Feet on the ground and head in the clouds to deliver conservation at scale

By Paule Gros, Director, Mediterranean Basin Programme

In the face of the growing pressure on natural resources and biodiversity the conservation community is reacting with strength, ingeniousness and effectiveness.  Numerous successful projects are here to prove it.  No matter how remarkable our achievements are, however, they fall short of what is needed to reach the desired states of sustainable resource use and thriving biodiversity. What is the secret for delivering conservation at scale?

When we started drafting the MAVA 2016-2022 strategy, we were determined to come to grips with the issue of delivering at scale in our three focal regions – the Mediterranean, coastal West Africa, and Switzerland – and as part of our Sustainable Economy Programme. We looked inwards at our values and history, and three principles emerged to guide us: demonstrating, unifying and inspiring.

Following in our founder’s footsteps, we opted for rooting our action on clear demonstration of solutions in the field. As a result, each of our Outcome Action Plans is structured around concrete problem-solving at a handful of pilot geographies. In each of the sites we set out to showcase that solutions can be devised to reduce threats on biodiversity and natural resources while improving local livelihood and empowering local stakeholders. For example, for demonstrating that supporting cultural practices in biodiverse landscapes can provide substantial economic benefits to local communities while maintaining natural resources, we focus on the dehesas (Spain and Portugal), the island of Lemnos (Greece) and the mountain landscapes of the High Atlas (Morocco) and Shouf (Lebanon). Positive demonstration at these four sites where our feet are firmly set on the ground would clearly add to the pool of conservation success stories. It wouldn’t however resolve the problem of loss of cultural landscapes around the Mediterranean, considering the size and complexity of the region.

This is where our second guiding principle comes to play: unifying stakeholders from the conservation sector and beyond that can make a difference at regional level. We think that regional impact requires the engagement of key regional actors in a coordinated manner. Hence, we invited regional players to build together our Outcome Action Plan aiming at the maintenance of biodiversity rich cultural landscapes. The co-creation of a common action plan for the cultural landscapes elevates the reflection, but also the impact above pilot site level. This approach allows for including regional mechanisms such as regional policy influence, replication of solutions from one coast of the Mediterranean Basin to the other, and regional communication.

We believe that we have built scalability in our process by demonstrating solutions to conservation challenges and catalysing a tightly knit network of practitioners across the region. Our next ambition is to inspire others, within and beyond the conservation sector, to help us amplify our action to truly deliver at regional level. In our last four years of existence, we will reach out to conservation organisations, fellow donors, institutional bodies and impact entrepreneurs to join forces with us and leverage each other’s impact: bringing our heads together for sky-high amplification. If you are interested in exchanging on this process, please contact me.

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