Major advancement for biodiversity conservation and improving access to best available science and knowledge on protected areas have been made in East Africa within the last weeks. After the establishment of a framework for the East African Community (EAC) Observatory for the Biodiversity and Protected Areas (BIOPAMA) programme, the BIOPAMA project recently convened a Technical Training Workshop at the Regional Centre for Mapping of Resources for Development (RCMRD) in Nairobi, Kenya from 21-22 July 2015.
The aim of the workshop was to introduce the program and present the Regional Reference Information System (RRIS) to participants from the EAC Partner States with the purpose of obtaining feedback on how to improve the features, functionality and content to meet the needs of the region; to develop a schema for a refined workflow or decision support tool to easily access the required data and information; to identify obstacles to data sharing and opportunities and to promote data sharing and finally to define the workflow for submitting data for inclusion into the Regional Reference Information System (RRIS), a key resource of the EAC Observatory, to partners and stakeholders from the EAC countries.
The workshop which was attended by 30 participants drawn from natural resources, environment, science and technology to mining, energy, agriculture, forestry and museum sectors from Partner States provided a guided in-depth tour of the East African Community RRIS. Each participant had the opportunity to log into the RRIS, engage with it and make suggestions for enhancements to meet the needs of the region. Participants could add new data to the RRIS as well as create their own maps, allowing for an immersive experience of how the RRIS can advance effective protected area conservation and management with the overall development context of the region.
In addition to the hands-on experience, participants discussed the process of using data to guide decision making with the aim of modelling these workflows in the RRIS to ensure the technology and data support decision making and policy development. Participants also provided in-depth input on the best approach to promote the free and open exchange of data the region. A draft “Open Access Statement” was accepted as a declaration to promote free and open access to data and a draft Data Sharing Framework which will give effect to the Open Access Statement was discussed.
The EAC Regional Reference Information System (EAC RRIS) is an online information system bringing together relevant information to support decision-making for planning, designating and managing protected areas. It displays maps and supporting information about bBiodiversity values, marine and terrestrial ecosystems, species and habitats, pressures and threats, and management and governance and was developed by the Joint Research Centre of the European Commission (JRC) within the framework of the BIOPAMA Programme. The EAC RRIS supports the Regional Observatory for Protected Areas whose framework was finalized recently between IUCN and the East African Community. The EAC Observatory is hosted by the East African Community Secretariat in Arusha, Tanzania.
“The EAC Secretariat is privileged to be the host of the online information system, it will improve the effectiveness of management of protected areas in the EAC region,” said Ms. Wivine Ntamubano, Principal Environment and Natural Resources Officer at the EAC Secretariat. “Protected areas are important to the economies of the EAC Partner States because of the revenue generated through eco-tourism, continuous provision of water and food in reservoirs of fish and wildlife, provision of raw materials like timber, wood, fuel, herbal medicines which contributes to poverty reduction for the communities surrounding protected areas, and environmental benefits which include climate, erosion and soil fertility regulation. Protected areas also provide avenues for education and for carrying out research by different institutions.”
The workshop was made possible with support from the European Union with Intra‐ACP (Africa, Caribbean and Pacific) funding from the 10th European Development Fund (10th EDF).