Building Capacity for Better Negotiation Skills: an Inspiring Solution from Africa

7 April 2015

More than 100 protected area practitioners and stakeholders from 18 Eastern and Southern African countries were trained in negotiation skills during 4 training sessions organized by BIOPAMA and the Sustainability Challenge Foundation during the last 6 months. Graduates applied their new-found skills in their daily work, contributing to a better management of protected area conflicts. 

Why the focus on negotiation training for protected areas? Conflict over resources and land is growing steadily across the globe and protected areas are often at the heart of this conflict. Governments have agreed that protected areas are one of the best solutions to conserve nature and have provided a legal basis for their preservation. On the other hand, humans’ immemorial economical dependency on natural resources within protected areas forms a basis for conflict, and protected area staff therefore find themselves playing a number of roles where conflict occurs: as stakeholders in these conflicts, mediators, or even facilitators. The BIOPAMA Programme in Eastern and Southern Africa, through its capacity building programme, seeks to equip protected area practitioners with skills to manage these land and resource conflicts around protected areas and therefore improve the management effectiveness of these protected areas.

 In October 2014 and February 2015, 63 protected area stakeholders were trained in applying the Mutual Gains Approach (MGA) to negotiation. An on-site short-training was held in Goba, Ethiopia, in September 2014, for 19 protected area stakeholders around Bale Mountains National Park, to equip them with the skills to better engage on the land and resource conflicts and support a constructive dialogue with communities around the park. In February 2015, 20 senior lecturers and protected area staff from 6 regional training institutions were involved in a week-long training to learn how to teach the mutual gains approach (MGA) to negotiation in the context of natural resources management, as well as discussing how to integrate elements of the MGA into their curricula for protected area staff.

Initial feedback from participants has shown that the skills acquired during the training have already been applied in the workplace. One graduate indicated that the MGA model enables the communities they work with to be more open about their mutual agreements as demonstrated by the number of reports from communities on illegal activities like poaching, reporting on wild animals that stray out of the park as opposed to earlier where they would organize and kill them for meat.

Feedback from Madagascar illustrates the successful use of MGA and consensus building in assisting two ministries to reach a consensus and organize a joint event. In Rwanda the training was used to solve the problem of illegal passage of cattle through the Nyungwe National Park. The method used was the quick assessment and identification of the stakeholders. The application of the MGA resulted in the agreement on mutual gain.

MGA was used in Uganda to establish a multiple use zone in the Pian Upe Wildlife Reserve to contain local communities from further encroaching on the reserve. In Uganda the approach was also used to help in streamlining controlled grazing in the reserve using the zones and allowing the communities access to grazing and water in the reserve during the dry seasons.

A graduate from Kenya used MGA and consensus building successfully to solve the problem of rampant destruction of mangroves as a result of logging by the timber industry in the Funzi Bay Ramisi River estuary in Kwale Country. Consensus building was used during a meeting of resource users whose interest was the de-gazzetting of a park area that the Kenya Wildlife Service was not utilizing and the resource users were interested in for fishing purposes. The main stakeholders in this conflict, Kenya Wildlife Services and the fishermen, mutually agreed on a process to solve the problem. This has moved the dialogue forward substantially.

Not only are the graduates utilizing the knowledge gained from the trainings but they are going a step further and planning to impart the knowledge and skills gained to others. A graduate from the Kenya Wildlife Services (KWS) organized a one day programme to train a group of field officers on MGA and consensus building on the 17th March 2015 at KWS Training Institute.

In Rwanda an opportunity to train other protected area practitioners availed itself during training related to Human-Wildlife conflicts management. The training was held in Rwanda, Kitabi College of Conservation and Environment Management with financial support of GIZ, in December 2014. The participants were from some well-established protected areas of Rwanda as well as those recently gazetted. There is hope that the shared experience will contribute to sustainable protected areas in Rwanda ensuring harmonious management of protected areas while respecting community benefits and park conservation.

If the majority of Mutual Gains Approach and consensus building training graduates continue to apply the new skills learned in their work to resolve conflicts around protected areas and also take the initiative to further train colleagues, as in the case of Kenya and Rwanda, it will go a long way in solving conflicts and averting potential conflicts for the benefit of biodiversity conservation”, concluded Ms Christine Mentzel, BIOPAMA Regional Coordinator for Eastern and Southern Africa.

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