The capacity of protected area staff in the Albertine Rift region is very variable and depends a lot on the education system in the various countries. Turnover in staff and assignments to new positions means that there is a continual need to train rangers, wardens and senior staff at headquarters in the skill sets they need to undertake their roles in the institution. In addition, thinking about how to do conservation is also changing and being improved and there is a need to impart new skills and methods to the protected area staff who find it hard to keep up with the current thinking and conservation methods.
The WCS Albertine Rift Program has focused over the past eight years on developing the ability of the protected area authorities to undertake monitoring and research to be able to adapt management interventions using the results of the monitoring. The approach taken to establish a simple and cost effective adaptive management program at a protected area level is as follows:
- Identify the conservation targets for a protected area
- Identify the threats to these targets
- Identify the current interventions being used to address these threats
- Identify monitoring parameters and indicators that will tell you if the threat is being reduced
- Identify what data are needed, who will collect it and how often.
- Produce a monitoring report based on these data annually and use it to revise the annual operations plan
This approach has been used in all of Uganda’s protected areas as well as protected areas in Rwanda and Democratic Republic of Congo. Initially this process is followed to develop a monitoring plan for a protected area and then the plan is implemented by the protected area authority staff and the data analysed each year. The success of the implementation has varied widely depending on various factors which include the motivation of staff on the ground, the ability of staff at headquarters to get the data analysed by their monitoring wardens and the use of the results by the park wardens. Some example reports (Kibale, Mt Elgon) show how ranger-based monitoring data can be used to monitor the locations and changes in threats in a protected area but there is still a need to link these trends back to the management interventions and assess what is working and what is not.
Coupled with this capacity building programme has been support to improve the ability of protected area authorities to monitor conservation targets by providing training in aerial survey methods for savanna ecosystems and ground counts for forest ecosystems using line transect methods. A census unit was developed within Uganda Wildlife Authority which now undertake their own wildlife surveys in their parks and reserves.
WCS Uganda has provided a program of training in the impacts of the oil industry on conservation and ways in which impacts can be minimized and mitigated. Training courses have been run for staff of UWA, petroleum department, ministry of environment and ministry of tourism staff, oil company employees as well as other NGO partners and government. A training DVD was created and which has been distributed to all institutions involved in the oil industry in Uganda. We are also working with several universities to improve the training in oil development impacts within their curricula.
WCS has also been working with UWA to improve its ability to manage its business. Most of UWA’s income comes from tourism receipts and it is constrained by only raising about 75% of its needs at the moment. Management plans are developed with grand plans for future developments without really costing these out as a business would, particularly assessing whether they will make a profit. WCS Uganda has been providing training to UWA staff to help them develop business plans for all of the parks and reserves in the country as well as for the institution as a whole