Stabilization through Conservation (StabilCon)
StabilCon is a holistic approach to complex contemporary conservation challenges, which seeks to build societies and environments where wildlife is accepted and natural resources are respected through an acknowledgement of their importance to humans.
Implemented by rural communities in partnership with professional stewardship organizations like Tsavo Conservation Group, StabilCon works to secure both humans and natural resources against the hybrid threats currently destabilizing some of Africa’s most ecologically and strategically important regions, where vulnerable people—and the wildlife with which they coexist—are increasingly susceptible to multiple interrelated challenges.
StabilCon seeks to ensure that the coexistence of humans and wildlife ceases to be a cause of conflict and instead facilitates a symbiotic relationship of mutual benefit. Initially conceived by TsavoCon co-founder, Ian Saunders, in response to the threats facing Kenya’s greater Tsavo ecosystem, the StabilCon approach is readily replicable and exportable, not only to other countries in Africa but also to other parts of the world where marginalized or otherwise at-risk rural communities inhabit natural resource rich environments.
StabilCon rests on the premise that no conservation, sustainable development or natural resource management projects can succeed in an unstable environment, whether that instability is due to human, economic or environmental reasons. While local rural communities are the most important actors in countering illegal activity (such as wildlife poaching) at source—as well as in combating other local destabilizing forces—people will only have the ability and resolve to act against these destructive influences if they have enough to eat, feel safe and have realistic prospects for their own future.
StabilCon therefore seeks to build local institutional capacity within rural communities to achieve four interrelated goals:
- Support the rule of law to reduce physical insecurity for people, wildlife and natural resources to a manageable level as a mandatory first step;
- Use the resultant physical security as the foundation on which to build and diversify nature-based economic opportunities such as livestock and tourism and thereby access the social services enabled by increased prosperity of the local populace;
- Strengthen environmental security so that the benefits of biodiversity conservation and a healthy natural environment, which underpins all life, can be shared between this generation and those that follow; and
- Build more robust, equitable and representative community governance systems, aligned with County and national government agencies and objectives.
By securing at-risk areas via non-aggressive, low-intensity engagement, respecting traditional livelihoods while delivering 21st century needs, the StabilCon approach can bring stability to vulnerable regions from the inside out (as opposed to imposing externally preconceived ‘solutions’) and can ‘inhabit the space’ currently exploited by destabilizing and illegal influences. StabilCon provides a holistic, cohesive and coordinated vision for engaging all stakeholders to uphold law and order, reduce illegal wildlife trafficking, diversify and strengthen rural economies, and protect biodiversity for current and future generations.
The StabilCon approach being deployed on the ground by TsavoCon in Kenya today is focused on engagement, gaining and sharing knowledge, and encapsulating best practice. It seeks to capitalize on successes from multiple fields and disciplines, both local and international, and enshrine effective systems in a framework, working alongside all stakeholders, both governmental and non-governmental.
StabilCon does not seek to impose ownership or control over implementing communities; rather it provides a grounded approach which, when adopted by rural people, gives them guidance, the ‘tools’ and technical capacity needed to address their own livelihood priorities in a sustainable way.
StabilCon can be implemented by any structured organization working in the rural space, including commercial enterprises, faith-based institutions, local or national governments, community groups, NGOs or civil-military partnerships. As demonstrated by the Tsavo Conservation Group, StabilCon can play a galvanizing role in developing Community Wildlife Conservancies, particularly in currently underrepresented rural areas. It also has the potential to provide a unified approach to guide other protected area land management initiatives on a county and national level with further possibilities for wider application in other countries around the world.
Under the stewardship of Tsavo Conservation Group, StabilCon is being implemented at the Conservancy level by the constituents of Malkahalaku Community Conservancy and at a strategic, county level in partnership with other primary stakeholders in Taita Taveta County.