I am from Kenya, where we are known for our wildlife and our long distance runners. Recently one of our most famous marathon runners Eliud Kipchoge made history by breaking the two-hour marathon barrier. It took a dedicated partnership between many different people for Eliud to achieve this incredible feat.
Both wildlife and our runners succeed in part because of collaborations for training, science, and adaptive management that exceeds the local capacity. I believe using similar models of partnerships can generate benefits for people and biodiversity.
“My work relates to coral reef conservation and small-scale fisheries in Kenya. Coral reef ecosystems are a good example of where biodiversity conservation and food security are inextricably linked.”
My work relates to coral reef conservation and small-scale fisheries in Kenya. Coral reef ecosystems are a good example of where biodiversity conservation and food security are inextricably linked. However, coral reefs and small-scale fisheries are over-exploited, suffering the impacts of climate change and poor governance.
Building partnerships is a complicated process that starts with defining joint objectives and getting commitments from all relevant stakeholders to work towards a common goal. So, what kinds of partnerships do we need?
Good partnerships need to have characteristics that encourage participation and communication and promote accountability. They involve relationships at all levels (local to regional to global) but proportional to potential influence or impacts.
Importantly, they create linkages directly related to key management processes and responsibilities. They have information exchange mechanisms that are useful and economically realistic. Good partnerships also address real issues that stakeholders face — including social, ecological, political, technological etc.
Coral reefs and small-scale fisheries are mostly managed through marine protected areas (MPAs), co-managed areas (CMAs), and — more recently — other effective area-based conservation measures (OECMs). In my experience, these approaches have challenges that can be resolved by building partnerships at the different levels.
Countries have agreed to deliver on several global conservation and sustainable development commitments, such as the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals. However, fulfillment of these commitments requires mechanisms to build needed linkages across and within agencies, including down to the managed area. Efforts must be undertaken to ensure that national policies, regulations, and management plans are effectively implemented.
“Building partnerships is a complicated process that starts with defining joint objectives and getting commitments from all relevant stakeholders to work towards a common goal.”
Further, co-managed areas sometimes leave management to poor communities that have little prior experience, capital, or — crucially — linkages within and between their own and other communities. As a result, they can have difficulty with resource-monitoring, surveillance and enforcement, balancing the cost and benefits of activities, and managing conflicts.
That is why we not only need to form new partnerships but also to strengthen existing ones. Such collaborations should provide regular monitoring to evaluate performance and encourage adaptive management. Perhaps as important, they facilitate greater learning, serve as forums for information exchange, and help provide a steady stream of scientific and other information useful for management.
Nyawira Muthiga is a conservation scientist who directs the Kenya marine program at WCS (Wildlife Conservation Society). With Tim McClanahan, she received the 2018 Award for Conservation Excellence (ACE) for her distinguished conservation work in coastal Kenya, East Africa, the Western Indian Ocean and around the world for more than 30 years