African Site Support Groups
What is a Site Support Group (Local Community Conservation Group)?
Site Support Groups are organized, independent groups of voluntary individuals who work in partnership with relevant stakeholders, to promote conservation and sustainable development at IBAs and other key biodiversity sites. They are one of the practical ways of achieving conservation by the local communities.
In Africa, the first SSGs were initiated by BirdLife partners in 1998 and 1999 through a ten-country GEF-funded project entitled “African NGO-Government partnership for biodiversity conservation”. Subsequently the BirdLife Africa Partnership has embraced the approach, which is being applied in all the 19 network countries.
The SSG approach is applied by national partners as the main mechanism to create a network of local constituencies working to protect the most threatened biodiversity sites in Africa, while benefiting from the wise use of the natural resources there-in.
SSGs are an important advocacy tool that attracts attention of decision-makers at any level. The SSG use birds as a means to stimulate environmental interest and concern for biodiversity. They produce useful linkages and synergies, between themselves, with the local administration and with external agencies.
Probably the most important value of SSG is in their links with the future. SSGs provide conservation now, and due to their intricate relationships with the wider community and to the resources within the IBAs, will continue to do so in the future.
What do SSGs do?
The main activities of SSGs are:
- To raise awareness of local communities on the wise use of natural resources and the importance of IBAs for the conservation of biodiversity. They also help to establish and/or strengthen environmental education programmes in schools around their sites
- To monitor the status of key species and habitats in their sites and the prevailing human activities at sites and reporting illegal or destructive ones to relevant authorities
- To start nature-based environmentally-friendly projects, clearly linked to conservation, that will help communities generate some income (for example bee-keeping, butterfly farming, tree nurseries, eco-tourism); providing services, such as assisting researchers and tour-guiding at the IBAs, which benefits both the researchers and tourists on one hand and the community itself on the other
- To work with NGOs and government agencies to rehabilitate degraded habitats, for example by tree planting
- To provide a link to the local communities for negotiations and interventions at site level
- Act as nuclei for channeling development and social services to the local community e.g. new agricultural methods, village banks, schools etc
Progress to date
- Over 145 SSGs have been formed in more than 19 African countries with the membership surging into thousands and more being formed
- About 10% are strong institutions able to fundraise and implement their own site conservation action and livelihood improvement projects