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Engaging local communities in the conservation of the Okavango Delta World Heritage site

Mobilizing the COMPACT initiative

© Shutterstock / Anna Dunlop

Local communities and indigenous peoples are, and have been for centuries, the custodians of many World Heritage sites.

Launched in the year 2000, the Community Management for Protected Areas Conservation (COMPACT) initiative was established as a partnership between the World Heritage Centre, UNDP-implemented GEF Small Grants Programme (SGP) and the United Nations Foundation (UNF) to demonstrate how community-based initiatives can significantly increase the effectiveness of biodiversity conservation in globally significant protected areas.

Among nature’s most iconic treasures, the Okavango Delta was designated as the 1000th site on UNESCO’s World Heritage Lite in 2014. The Delta is one of the planet’s very few major interior delta systems that do not flow into a sea or ocean, with a wetland system that is almost intact. One of the unique characteristics of the site is its extraordinary annual flooding, which occurs in the dry season, and supports one of the greatest concentrations of wildlife in Africa.

 The Delta has been inhabited for centuries by small numbers of indigenous people, living a hunter-gatherer existence with different groups adapting their cultural identity and lifestyle to the exploitation of particular resources (e.g. fishing or hunting). This form of low-level subsistence use has had no significant impact on the ecological integrity of the area, and today mixed settlements of indigenous peoples and later immigrants to the area are located around the fringes of the delta, mostly outside the boundaries of the property.

These local communities are important custodians of the site and continued special attention is needed to improve the efficiency of the management of the property by contributing to the empowerment of communities, ensuring continued access to and benefits from their culture including local and traditional knowledge, and ensuring their involvement in management and development activities.


Objective

Improve the efficiency of the management of the Okavango Delta World Heritage Site by contributing to the empowerment of communities and ensuring their involvement in management and development activities.

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COMPACT initiative

COMPACT is an innovative model for engaging communities in conservation and shared governance of World Heritage sites and other protected areas.

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Results

Preparation of the Okavango Delta COMPACT Site Strategy for the implementation of small grants to support clusters of community-based activities

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Objective

In line with Decisions 40 COM 7B.78 (Doha, 2014) and 42 COM 7B.89 (Manama, 2018) adopted by the World Heritage Committee, the main objectives of this project is to improve the efficiency of the management of the property by contributing to the empowerment of communities and ensuring their involvement in management and development activities.

The COMPACT initiative is set to address these issues by supporting community-led initiatives and establishing a programme for demand-driven small grants for community-based organisations, complemented by capacity building, exchange and networking activities. The project focuses on the communities living in the fringes of the Okavango Delta’s Panhandle area.


Map of the Okavango Delta showing the Panhandle area and villages

COMPACT initiative

COMPACT is an innovative model for engaging communities in conservation and shared governance of World Heritage sites and other protected areas.

The Community Management of Protected Areas Conservation (COMPACT) initiative is an innovative model for engaging communities in conservation and shared governance of World Heritage sites and other protected areas and is based on the proposition that community-based initiatives can significantly increase the effectiveness of biodiversity conservation in World Heritage sites while helping to improve the livelihoods of local people’. With an emphasis on complementing and adding value to existing conservation programmes, COMPACT uses small grants (up to a maximum of US$50,000) to support clusters of community-based activities that are intended to strengthen biodiversity conservation in and around protected areas. Today, COMPACT is working with an increasing number of World Heritage sites around the world, notably in Africa, with over one million beneficiaries and more than 400 small grants awarded to community-based activities in the World Heritage land- and seascapes. 

In 2014, UNESCO published the World Heritage Paper 40 which provides guidelines for the implementation of the COMPACT methodology and serves as a baseline for the development of a site strategy that ensures the engagement of local communities.

Results

Following a series of stakeholder consultation meetings, reaching an estimated 270 participants mainly from Civil Society Organizations, four major threats that the Panhandle is facing were identified: veld fires, unsustainable harvesting of natural resources (both terrestrial and aquatic resources such as fish), habitat loss and destruction and water pollution. These major threats enabled to conceptualize the vision and objectives of the COMPACT Site Strategy, as well as the modalities for small grants to support clusters of community-based activities. 





COMPACT small grants approved in 2021 for implementation in 2021-2023:

Grantee Project Amount (USD)
Okavango Community Trust Development of a herbarium lab at Eretsha Village to help safeguard plant species of the Okavango Eastern Panhandle 45, 000
Matute a Mungongo Producer Co-operative Society Limited Community mobilization for landscape conservation through revival and promotion of the Ngongo Culture of the Peoples of the Okavango, by investing in the extraction of Ngongo Oil and reviving the culture around it 50, 000
Teemashane Community Development Trust Fish farming project using earth ponds as an alternative way of conserving fish biodiversity in the Okavango Delta by reducing fishing pressure on natural stocks 45, 000
Okavango Jakotsha Community Trust

Restoration of blocked channel in the edge of the Western Panhandle of the Okavango Delta to conserve and promote sustainable use of natural assets and cultural heritage of the landscape and to improve socio-economic opportunities for the Jakotsha communities

24, 000

Documents

COMPACT site strategy Okavango Delta

COMPACT Scoping, Baseline Assessment and Conceptual Framework Okavango Delta 

Partners

UNESCO thanks the Government of Flanders and the Government of Norway for their financial support to the COMPACT programme in Okavango Delta.

The programme is implemented in partnership with UNDP through the GEF Small Grants Programme and the Government of Botswana through the Ministry of Environment, Natural Resources and Tourism, together with local partners.






World Heritage Sites (1)
States parties (1)
Geographical focus
Decisions (2)
Show 42COM 7B.89
Show 40COM 7B.78