An important new publication from the BirdLife International Africa Partnership provides a step-by-step guide to establishing and managing Site Support Groups. Although the focus is on Africa, Conserving Biodiversity In Africa: Guidelines for applying the Site Support Group Approach will be equally useful to partners on other continents.
Site Support Groups (also known as IBA Local Conservation Groups and Caretaker Groups) are organised, independent groups of volunteers who work with their communities, with the national BirdLife Partner and with other organisations to promote conservation and sustainable development at Important Bird Areas and other key biodiversity sites. They are one of the most practical approaches to conservation.
The book has a section on identifying the organisations or individuals who will form the SSG, and on building partnerships between the SSG and governments, development organisations and the private sector. Another section deals with developing and managing the SSG: its skills and capacity, its funding and governance, and managing the inevitable conflicts.
Other areas covered include the factors that make a group sustainable, the efficient use of funds, alternative income generation, the need for clearly defined roles and responsibilities, and even what happens when a well established SSG begins competing for donors with the BirdLife Partner which set it up.
The final paragraphs describe how to devise an `exit' strategy - preparing the SSG for the day when it must stand on it own feet, while the partner shifts some of its support to fledgling SSGs elsewhere.