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In Close: Coordinated Grantmaking in the Eastern Arc Mountains

In Focus, October 2005

by Ben Jolliffe

Inaccessible, under researched and under threat, Tanzania’s Rubeho mountains rise in the middle of the Eastern Arc, one of the least known ranges in the whole chain. Their wooded slopes and forested ridges, blessed with high rainfall and rich soil, are home to an incredible array of animals and plants, many not found anywhere else on the planet.

Locally funded surveys by the Tanzania Forest Conservation Group (TFCG) in the early 2000s recorded at least eight Eastern Arc endemic species not previously known from the area, while one unidentified bird has been discovered that may be new to science.

Local conservationists and scientists therefore welcomed CEPF’s 2002 announcement that more funds would be available for research right across the region. Many of them contributed to the planning stage, helping to develop the ecosystem profile that guides investments in the area and, understandably, they had in mind projects and priorities they were keen to follow.

Need for Coordination

But when reading through the large number of responses that answered CEPF’s call for proposals, it became clear to the review committee that many of the applications were discordant.

The collective experience of the CEPF coordination unit in the Eastern Arc Mountains and Costal Forests of Tanzania and Kenya, comprised of conservation organizations from both countries, and the participatory approach in which they developed the ecosystem profile enabled them to fine tune a collective vision of CEPF investments across the region.

This gave CEPF Grant Manager John Watkin the support he needed to approach the grant applicants and suggest they discuss their proposals with each other to see if there were possibilities for collaboration.

One of the fund’s key strategies for investment in the region focuses on the urgent need for biodiversity research in some of its lesser-known sites. Researchers from TFCG, The Society for Environmental Exploration and Italy’s Museo Tridentino di Scienze Naturali (Natural History Museum of Trento) all submitted exploratory research proposals in 2003. Encouraged by comments from the reviewers, these institutions discussed their projects with each other, finding a number of ways to coordinate their work.

The mechanics of collaboration

Frontier Program Manager Paul Rubio approached TFCG, the WWF Tanzania Program Office, Francesco Rovero and his colleagues at Trento, as well as the Wildlife Conservation Society of Tanzania (WCST). He went to the field to meet possible partners and scaled down the Frontier proposal, restricting the range of research to the forests within the Morogoro region, leaving other parts of the Tanzanian Eastern Arc to proposals from TFCG and Museo Trento.

After receiving further encouragement from the reviewers to form a partnership, TFCG and Trento submitted a joint proposal to CEPF.

“It was certainly frustrating to start with,” said Francesco Rovero from Trento. “There was a long pause between submitting letters of intent and getting a response. And then the response was ‘Can you rework your proposals?’ Yet now, even though I’ve been based here for some time, I’m meeting people I wouldn’t have heard of without the CEPF network.”

Rovero will now be giving technical advice to Frontier field researchers, while WWF will be running the educational component of the project.

A joint project with TFCG has also been established and with fieldwork due to start shortly, the situation looks promising.

“Our partnership with Trento through CEPF has been very positive,” said Charles Meshack, the TFCG director. “The Trento team bring on board some excellent international expertise in biodiversity research which complements our long-term experience of capacity building and research efforts in the Eastern Arc.”

In the Rubeho Mountains, Frontier will be focusing on those forests in the Morogoro region to the east and TFCG in the Dodoma region, each organization building on initial research in these areas.

Both teams are committed to building the capacity of the government staff responsible for managing these unique forests. Individuals from the Forest and Beekeeping Division and District Natural Resources offices will participate in the research and will come away with new skills in biodiversity assessment.

The research teams will also be working with national bodies such as the Commission for Science and Technology, Tanzania Wildlife Research Institute, and Tanzania Forest Research Institute – all of which helped CEPF by providing advice and issuing research permits for these and many other projects.

Consistent Results for a Wider Audience

Closer collaboration at the project planning stage also ensures consistency in research methodologies: Partners have agreed on standardized data sets used across their specialist surveys. The data can then be fed into natural resource planning in the relevant national institutions more effectively. BirdLife International and Conservation International’s Center for Applied Biodiversity Science will also incorporate these data into their monitoring programs, improving the quality of the information available on the forests of the Eastern Arc.

Data will also be entered into the National Biodiversity Database of the University of Dar es Salaam and species or sites highlighted for further research can be incorporated into their Masters Program, enabling future generations of Tanzanian scientists to train in and contribute to biodiversity conservation.

Once the surveys are complete, a fuller picture of the state of these forests can be made and recommendations for conserving them and securing the vital environmental services they provide will follow. To consolidate regional efforts even further, there are a number of parallel projects supported by CEPF in the region, including aerial mapping of the forest by the Wildlife Conservation Society, and West Chester University’s review of forest health trends.

“All these projects are important in their own right, but the robust links between them mean that the overall results are far greater than the sum of the individual parts,” Grant Manager Watkin said. “Armed with the results for these various projects, we can hopefully make a clear case for an upgrade in the conservation status of the area from Forest Reserves to Nature Reserves, a category recognized as adequate protection by IUCN.”

Formalized Collaboration

Jon Lovett did extensive fieldwork across the region in the 1980s and 1990s, coining the name Eastern Arc Mountains for the range as a whole. He has kept a close eye on developments in the area and is impressed with how CEPF has been able to crystallize closer working relationships.

“Some of this collaboration was going on informally – at the Morogoro conference in 1998, for example – but it was never resourced,” he said. “CEPF is now meeting this important requirement. With the economy improving and the population rising, it’s a very opportune time for major sustained funding that will encourage biodiversity research findings to feed into natural resource management.”

The collaborative, coordinated approach ultimately means that the resources are finding their way to the right projects, managed and staffed by the most appropriate people. Francesco Rovero, for example, is an outstanding field biologist and working in this way, his skills can be shared over a much wider area.

“I’m now working on three different projects across the two hotspots on biodiversity research as well as connectivity issues,” he said. “We should certainly see an improvement in terms of outcomes because of this coordinated approach to planning. Maybe species, maybe increases in protected areas. We’ll have to do the work now and see what happens.”

And with the discovery of the first new species of African primate mammal in nearly 25 years coming out of the Eastern Arcs in recent months, there’ll be a long line of interested observers behind Rovero just as keen to see what happens.

For more information, contact Nike Doggart, communications lead for the Eastern Arc and Coastal Forests Coordination Unit ,

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© M Menegon
The soaring forests of the Eastern Arc Mountains provide an incredibly rich habitat.

© M Menegon
New research in the Rubeho Mountains could reveal more threatened species such as Nectophrynoides viviparus.

A coordination unit of four groups guides CEPF investments in this region. The groups are the BirdLife International-Africa Secretariat, the International Centre for Insect Physiology and Ecology, the Tanzania Forest Conservation Group and the WWF East African Regional Programme Office.

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