in a Developing World, at Manchester, England, October 1998, available at http://biodiversityeconomics.org/pdf/topics-03-01.pdf.
 See workshop paper by Kasoma.
 See workshop papers by Njobe and Marker.
 See workshop paper by Marker.
 Examples include: the Schoolyard LTER Education projects (http://schoolyard.lternet.edu/), linked to the Long Term Ecological Research Network; GLOBE (http://www.globe.gov/), in which 19 African countries currently participate; and Science Education for New Civic Engagements and Responsibilities (SENCER) (http://www.aacu-edu.org/sencer/),. While SENCER is focussed on post-secondary education, its approach has likely application at the secondary level.