A region at risk
The Lake Victoria Basin (LVB), an enormous area composed of portions of Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Uganda, has undergone significant environmental changes within the last 50 years. Because of these changes, many of the ecosystems on which local communities rely for their livelihoods are under threat. Decreased rates of biodiversity and increased numbers of endangered species were signs of the broader issue in the biologically significant areas (BSAs) in LVB.
Working to be more PREPARED
Planning for Resilience in East Africa through Policy, Adaptation, Research and Economic Development (PREPARED) was a 5-year programme (2013-2018) funded by USAID, which aimed to strengthen the resilience of these fragile transboundary freshwater ecosystems and communities while also working to provide support for the development of more sustainable East African economies. The three primary components of the project were climate change adaptation; water supply, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH); and biodiversity conservation. LTS, part of the NIRAS group, primarily supported the biodiversity component, applying decades of experience in this type of work and in the region to build the capacity of responsible organisations, national governments, and local communities. LTS prepared, tested and implemented reliable, simple and practical conservation tools and approaches that helped PREPARED partner institutions and local communities in East Africa plan for an uncertain future.
Putting a price tag on biodiversity loss
The population of LVB, already at 30 million people, continues to grow rapidly. From the outset, it was clear that creating new economic opportunities for people to diversify their livelihoods away from practices harmful to these fragile ecosystems would be necessary. In pursuit of that goal, LTS developed rapid economic valuation guidelines which facilitated economic valuations of the biodiversity and services provided by ecosystems, helping to “make the case” economically for conservation. These guidelines were then applied in several key BSAs in LVB.
Furthermore, the region was a perfect candidate for conservation investments from international donors and government partners. In order to enable such investments, conservation investment plans (CIPs) were developed, helping to articulate the most applicable conservation strategies for the different vulnerable regions. In order to further engage wildlife institutions and local communities in wildlife rich areas, a mobile application was also developed which helps local communities and conservation partners to work together in gathering and analysing poaching and human-wildlife conflict data.
Results to be proud of
As a result of the work done on CIPs and using a knowledge-sharing approach, multiple government and non-governmental agencies were able to redefine their priorities and enter into new partnerships for biodiversity conservation. The conservation agenda was strengthened regionally, and the early results confirm the immense potential of these tools and approaches in guiding decision-making which incorporates biodiversity, rather than damaging it.