The new BIOPAMA Regional Coordinator for Eastern and Southern Africa, Christine Mentzel, took up her position on 1 August 2020. Christine will be based in South Africa, within the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) office in Pretoria.  In this interview, she tells us about her professional path, the main activities of BIOPAMA in the region for the rest of  2020 and the strategy towards the sustainability of BIOPAMA initiatives.

What was your career path before joining IUCN as the BIOPAMA coordinator for Eastern and Southern Africa region?

I spent the last three years working with the Frankfurt Zoological Society, based in Frankfurt, Germany, as the Grant Manager, setting up grant management systems, managing donor relations and supporting the development of proposals. Prior to my first stint with IUCN from 2012-2017, I also worked in South Africa with the Endangered Wildlife Trust as the Conservation Coordinator, and before that I lived and worked in Tanzania for a few years, mostly based in the Serengeti and managing a research project there.

Since you held this position during BIOPAMA's phase one, what were the main lessons learned that you would like to bring to phase two?

One of the key lessons from phase one is the importance of mapping the multilevel stakeholders of the programme and engaging with them from the very beginning, identifying common objectives and complementarities as well as clarifying limits of what can be achieved through the programme. A fruitful engagement with partners takes time but is also the success factor that enables the achievement of results and sustainability. In the case of BIOPAMA, together with regional organizations, the national environment agencies and other conservation actors, great progress can be made through the Regional Resource Hub, offering relevant information available to support decision making progress in biodiversity conservation and protected area management.

What is your vision of a successful BIOPAMA programme?

In my mind, we will have been successful if we have a) channelled targeted catalytic funding to where it makes a difference through the Action Component, b) supported capacity development, knowledge exchange and networking amongst relevant stakeholders in the region to boost effective management of protected areas, c) provided useful tools and information to decision-makers to improve the management of our protected area estate in the region and d) linked relevant technical staff in the countries to each other through the Regional Resource Hub for improved information sharing, networking and development of decision-support products.

What are the key actions planned for the next months, until the end of 2020?

We plan to launch the Regional Resource Hub in October with many new partners and features already linked in and then providing the basis for further engagement across the region. We are also currently offering online events for knowledge exchange and capacity development, focused on (i) financial sustainability of protected and conserved areas, (ii) community engagement (First Line of Defence) and (iii) transfrontier conservation. In addition, the first Action Component Grants have been signed and are kicking off in September and we hope to support many more good projects on the ground in the coming months. Due to the pandemic, our activities are currently restricted to virtual events, but we hope to engage in the field a bit more again from early 2021.

BIOPAMA is starting the fourth year of implementation. What are the main strategic actions for the sustainability of programme initiatives such as the Regional Resource Hub?

In the Regional Centre for Mapping of Resources for Development (RCMRD), we have found a great partner to host the Regional Resource Hub (RRH). RCMRD is embedded in the region already and maintains links to the various countries. In addition, we are building a group of individuals in the countries, called the TEAM, who are ambassadors for the RRH and link their network and country into the RRH as well as promoting the RRH within their networks. The next few years will be focused on strengthening these networks and ensuring that the RRH becomes integrated into the way of working for the countries and that the services, information management tools and knowledge products available meet their needs. In this way, the RRH will remain the go-to place for information related to biodiversity and protected areas, even beyond the BIOPAMA programme.

What is your message for the BIOPAMA partners and stakeholders?

I am excited to be working in this region again and look forward to engaging with many of you in the next months and years. This region is my home and I hope to work with all the other dedicated stakeholders to ensure that we leave a legacy of protected areas and biodiversity for the next generations. I hope that I can make a small contribution to this through the BIOPAMA programme.

What RRH offers

Regional Reference Information System
The ESA HUB has a regional reference information system that is free, secure and built using open source technologies. It hosts a broad range of data that can be stored and used, such as field data, indicators, satellite imagery, maps, photos, surveys and documents.

Knowledge Products
The ESA HUB provide information and knowledge products that allow conservation actors, donors and decision makers to access the most updated and comprehensive information on protected areas and natural resources management at regional, national and site levels.

Capacity Building
We develop the capacity of stakeholders on protected and conserved area management effectiveness, governance, equity and data management. Most of the training opportunities are offered at Regional Level and the dates are announced at the Upcoming Events section.

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