African Wildlife Foundation firmly believes that with proper planning, Africa can simultaneously support robust economic development and viable conservation landscapes, which is why AWF invests heavily in conservation planning at all levels.
AWF’s goal is to make ecosystem management a deliberate and intentional process benefitting people, wildlife, and the land itself. Land-use planning for enhanced rural development and wealth creation, as well as food and water security, can also meet conservation targets.
Without proper planning, natural resources are used unsustainably to realize socioeconomic objectives, extractive industries emerge, and infrastructure development persists without consideration for wildlife or lands.
To harmonize various land uses — conservation, agriculture, development, grazing — in a vast and cohesive landscape, we support participatory land-use planning. By engaging key stakeholders in the planning process AWF ensures that there is true ownership of and support for plans, which are embedded in the relevant legal framework.
Operating according to government regulations, community-driven natural resource management can revitalize rural economies and retain the stability of critical ecosystems.
As Africa grows its economy with large-scale developments, human activities such as bush meat hunting and unsustainable agriculture expand into the most critical wilderness areas. Roads, pipelines, and mining attract human settlement, which mushrooms around reliable water and arable land. These are the same spaces where wildlife tends to roam outside of protected national parks and reserves.
While economic expansion is projected to bring prosperity to the people of Africa, it increasingly comes at the risk of degrading critical ecosystems. Short-sighted land-use goals limit the benefits people can receive from holistic development plans that protect wetlands, indigenous and endemic forests, as well as threatened wildlife species.
With a holistic approach based on years of experience in the design and development of strategic land-use plans, AWF works with communities and other stakeholders to address the multiple and conflicting demands facing Africa’s ecosystems. Not only do our systematic assessments balance ecological and socioeconomic values, they also consider the unique challenges of each conservation landscape.
AWF helps communities develop land-use plans that support their goals for the future and balance the different land uses in ways that will make their vision a reality. Open participation across all levels ensures buy-in and support for the plans, optimizes local knowledge of the land and its resources, minimizes conflict, and promotes ecosystem health in the long run.
For example, in landscapes where livestock grazing drives habitat degradation, communities limit practices by designating their land as a conservation area — sometimes called a natural resource or wildlife management area or a conservancy. These community-owned areas sustain wildlife corridors, provide employment to local rangers, and allow communities to receive benefits from conservation enterprises.
To prevent national parks and reserves from turning into isolated islands of biodiversity, AWF’s planning tools help maintain landscape connectivity. Based on GIS data that shows wildlife movement patterns, AWF identifies target wildlife corridors and works with people at all levels — from governments to small villages — to ensure these linkages are protected.
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