Between 2012 and July 2015, the German Commission for UNESCO (DUK) in cooperation with the German Federal Agency for Nature Conservation (BfN), has coordinated the formulation and publication of a Management Manual for UNESCO biosphere reserves in Africa. The project has been funded by the German Federal Ministry for the Environment (BMUB).
The Manual was written by three authors from Africa: Prof Dr Wafaa Amer of Egypt, Ms Sheila Ashong of Ghana and Dr Djafarou Tiomoko of Benin. Closely involved into the project have been the two networks AfriMAB and ArabMAB, UNESCO's MAB Secretariat and more or less all managers of UNESCO biosphere reserves in Africa.
A first scoping workshop on the suitable topics of this manual, with participants from all over Africa, took place in February 2013 in Mombasa, Kenya. From April 2014, the draft was submitted to an expert advisory panel.The draft Manual was both put to test and proposed for revision in a first workshop in Accra, Ghana, in May 2014. Three subsequent workshops with similar aims have taken place in Tanzania in July 2014 and in Tunisia in October 2014 and November 2014. Comments could also be submitted online in April 2015.
On June 8, 2015, DUK and BfN have presented the finalized and printed Manual in the context of the MAB International Coordinating Council in Paris. Subsequently, the printed Manuals have been widely disseminated to all biosphere reserves and MAB national committees in Africa.
Goals, target group and content of the Manual:
85 biosphere reserves in Africa function as model regions for sustainable use of natural resources, adapted to the local conditions. A particular challenge in many places is to involve stakeholders and the general public into the management in a sensible way. Only a few biosphere reserves, e.g. in Ethiopia and South Africa, have truly participatory structures for planning and management.
This is what the Manual comes into play: To improve management effectiveness and participation, the Manual amis at the staff of the administrative bodies of African biosphere reserves, both long-time employees as well as to those who take on a new position. The target group of the Manual also includes local partners, funding agencies and other parties, interested in the work of biosphere reserves. The Manual is available in English and French; through a "Creative Commons license", it can be quite freely translated into other languages and adapted to other contexts.
The Manual provides practical information how biosphere reserves can integrate nature conservation with the socio-economic development and poverty reduction. Theoretical information is contextualized with respect to the situation in Africa. Practical aspects are the focus of the Manual, for example, how to resolve conflicts between different stakeholders of a biosphere reserve, or, how the economic returns from a biosphere reserve can be shared with the villagers, or, how to formulate a participatory management plan. The Manual provides several options for possible legal and administrative frameworks of UNESCO biosphere reserves in Africa, and it describes how consultations and hearings can be organized. The publication also provides arguments for potential financial supporters and decision-makers in ministries.
The particular practical relevance of the Manual is a result of the contributions of some 110 experts from almost all UNESCO biosphere reserves in Africa. Thus, the Manual for present and future managers of African biosphere reserves has effectively been formulated by themselves, as a critically co-developed instrument. The Manual will enable them to addresss existing challenges on site more effectively and participatorily. The Manual has been reviewed very positively in the scientific journal eco.mont in late 2015.
The project is the result of a request from the AfriMAB Bureau and of suggestions made during a a workshorp organized jointly by BfN, DUK, UNESCO and the AfriMAB Secretariat in summer 2011 (cp. BfN website).