COMBO: Reducing Infrastructure Impacts on Biodiversity

By Hugo Costa, Hugo Rainey & Ray Victurine | December 16, 2019

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Mozambique forest landscape. Photo credit: ©Frank Petersens

Over the past four years, the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), together with its partners Forest Trends and Biotope, have been operating an innovative program called Conservation, Impact Mitigation and Biodiversity Offsets (COMBO) in Africa. The programs overarching aim is as simple as it is ambitious: to reconcile economic development with the conservation of biodiversity and ecosystem services.

Infrastructure and industry investments can significantly impact and transform critical habitats and wildlife in the absence of strong planning and effective regulation. COMBO has worked with Governments, the private sector, academia, civil society, and financial institutions in the nations of Mozambique, Madagascar, Uganda and Guinea to establish and implement a regulatory framework that will reduce the tension between development and conservation goals.

The objective is to identify priority areas for conservation, then avoid development of those areas as part of COMBO’s efforts to avoid a loss of biodiversity.

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Mozambican working group during a breakout session at a recent COMBO evaluation meeting. Photo credit: ©WCS 2019

The objective is to identify priority areas for conservation, then avoid development of those areas. In places where development takes place and biodiversity is impacted, a robust offset program ensures additional conservation outcomes and the long-term financing of that conservation as part of COMBO’s efforts to avoid a loss of biodiversity while generating additional funds for conservation.

WCS recently organized the COMBO project’s final evaluation meeting in Ponta do Ouro, Mozambique this past November.

Sixty participants from nine countries attended the meeting, including delegates from the Governments of Mozambique, Madagascar, Uganda and Guinea, as well as representatives from the French Development Agency (AFD), the oil and gas sector (TOTAL and ENI), and civil society organizations such as the Mozambican Fund for Biodiversity .

The project evaluation highlighted the success of the COMBO project thus far to advance environmental policy in the four countries in a relatively short period of time.

Importantly, the participants discussed how the policy framework could be employed to help governments meet biodiversity conservation targets and engage more effectively with civil society and the financial sector to ensure effective mitigation and offsets. The external evaluators urged donors to continue project financing to build on the the impressive gains of the first four years.

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Staff of COMBO Mozambique, some of COMBO’s international team, and local Mozambican partners. Photo credit: ©WCS 2019

The evaluators likewise argued that the COMBO project serves as a model for addressing the loss of biodiversity through a combination of effective policy, improved planning based on the collection and sharing of biodiversity data, and the development of the financial, institutional, and legal tools necessary for successful implementation.

When wedded to a strong program to build capacity within governments and civil society, COMBO offers a road map for other countries interested in achieving development goals while committing to the priority of successful biodiversity conservation.

Hugo Costa is Mozambique Project Director for WCS (Wildlife Conservation Society). Hugo Rainey is COMBO Project Director for WCS; Ray Victurine is Director of Business and Conservation for WCS

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WCS saves wildlife and wild places worldwide through science, conservation action, education, and inspiring people to value nature.

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