Conservation of Migratory Birds (CMB)

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Strengthening networks in order to promote the conservation of migratory birds and their habitats along the west coast of Africa.

As a NGO-government partnership BirdLife works through carefully selected partner organisations in seven countries. These organisations benefit by having strategic and technical capacity development which enables them to facilitate conservation across the region.

The conservation is based on a key sustainability strategy to ensure that these organisations are able and motivated enough to address the conservation of migratory birds at a local, national, regional and flyway level. However, the project will also ensure that strong relationships are forged with national governments and their agencies, BirdLife’s network of international partners (especially from Europe), Wetlands International, and the International Foundation of Banc d’Arguin (FIBA). It also supports Multilateral Environmental Agreements (MEAs), such as the African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbird Agreement (AEWA) which focuses on migratory water birds. The Ramsar Convention promotes the conservation and sustainable use of wetland habitats and their biodiversity. 

BirdLife and its partners have already developed successful strategies for working with local communities at ground level and this approach will be rolled out in the PRCM (Regional Conservation Programme) for the coastal and marine zone of West Africa during the project.

Notable organisations include: Association Nature-Communautés-Devéloppement (Senegal), West African Bird Study Association (Gambia), Nature Mauritanie (Mauritania), Guinée Ecologie (Guinea), Organização para a Defesa o Desenvolvimento das Zonas Humidas (ODZH, Guinea Bissau), Conservation Society of Sierra Leone (Sierra Leone) and Biosfera I (Cape Verde).

Financial resources: MAVA Foundation, Vogelbescherming Nederland (VBN; BirdLife in The Netherlands), Wetlands International, Chester Zoo, International Foundation of Banc d’Arguin (FIBA), GEF Small Grants Programme (SGP), British Embassy and FFEM PPI 3 (French Global Environment Facility Small-Scale Initiatives).

Scope: The CMB project is designed to increase the understanding about the conservation status and needs of migratory birds and their habitats in West Africa. It also aims to establish cost-effective and sustainable monitoring systems that will track changes in the status of migratory birds and their habitats. It is essential to develop and strengthen the technical capacity for flyway conservation in the region particularly in ensuring that organisations are well placed to attract the new sources of funding which are required in order to make conservation along the West African coast financially sustainable.

As part of the participatory conservation and the management of key sites and species the project will involve:

  • Being proactive in preventing the extinction of migratory bird species reversing the population declines in common bird species and alleviating threats to their habitats.
  • Addressing sustainable livelihood issues and increasing local community engagement in migratory bird conservation to ensure long-term conservation benefits.
  • Promoting ecotourism based on migratory birds, improving the conservation status of migratory birds in the coastal zone of West Africa and initiating specific plans for specific threatened species. Identifying and utilising opportunities for policy and advocacy work to improve the conservation status of migratory birds and sites along the coast of West Africa.

Main Activities

  • Reviewing the status of migratory birds, IBAs and key habitats along the West African coast, ranking the threats to sites and habitats, determining the requirements of long-distance migrants and synthesising the role of local communities in conservation.
  • Developing and initiating the implementation of a regional monitoring plan for migratory birds, creating monitoring protocols and monitoring target monitoring sites, as well as establishing and implementing procedures for the coordinated monitoring of migratory birds and selected sites. The results will be summarised in a regional status and trends report.
  • Establishing and implementing a training programme focused on migratory bird conservation, and developing a young graduate support programme. Strengthening the capacity of environmental NGOs in the coastal zone of West Africa and promoting collaboration between them through a regional network.
  • Initiating and supporting a range of participatory conservation projects across the region embracing conservation and livelihood support, also strengthening local community groups at project sites and developing a resource pack focused natural resource management. Developing and implementing specific actions for threatened migratory species through species action plans.
  • Building migratory bird conservation into relevant regional and flyway level agreements and promoting advocacy and an enhanced awareness of migratory birds in the coastal zone of West Africa.

Outcomes of the project

The CMB project has had a number of observed effects in the regions in terms of capacity building for conservation of migratory birds and actions to address the threats to migratory birds in the region. Some examples include:

  • The project has contributed to an enhanced waterbird monitoring in the project area, monitoring had better coverage, and started to resemble a regional flyway monitoring initiative, which was lacking in previous years. CMB increased the quality and quantity of monitoring, especially of the migratory waterbirds.
  • The scientific review of migratory birds and their habitat identified the priority species and sites for conservation. It was on this basis that the young graduate students were selected to support their research on birds. At University of Cheick Anta Diop in Senegal, the theme for research in ornithology especially migratory birds has to be in line with the priorities identified by the report.
  • The capacity need assessment and development plans for the capacity building of NGO partners improved the institutional management compare before the project. Four of the seven partners had developed their strategic plan and procedures worked to fulfil the BirdLife criteria so that they become partners.
  • The training in Project Writing and Development for the partners yielded positive results as significant co- financing was raised during the project period and conservation actions. The funds were raised from various donors.
  • The Species Actions plans identify priorities for conservation of the different species and responsibilities of partners in their implementation. The Species Action plans process brought NGOs, government agencies, universities and bird experts to work and plan together around the AEWA focal point. Some organisations have started using the plans to raise fund for their implementation.
  • CMB project firmly planted the concept of Important Bird and Biodiversity Area (IBA) in the region. Before no organization in the French-speaking West Africa used IBAs as a unity of conservation, and this project served to plant this concept.

Lasting impact of the project

  • The strengthened presence of BirdLife International in West Africa region, the emergence of solid NGO partners and the good coordination and communication established with a number of regional initiatives and stakeholders (Wetlands International, Wadden Sea Flyway Initiative, PRCM, AEWA…).
  • Monitoring of birds in the region is advanced, with more people trained and engaged and with better and more coordinated counts implemented during project tenure, resulting in better and more data collected ( 78 people were trained at regional level on waterbirds monitoring and site management while 85 were trained at national level).
  • Involvement of local communities in birds monitoring and conservation actions at sites was another outcome of the project. Local communities with support of National NGOs participated in mangrove restoration in Sierra Leone, Gambia, Guinea Bissau and Guinea as actions to safeguard the migratory birds and their habitats.

Lessons learned and their relevance for future work

  • Waterbird monitoring is a unifying theme and enables collaboration between Governments, NGOs and local communities. The results of the monitoring are mostly used at global level but with the ownership by nationals, monitoring could as well advance the conservation plans in the region by using them for advocacy and site management.
  • Small grants are very successful tools to elicit tangible conservation outputs, they help building capacity of local organisations and individuals but they need to be closely followed up for maximum impact.
  • Coordination, collaboration of projects and initiatives are needed, through constant engagement, joint planning, exchange of members in project steering committees, development of MoUs between organisations, and constant communication.
  • Capacity of NGO partners was different, while some organisations were ‘high potentials’ to become BirdLife Partner for which the process has started, the other partners were such that immense efforts were needed to get them to the level of effective independent conservation organisations.
  • Even the health check of NGO partners was done showing the strengths and weakness of the organisations, institutional support of partners for their development was beyond the scope of the project.  Now that the specific needs of partners have been identified it is important that hands-on technical support is available to help partners develop and implement strategic development plans.
  • Government and NGO partnerships in all the CMB countries are still very young. Collaboration was made through waterbirds monitoring, celebration of World Migratory Bird Day and the development of species action plans. These activities needed true collaboration and, in some cases led initially to tensions but resulted in a clearer understanding of the functioning of NGO-Government partnerships.
  • CMB covered a wide range of species (from seabirds to shorebirds, from Palearctic migrants to intra-African migrants, from common species to threatened species). As a consequence a range of habitats was included. This diversity made it difficult for project partners to see the communality of each other activities for an exchange of experience and information.

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