NOF BirdLife Norway has been involved in project cooperation with BirdLife International members in developing countries since 1998. The work has been done with support from the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation, NORAD.
NOF has been engaged in project cooperation funded by NORAD since 1988, when a three-year project was established with the Ethiopian BirdLife International partner Ethiopian Wildlife and Natural History Society (EWNHS). Later NOF cooperated with the Zambian BirdLife partner BirdWatch Zambia in the period 2004-2013, with the Malawian BirdLife partner Wildlife and Environmental Society of Malawi (WESM) during 2012-2017, and with the Nepalese BirdLife partner Bird Conservation Nepal (BCN) during 2013-2017.
NOF’s decision to be involved in conservation efforts in developing countries is based on the fact that some of the most rare and threatened bird species are found in tropical regions in developing countries. There are often limited opportunities for the local inhabitants of these regions to engage themselves in nature conservation, often as a result of poverty.
The ongoing projects are focused on the countries Important Bird Areas, IBAs. The IBAs are key areas rich in biological diversity where the birds represent indicators on whether the biodiversity in an area is intact or not. Human activities often constitute the main threat towards the conservation of these areas in developing countries. At the same time it is often the local poor people who will be affected first when nature is deteriorating. Their livelihoods are often totally dependent on what the local nature offers: food, building materials, fuel wood, medical plants etc.
An essential starting point for the projects has therefore been to develop project activities which contribute to decrease the pressure on the natural resources and sustain the basis of the local people’s existence in the area. This means awareness raising on the importance of conserving nature combined with income generating activities developed in close dialogue with the local communities living in and in the vicinity of the important bird areas.
NOF started a three-year project in Malawi in March 2012 in cooperation with its BirdLife partner organization Wildlife and Environmental Society of Malawi (WESM). The main goal is to conserve birds, their habitats and general biodiversity, and to work together with the local communities for a sustainable use of the natural resources. In order to obtain this, the project aims to link a reasonable use of the natural resources with poverty alleviation for the people that live inside and in the vicinity of IBAs. The project will be carried out in close dialogue with the local communities, and they will in this manner be seen as partners in the conservation work. During the first project phase, the project will focus on three IBAs: the forest reserves Dzalanyama and Ntchisi, and the Kasungu National Park.
Dzalanyama Forest Reserve is located 60 km southwest of Malawi’s capital Lilongwe. It constitutes a part of the mountain range along the border to Mozambique which is marking the watershed divide between Lake Malawi and the Zambezi river system. The forest reserve covers only a bit more than 5000 ha, and the vegetation is dominated by Miombo forest. The local population living in the vicinity of Dzalanyama use many of the natural resources inside the forest reserve for household purposes: fuel wood, wild fruits, timber for building construction, medical plants and fodder for domesticated animals. The majority of the inhabitants in Lilongwe are dependent on charcoal as energy source, and a lot of the trees are illegally cut for this purpose.
Ntchisi Forest Reserve is one of the hills of the Dowa hill region, 75 km. northeast of Lilongwe, 1600 meters above sea level. Ntchisi is the only area of this densely populated and eroded region that still has the original rainforest intact, consisting of around 225 ha mountainous rainforest, with 30 ha medium-high rainforest spreading downwards the southeast slopes. Most of the reserve contains fine miombo forest.
The biggest threat towards the forest reserve is caused by the pressure from the local communities. The local population cut trees for timber purposes, boat construction, fuel wood in addition to make use of other types of natural resource for the households. The project will involve a population on around 129 000 persons living around Ntchisi.
Kasungu National Park is located 170 km north of Lilongwe right by the border to Zambia. The area has been under some protection since 1922, and got the status as national park in 1970. There were established accommodation facilities for visitors, a dam and road structure where wild animals could be observed from the car. Kasungu was at that time considered the best game park in Malawi, containing the largest elephant population of the country with more than 2000 animals. Unfortunately there has been a rapid decrease in the amount of wild animals during the last years. Currently, the elephant population is reckoned to be only 150 animals. This is a result of poaching and game theft which includes activities like cutting trees, setting up metal wire snares and usage of guns. The major threats towards the park are mainly due to increased need of land for cultivation of tobacco and other harvests, game theft and burning of vegetation, and significant deforestation going on in some areas. The project aims to involve the local communities living around Kasungu, amounting to around 117 000 persons.
NOF started a three-year project in Nepal in March 2013 in cooperation with the BirdLife member organization Bird Conservation Nepal (BCN). The project aims at conserving birds, their habitats and biodiversity, and working with people towards sustainability in the utilisation of natural resources. The goal is to link the wise use of natural resources and poverty alleviation for communities in and around 3 of Nepal’s 27 Important Bird Areas (IBAs).
Ghoda Ghodi Lake Area is situated in the far southwestern Terai, and is a key link between the Churia Hills and the Terai plains. It is also a corridor connecting Bardia National Park with Suklaphanta Wildlife Reserve. Ghodaghodi lake was designated a Ramsar site in 2003. Haphazard recreational development initiated by the local government has caused a significant threat to bird and other wildlife in the area.
Bardia National Park is the largest and most undisturbed wilderness area in the Terai, adjoining the eastern bank of the Karnali River in the mid-western development region. More than 425 species of birds have been recorded in the park, including 11 globally threatened species. Bardia National Park is a wildlife corridor and so links Bardia with Suklaphanta Wildlife Reserve, another far western lowland protected area in Nepal, and also the adjacent Indian park, Katarniyaghat Wildlife Sanctury. There are widespread and frequent (illegal) incursions by local communities in search of fodder, fuelwood and other natural products such as plants used for food or medicinal purposes.
Rara National Park is the smallest protected area in Nepal, and lies in the northwest of the country in Mugu and Jumla districts. Rara National Park has potential for tourism development because Nepal's largest and pristine lake is located here. This is also Nepal’s poorest and most remote district. In 2007, the lake was declared a Ramsar Site, a wetland of international importance. The lake has three endemic species of trout found nowhere else in the world. Mugu District has the lowest life expectancy, the lowest adult literacy rate, and one of the worst infant and maternal mortality rates among Nepal's 75 districts.
NOF cooperated with its BirdLife partner BirdWatch Zambia, BWZ since 2004. Project funding from NORAD ended in 2013. The project activities were mainly focused on 15 of Zambia’s 42 IBAs, and included bird monitoring activities in 28 of them.
BWZ cooperates with a range of local groups and organizations. An important principle of the project was to involve the local communities by establishing ”Site Support Groups” (SSGs). The project has established 13 SSGs covering 14 IBAs with 581 members. Nine of the SSGs became formally registered as local non governmental organizations and others are in the process of being registered. The groups receive frequently support from BWZ in various ways adjusted to local opportunities and challenges. There are also groups that are involved in a simple kind of IBA monitoring of the local nature where they live.
The SSGs have established various enterprises such as honey production, sustainable fisheries with the right equipment (it has been common to use ordinary mosquito nets, which catch fishes that are too small), production of baskets and ceramic pots, gardening, goat breeding, sustainable hunting, extraction of jewel stones, training of bird guides, establishment of small camp sites for ecotourism and forestry.
Children are important change agents in the conservation work. An important element of the project has therefore been to involve teachers and school children. BWZ has established agreements with two “IBA-schools" in each of the IBAs covered by the project. These schools have initiated nature clubs to build up knowledge about nature among the children. Lack of an active civil society is one of the biggest challenges in many developing countries. This is the reason why project support to capacity building of BWZ has been such an important element of the Zambian project. BWZ has without doubt become an important environmental organization due to the project support from Norway, and has today a voice also in various fora at the national level.
Project manager: Frode Falkenberg