The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), Joint Research Centre (JRC and Regional Centre for Mapping of Resources for Development (RCMRD) held a virtual kickoff meeting for Biodiversity and Protected Area Management (BIOPAMA) programme. The meeting held on 23rd September 2020, laid out the relevance of the Regional Resource Hub (RRH), role of RCMRD on the RRH, potential linkages with like-minded partners to strengthen their capacity and its launch.
BIOPAMA is an initiative of the Organization of African Caribbean and Pacific States (OACP) funded by the European Union Development Fund and jointly implemented by the IUCN and JRC. The program runs from 2017-2023, and seeks to address the governance of conserved and protected areas in the OACP counties. At BIOPAMA, RCMRD is the host institution of the Regional Resource Hub for the Eastern and Southern Africa Region. The RRH is a knowledge hub for the Eastern and Southern African region that supports better decision making for fair and effective management and governance of protected and conserved areas. The Hub compiles and analyzes relevant data and provides information to support field interventions, policies dialogues and decision-making processes at local, national and regional levels.
While opening the meeting, the DG RCMRD acknowledged two key elements of BIOPAMA one of them being the only project currently being handled on natural resource management by RCMRD. Secondly, it is one of the projects that covers its 20 member States across Eastern and Southern Africa. The DG added that, "CIFOR is coming on board and with the group expanding with collaborative effort, the resources will be of great benefit to the member States. I will avail capacity, connections, and institutional commitment to the region to ensure the products we are developing improve the management of natural resources in the region."
In his remarks, Steve Peddell from the European Commission Joint Research Centre indicated that "We are delighted RRH is being entrusted to a worthy partner- RCMRD not from technical point but also positioning within the region with its 20 African countries. It’s the largest block in ACP group of states and secondly, its biodiversity having conserved areas like Olpajeta. Additionally, the relations of RCMRD with other partners due to its works on other projects. I urge RCMRD to bring other projects like OFESA, as BIOPAMA can act as a single focal point for information management on broader thematic issues."
RRH project will provide GIS and technical IT development support to BIOPAMA. Some of the activities RCMRD is expected to undertake are; Developing and hosting RRH which is the knowledge hub for decision makers on matters biodiversity that cover 24 countries in Africa. The Centre will also develop and host the Regional Reference Information System (RRIS), a tool for data and information management used to track and monitor the target of conservation sector, performance of protected areas, and facts of conserved areas. Since January the, the Centre has been hosting the Southern African Development Community Trans-Frontier Conservation Areas Portal (SADC TFCA). On the other hand, International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED), will support the project through the development of Protected Area Governance and Equity module, developing database for Site Level Assessment on Governance and Equity assessment in the region and helping improve communication of the results to decision makers.
Currently there are five potential linkages that the RRH will work with very closely, one with Luc Hoffman Institute in a project on nature-based tourism and effects of COVID whereby RCMRD will be server as the online data clearing house and this initiative will be linked to RRH for exploration. Two, with USAID’s Vuka Now program on conservation and community related activities. Three, the Blue planet hub which will cater for marine and coastal information, meant to unlock the potential of ocean resources. Four, with the OFESA project which will be covering 5 countries covered by BIOPAMA. The objective of OFESA will be to come up with an observatory to monitor status of forest and lastly liaise with the Regional Economic Communities (RECs) specifically SADC, EAC, IOC & IGAD like developing anti-poaching tracking tools, mapping and monitoring of trans-boundary ecosystem sites. The RECs will help cover the needs of BIOPAMA.
The development of the RRH is complete and the launch is scheduled to take place virtually on 19 November 2020. The launch will be preceded by a pre-awareness campaign for people to know what the RRH is all about. The focus of the launch will be on experiences from, RECs on how RRHs has addressed their needs and volunteers who will champion RRH in their respective countries.