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Friday, 28th August 2020

Planning for long term conservation: developing SEED’s Conservation Programme

By Eve Englefield

Conserving the biodiversity of an area is by no means an easy task, and it often takes years, if not decades, before significant improvements can truly be seen. However, it is normal for projects to be funded for only a year or two, and so it can be easy to lose sight of longer-term goals. With lots of short-term projects, how can SEED ensure that our conservation work stays in line with what we want to ultimately achieve for the biodiversity of Sainte Luce?

SEED is choosing to overcome this problem through developing our Conservation Programme, detailing what we want our conservation work to achieve over the next 15 to 20 years, and taking a much broader view than each individual project. Our projects form the building blocks of the Programme, detailing what needs to be done to address specific problems, while the Programme guides us in the right direction at a much higher level. This allows us to develop our conservation projects in line with the Programme, ensuring that even the shortest of projects make an effective contribution to the long-term conservation work of SEED.

Vision planning workshopWe recently went through the process of defining SEED’s Conservation Programme, using strategic planning, which can be a complicated process at the best of times, let alone during a global pandemic! To help increase the efficiency of discussions, we enlisted the help of an external facilitator, Maggie O’Toole, who is an experienced strategic planner.

The idea behind strategic planning is to start with your broadest ideas and work down to more specific concepts and activities. In March, we brought all the members of our conservation team together, and discussions started around the vision of SEED’s Conservation Programme – what the ‘dream’ would be in 20 years, if our work had been successful. From this, we developed our mission (the purpose of the Programme), our Key Strategic Areas of the Programme (what we want to achieve), and the strategies within the Key Strategic Areas (how we would do it).

phelsuma-antanosy-madagascar-day-gecko.jpg
Phelsuma antanosy, a Critically Endangered
species of day gecko endemic to the region.

Conservation can be a complex discipline, and this means that there’s not always agreement about what the different terms mean. This led to plenty of discussions within the conservation team to make sure everyone was on the same page. One example of this was establishing a clear difference between what we mean by ‘conserving biodiversity’ and ‘sustainably managing natural resources’, with the conclusion that the latter was predominately one means of achieving the former.

Unfortunately, in April, the COVID-19 pandemic led to international staff returning to their home countries, and the process had to continue virtually. We reflected on SEED’s previous conservation work through a Portfolio Analysis, which allowed us to identify what aspects had been successful, what hadn’t worked, and areas that we could explore further. We also considered all potential stakeholders to the conservation work, and what their interests and influence in SEED’s conservation work would be, as well as the political, economic, social, technological, legal and environmental (PESTLE analysis) landscape of our conservation work. 

Pulling this all together has resulted in a comprehensive, soon to be finalised, document outlining the future of SEED’s conservation work, and our projects will then move forward within this Programme. It is an exciting step for SEED, as we constantly review and try to improve the effectiveness of our conservation work, in order to protect the biodiversity of Sainte Luce. We are now ready for the next 20 years of conservation and look forward to seeing the successes of our work!

Banner photo © Larissa Barker.