Pushing forward the collaboration agenda

How do we empower African conservationists? How do we link them with other scientists outside Africa and share their research? These are some of the questions that lingered in TBA alumnus’, Raymond Katebaka’s mind as he started off his journey in conservation. Needless to say, he sought to solve these questions by being one of the founders and the secretary General of the African Union of Conservationists (AUC). The AUC sets to enhance the coordination and collaboration of conservation activities from all channels inclusive of non-governmental organizations, community-based organizations, civil society organizations, local governments and more.

In addition to empowering conservationists, Raymond also sits as the president of the Uganda Association for Impact Assessment (UAIA). This association unites environmentalists and sociologists who are regulated by National Environment Management Authority (NEMA)-Uganda to undertake Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA). Raymond credits TBA as a fundamental institute towards the foundation of his conservation career where he states,

“TBA provided a starting point for me to become the great conservation biologist I am today. The leadership skills used in the frameworks created were built from the TBA engagement.”

Raymond points out that the desire to enhance collaboration and coordination among conservationists grew when he was working as an environmental, community and security officer in an oil and gas exploration programme in Albertine Rift from 2008-2010. There, he observed poor environmental management practices that were recorded in the oil and gas industry then.

These poor practices pushed Raymond’s drive to form a body that would allow for a wider understanding of conservation and development, encouraging practices that allow for sustainable development in all spheres without harming the environment and allowing for sound partnerships.

Raymond however acknowledges that enhancing collaboration among conservation bodies has not been free of challenges. “One of the biggest challenges I have witnessed lies in part with the government where it wishes to conserve through enabling environments but not in practice. In addition, some Environmental Impact Assessment practitioners and their services are not geared towards safeguarding environment but rather for short term earning/survival. This has led to loss of ethics among some environmentalists.”

In taking strides towards curbing these challenges, Raymond turns towards continued learning and sharing of knowledge of emerging development themes such as those under the Convention on Biological Diversity. He further looks back to the grass root level where novel understanding of conservation issues seem to be rooted. Adding to this is his skill in environmental impact assessment, which he shares with conservationists as a key guideline towards maintaining practical environmental ethics.  Not limiting this knowledge to just conservation bodies and practitioners, he also engages communities by introducing them to new concepts of conservation such as the key biodiversity area approach in Uganda.

As the concept of collaboration continues to gradually bring in stellar results for conservation through the frameworks created, Raymond always looks to the future as he continues to observe the changes in environment. This outlook according to Raymond, was enhanced by his participation in the TBA course-

“The TBA course in 2004 in Kibale-Uganda was quite a helpful experience in acquiring new understanding and scientific approaches that gave me confidence to develop new analytical rigor in the way I started looking at things and this changed me since then. I developed networks among participants and facilitators that have provided great platforms in the science community” adds Raymond

This strategic approach towards emerging issues gives Raymond his current conservation ambitions, where aside from empowering conservationists, he aims to gain a deeper understanding on biodiversity offsets. “The world natural system seems to be heading to carrying capacity in years to come that will cause conflicts between man and nature. There are concepts that have been developed by international NGOs and governments as well. These are promoted from one country to another but it does seem that conservation challenges continue to emerge, merging the new ones with the old ones” he adds.

Raymond’s final take parts with a key question he is currently addressing; how effective will biodiversity offsets help man to sustainably depend on nature before destruction of natural systems destroy man?  We cannot wait to see how he will endeavor to tackle this and still use these answers to foster collaboration and enhance conservation among environmental practitioners