APAC2022: Meet Ms. Karibuhoye, the regional Director for the West African region for the MAVA Foundation
Rwanda: The first African Protected Areas Congress (APAC) started on Monday 18 July 2022 in Kigali, Rwanda, and will run through July 23rd, 2022. The MAVA Foundation, an event sponsor, intends to highlight its 25-year impact on nature conservation in Africa on this occasion.
Since its inception in 1994 by its founder, Dr. Luc Hoffmann, with the mission of conserving biodiversity by funding, mobilising, and strengthening the conservation community, the MAVA foundation has supported over 1,570 projects worldwide.
The Foundation has made a significant contribution to the success of conservation in several countries and communities in West Africa.
More than $150 million has been invested to protect the most important critical habitats for endangered marine species, conserve priority coastal habitats, prevent and reduce the impact of coastal development activities, contribute to sustainable fisheries and bycatch reduction, support indigenous and community conserve areas, and strengthen grassroots conservation organisations.
MAVA has not only invested in the preservation of the planet’s natural beauty over the years, but has also contributed to the formation and institutional development of organisations that are now recognised as conservation behemoths, such as WWF, Wetlands International, and IUCN.
Mr. Justin Kayiranga of TOPAFRICANEWS has got an opportunity to interview MAVA’s Karibuhoye to learn more about the legacy that MAVA Foundation is leaving in West Africa Region
Could you Introduce yourself and tell us a little bit about MAVA Foundation
My name is Charlotte Karibuhoye, I am the Regional Director for the West African region for the MAVA Foundation. So the MAVA Foundation is a Swiss philanthropic foundation. It’s a private foundation that was actually founded in 1994 by the late Dr. Luke Hoffman, who was a very famous biologist. So we have been funding, actually, biodiversity conservation projects in West Africa. But when we say West Africa, we don’t mean the whole West African region, we mean seven coastal countries. If you look at the map, you will see from Mauritania, going to Senegal, the Gambia, Guinea Bissau, Guinea and Sierra Leone, and also the Cape Verde Islands. So this is the geographic area of innovation of the MAVA Foundation in West Africa. We also do have projects in the Mediterranean, around the Mediterranean basin, we fund projects also in Switzerland. We also fund other activities. We have been actually funding projects in Conservation and Environment Protection like preserving threatened marine species, like sea birds, sea turtles, like protecting some very important ecosystems and habitats, coastal habitats that protect actually the continent, like mangrove, like seagrass beds, and we have been also funding projects on how do you reduce actually the impact of development activities on the environment, like reducing the impact of infrastructure development, or reducing the impact of fisheries on the marine species, or reducing the impact of oil and gas activities offshore on the marine resources.
Regarding the legacy that MAVA Foundation is about to leave in West Africa, kindly give us a short description of what you have done and what you’re leaving as a legacy?
Excellent, thank you very much. This is a very good question. I think that we are leaving a very, very important legacy, particularly in West Africa, because I’m leading the program there. So I can talk about that. You know, when we started funding protection and conservation of biodiversity in West Africa, nobody was talking a lot about coastal and marine conservation. So there were some protected areas. Today, we have a huge network of Marine and Coastal Protected Areas. This is one of the legacy behind our work. Today, if you look also at the region, you see that decision makers, policymakers, they’re all more aware of the issues related to conservation of biodiversity. We leave behind strong NGOs, we have been able to really strengthen a whole group of local, national and international NGOs who are working where we are also leaving. Actually, some very interesting things like partnerships among those key players who will continue to work beyond the MAVA life, and we’re also leaving to sustainable funding mechanisms. We have been able to set up Conservation Trust Funds and these will continue to fund the local conservation work for a very long term even beyond the Mava foundation.
When we talk of protected areas or conserved areas, especially in Africa, you will see that there are still challenges that Africans used to see these conserved areas as something that can be beneficial to them directly. So maybe they can go into the park and they kill an animal so that they can’t survive. So, with your work in West Africa, did you face those challenges?
Yeah, absolutely. You know, these are challenges that you face everywhere. But what we’ve been able to do, actually, is to make sure that those local communities are properly involved in the setting up and management and governance of those protected areas. This is absolutely important to us. And you know, West Africa is so a bit special because most of the protected areas we’ve been working in, they do have local communities in there. So those local communities have been already managing the space actually, before people came with the notion of protected areas. So the challenge and what we have been doing is how do you integrate these traditional knowledge and practices into the modern world management system, right? So we’ve been really promoting that. Also, the legal recognition of the rights of those local communities, we’ve been also promoting that working with some NGOs that are supporting that. So it’s a very long way, but I think that we have been able to achieve some very interesting things. And among other things, the establishment of community based protected areas, and also of indigenous and local community conserved areas, it’s something that is now developing very, very fast. So, I think this is one of our main achievements.
You’re completing the task in West Africa, what will be like a message for those communities, you are leaving behind Of course, you are not leaving them totally, you will be working with them maybe indirectly. So, what will be the message so that these protected areas cannot be damaged?
You know, we are not leaving them alone, because the partners that we have been financing will continue to work with them, right. And we’ve been able even to mobilize some other donors to be able to come and support them. So my message is, these protected areas are yours. You are actually the custodians, you are the owners. Tomorrow, International NGOs and donors will go, but you will stay. So what do you want to leave to your children? What do you want to leave to your grandchildren? So you have to actually manage them as if they are your own house and to leave a legacy to your child, a heritage to your grandchild.