Capacity development has been identified in many regions and in global assessments on biodiversity conservation as one of the key priorities that needs to be urgently addressed to promote best practices and management performance in protected areas. Supporting the development of knowledge and skills of local actors and national authorities is a vital component of the BIOPAMA programme. In West and Central Africa, the Protected Areas Programme of IUCN PACO launched a training programme in 2009 specifically aimed at protected area professionals, through which BIOPAMA activities can link to a network of protected areas managers and help bring specific protected area management tools to the region.
The training program is composed of a Masters (MSc-GAP) and a University (DU-GAP) Diploma in Protected Areas Management. Both degrees, hosted by the Senghor University of Francophonie in Alexandria, Egypt, are conducted in collaboration with the World Bank, the MAVA foundation, the AFD (Agence Francaise de Developpement), Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), ECOFAC and local experts in protected area management, ecology, environmental law, environmental economics and sociology. The degrees also include practical modules that advance the dissemination of management and conservation tools into the protected areas of the region. Over 160 professionals from 17 nations have graduated so far.
The 6th edition of University Diplomas in Protected Areas Management was held from April 8 to May 31, 2013. A total of 20 auditors from 10 West African countries (Benin, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Côte d'Ivoire, Guinea, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Senegal and Togo) participated in this edition and passed the provided modules. The event was organized by IUCN PACO, in collaboration with Senghor University, with financial support from the World Bank (GEF funding) through the BIPA project (Biodiversity Conservation and Poverty Alleviation) and the MAVA Foundation. The next edition will be held in Oct-Nov 2013 in coordination with WCS at the CEDAMM Training Centre in Lope National Park, Gabon. In the future, elements of data management and discussions around SMART (Spatial Monitoring and Reporting Tool) will be added to the training modules.
BIOPAMA capacity development actions will consist of a combination of formal capacity development activities through thematic regional workshops, with other more practical and innovative segments such as hands-on training, mentoring of protected areas managers, direct technical support and advice to national protected areas agencies and regional networks and technical exchange programmes. IUCN PACO is looking to connect with the GAP Programme for collaboration and to inform future BIOPAMA activities in the region.