Working toward Sustainable Management of Kalakpa Reserve
We have been collaborating with the Wildlife Division (WD) of the Forestry Commission to finding a lasting solution to the issues of management conflict within the Kalakpa reserve. Our engagement with WD is a continuation to facilitate the processes of a collaborative resources management started by SNV in collaboration with WD, DAs, EPA, FC and other related stakeholders of the Volta Region in 2012. The first half of 2016 has been more exciting and engaging as together with WD and communities we have chalked a number of successes.
Meeting with Park Managers and Selected Adhoc Committee Members
Since 2012 the processes for the transition of the Adhoc Committee to Protected Area Management Advisory Board (PAMAB) has stalled and engagement of fringe communities and those located within the reserve has not been the best due to inadequate resources. To consolidate the gains and further strengthen our collaboration with WD and to actively involve communities to secure the conservation status of the reserve, we had an interactive discussion with Park Managers and some selected Adhoc Committee members. In this deliberation, it was clear that Park Managers are overwhelmed with management conflict with the natives and want a collaborative resources management with active participation of the people in conserving the area. What is required is the political will and funding to adequately relocate the people in the reserve.
Strategic Planning Workshop with Communities
We further embarked on a strategic planning process with the local communities to calve a vision for the sustainable management of the Kalakpa Resources Reserve. This process began with field visits to discuss the tenet of our work and to bring communities onto the decision making table. This was followed with a one day strategic planning workshop with community and traditional authority representatives, Park Managers and other relevant key stakeholders working in the area. The outcome of this workshop was a five year draft strategic plan. Later, we made a follow-up visit to all participating communities for validation of the draft five year strategic plan for wider community involvement. The outcome of these engagements is that in five years, all stakeholders are looking at a system where decision making involves resource owners and users; enhances community livelihood; builds and generates social capital as well as provides locals with a sense of ownership, control and connection with the resources without conflicting interests.
SWOT Analysis Workshop with Communities
We again engaged a PhD student from the Yale School of Forestry and Environment Studies who at the time was doing her internship with the Global Environmental Facility (GEF). Together with her, we carried out a two day SWOT Analysis Workshop with a few selected fringe communities. This workshop was facilitated to understand the strengths, weaknesses, threats and opportunities as identified by the people themselves in order to engage in an intervention that makes the most impact for the people. It was interesting to discover from the people that they see the people living in the reserve as a weakness that could hinder any opportunity to restore the area. As one rightly said, “our work in restoring the reserve would amount to nothing if people are still living in the reserve hunting and cutting down the trees. Even if we protect and the population of those within continues to increase and they build more houses, kill more animals, fell more trees, etc. the situation would still be the same.” They also said their main occupation is farming which is what they are very good at (strength) suggesting that any intervention should focus on supporting them in Sustainable Agricultural Practices (SAP) and enterprise development including eco-tourism.
Establishment of CRMCs in Kalakpa Resources Reserve Fringe Communities
In order to facilitate effective collaborative resources management processes, we have engaged some selected fringe communities to set up interim Community Resources Management Committees (CRMCs). The committees will serve as liaison between their respective communities and the Wildlife Division as well as community development partners such as The DI in sustainably managing the reserve. The committees constitute representatives from various stakeholders – traditional authorities, youth, hunters, farmers, religious and women groups. The election of the committees and executive members was facilitated by The DI and Wildlife Division in three communities: Dzakpo, Tegbleve-Trevo and Agordeke during community meetings. In each community, it was unanimously agreed that committee members hold monthly meetings to plan activities and after every three months they will hold quarterly meetings with the entire community to provide the community members with feedback on activities carried out. This was thought to ensure transparency and accountability. In all communities, both the traditional authorities and the community folks were excited, expressed their appreciation and pledged their commitment and full support towards the objectives for setting up the committees.
Welcoming Partnerships for Success
We conclude that Kalakpa Reserve needs a more proactive and collaborative management which is what both communities and park managers are calling for. This is the way forward for Kalakpa to gain its ecological importance back and serve as a tourism destination centre providing benefit for both government and the local inhabitants. This is where our interest is: advocating for human, plants and animal rights; building proactive and resilient community and sustaining livelihoods. We pledge our commitment: We will work with the people and for the people! We will work to sustain nature: plants, animals and water life. But we recognize that we cannot do it alone, government cannot do it alone, and communities cannot do it alone. We welcome mutually beneficial partnership to work for a win-win (people and nature) gain.