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WWF’s SOKNOT program strategy under review to enhance cross border collaboration conservation initiatives

The Southern Kenya Northern Tanzania Landscape (SOKNOT) Steering Group led by Dr Amani Ngusaru (WWF Tanzania), Mohamed Awer (WWF Kenya), Oliver Smith (WWF UK), Johannes Kirchgatter (WWF Germany) and Daudi Sumba, the outgoing WWF Regional Director for Eastern and Southern Africa met in Arusha, the SOKNOT program coordination office to validate the SOKNOT program strategy that is under review after almost five years of implementation. Convened by the new SOKNOT Lead, Dr Maurus Msuha, and the SOKNOT technical teams from WWF Tanzania and Kenya, it was generally agreed that the strategy must conform to the contemporary conservation challenges based on the lessons learned during the implementation period.

The SOKNOT Vision and strategic approaches agreed will streamline increased investments in the SOKNOT program working in collaboration with key partners to secure wildlife corridors connecting the two countries and safeguarding biodiversity. The move to enhance partnerships is in line with WWF country strategic plans for Tanzania, 2021-2025 and Kenya, 2010-2030 as well as WWF Africa Conservation Strategy, 2021-2025.
SOKNOT transboundary program, the brainchild of WWF UK and WWF Germany whose landscape is bigger than the size of Ghana has gained much publicity and network support over the last few years.  The landscape, for instance, has been visited twice by WWF Director General, Dr Kirsten Schuijt in a span of less than a year who also led both WWF International Board and NET to the landscape.
Reconstruction needs for SOKNOT strategy will be huge to pull together resources to deliver its vision and goal. The cost of reconstruction following the strategy review, based on the emerging threats in the landscape like frequent and prolonged drought due to climate change, encroachment and increased illegal activities like bushmeat among other threats as witnessed during the five-year period of implementation, has been estimated to triple over 10 years. With millions of dollars being committed to SOKNOT by WWF Network and other donor agencies for conservation support now, and much more funds expected when the time comes for implementation of the new strategy, keeping long-term financial commitments and strong partnerships is crucial.
SOKNOT program appreciates the sustained support from WWF UK and WWF German as well as WWF Sweden, Italy, Japan, among others that has witnessed increased program capacity. Other donors include the Federal Republic of German – BMZ and British Government through Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) including the Darwin Initiative, IWT Challenge Fund, REDAA (Reversing Environmental Degradation in Africa and Asia), and also USAID, responds to expectations by the SOKNOT program that donors harmonize and streamline their support as much as possible, while exercising proper fiduciary oversight to deliver the SOKNOT’s Vision and goal.
WWF Tanzania Country Director, Dr Amani Ngusaru said: “This kind of cooperation that we are experiencing in SOKNOT program represents conservation work at its best. Sustained financial support to SOKNOT among the multilateral donors has huge potential to substantially ease the threats on the landscape at a time when its capacity to ensure securing wildlife connectivity is already stretched to the limits because of its high sensitivity, hence, utmost care is needed.”
WWF Kenya Country Director, Mohamed Awer said: “SOKNOT’s financial needs are vast, and coordination among its international partners to maximize effectiveness is vital. SOKNOT is already on the global map and we need to seize this opportunity to deliver our ambition to safeguard biodiversity in this critical transboundary landscape. Enhanced cooperation between the two countries by strengthening the governance approaches will ultimately benefit conservation efforts and the people in the landscape. The revised strategy should reflect the contemporary conservation context and the agreed way forward without losing sight of the need for enhanced SOKNOT visibility.”
Daudi Sumba, now WWF Chief Conservation Officer said: “We need to dream big and be ambitious in our endeavor to put SOKNOT landscape in its right position. Our collective commitment to the colossal task of SOKNOT’s reconstruction needs to be carefully coordinated at all levels aiming at one-billion-dollar investment. I will continue to devote my time and energy to support the promises I made towards elevating the SOKNOT program to ensure that it is taken to a different level under the great stewardship of the two able Country Directors. This new strategy demonstrates our resolve and we are determined to ensure that each dollar we invest advances SOKNOT on the path toward a robust and sustainable well connected landscape.”
Oliver Smith, WWF UK Conservation Director said: “Harmonizing our monitoring framework to be able to report on ‘bending the curve’ is WWF’s priority. SOKNOT, which is one the WWF UK’s unique landscape for support is priority to us. This landscape is a step in the right direction to ensure traditional wildlife routes are protected and conserved for the benefit of wildlife and the future generation. WWF should strive to think big to deliver conservation at scale. WWF should develop a business model of projects to move away from many little projects and deliver impactful programs. WWF UK will continue working closely with the SOKNOT program alongside other donors and partners to ensure SOKNOT’s reconstruction for the benefit of its people and biodiversity in general.”
Dr Johannes Kirchgatter, Senior Officer, Africa projects, WWF Germany said: “The strategy under review builds on progress already made in the landscape with support by the different donors in making a series of mutual reliance to jointly co-financed projects. There is a need to have better coordination for shared projects to a designated project lead for proper reporting beyond a single project level and take into consideration programmatic approach as opposed to projects which is usually donor driven.”
The steering group also agreed on common approaches that will ensure SOKNOT is implemented as a program and a truly transboundary nature together with adequate landscape level monitoring mechanisms to articulate impact at a landscape level. The steering group recognized the significant progress made on the draft strategy in aligning the Countries strategic plans, African strategy, and the need to align with WWF International strategy as well as policy requirements and best international practices. The steering group also committed to increase the technical support once the new strategy is in force and becomes operational, by ensuring adequate time allocation, enhanced financial resource mobilization and value for money for SOKNOT landscape interventions.
© Gladith Yoabu
SOKNOT Group photo