Sustainable Funding

The critical element in building management capacity is sustainable funding. Right now, most funding for protected area management in Central Africa is awarded on a 1-3 year basis. All too often, funding from one source dries up before another can be found. The results of this cycle are devastating. Managers spend much of their time looking for funds rather than running their project. When a gap in funding occurs, skilled employees with years of training leave to find work in the private sector. Unskilled employees drift back to their previous activities, including poaching. Local villages lose confidence in the value of the project and its potential as a source of sustained employment or other benefits. Poachers take advantage of the lack of presence to inflict heavy damage on wildlife populations or habitat.

The same problems with sustainable funding that afflict protected area management at the site level also hamper management at the national level. It is extremely difficult to attract and retain quality managers when they are poorly paid and face the constant specter of losing their job through no fault of their own.. Furthermore, talented, ambitious young people don’t like to attach their own fortunes to ineffective institutions with little prestige. The consequence, is that the wildlife ministries in the Western gorilla range countries tend to be peopled with poorly trained, unmotivated managers.

A big part of the solution to this problem is to provide sustainable funding for protected area management. In particular, trust funds have been proposed as a means of providing a steady stream of operating money for protected area management. In this scenario, public and private donors from outside the range countries would contribute to trust funds, the interest from which would then be used to manage protected areas. A major criticism of this strategy is that much of the money would disappear into the maze of corruption and inefficiency that permeates Central African governments. A good solution to this problem is to move control of the trust funds “offshore”, with an independent board composed in part of members from outside the recipient nation approving and accounting for expenditures.