Grant Recipients Conference, Ghana 2016
The theme for this conference was “Connect for Nature Conservation”.
The Conference Organizer
Alphonse KARENZI, 27, the Organizer of this conference, is the Founder and Director of a very ambitious environmental organization called Sustaining Africa Youth Organization (SAYO). SAYO started 2010 in Rwanda as an outcome of Rufford Small Grant successful project. Alphonse has been also the organizer of the Rufford RSG Conference in East-Africa which previously took place in Rwanda and He recently completed his Second Booster RSG Project. Alphonse has 8 years of experience in the environmental project management sector, and earned a Bachelor’s degree in Urban and Regional Planning from the National University of Rwanda and is a masters graduate in Entrepreneurship from Makerere University. He did masters in entrepreneurship in pursuit of understanding and practical skills to enable him to profitably engage local poor communities in nature conservation and also insure sustainability of conservation projects he implements through GREEN ENTREPRENEURSHIP (green business).
Day 0 - Welcoming the Participants and Tasks Sharing - by Alphonse Karenzi the conference Organizer
Thursday 28th October, 2016 was a day of welcoming the regional participants upon their arrival at the Accra International Airport and Different Bus Parks. Though, some of the participants from Nigeria had arrived a day before. Around 7:30 PM was a dinner and briefings and task sharing session by Alphonse.
Participants enjoyed the idea of self-organization whereby every conference session was to be chaired by someone from among participants themselves. And the task sharing session was very participatory and took longer than it was expected, especially when it came to discuss on how to form the group discussions for the next day session.
As it was for the previous Rufford Conference in Rwanda, some participants were supporting the idea of forming groups randomly while others were strongly about forming groups based on thematic areas. After 20 minutes intensive discussion, we decided to form four groups according to four thematic areas (Group1 Education and Outreach, Group2 Policy and Law Enforcement, Group3 Research in Conservation, and Group4 Community and Engagement). Each group was to elect president, secretary and presenter who will lead and present their group discussions.
Day One - Saturday 29th October
Session One: Self-introduction of every participant - Chaired by Paul TEHODA & Evelyn Asante-Yeboah, RSG Recipients from Ghana
The first day started with Alphonse Karenzi, the conference organizer giving the background of this conference to the participant and then a self-introduction of every Participant. A microphone was circulated where every participant had some seconds to say his/her name, the country, organization or project and his passion in conservation.
Every participant was attentive to know what fellows do and this lead to connection and networking between participants afterwards.
Session Two: Opening Ceremony - Chaired by Dr. Evans Ewald Nkrumah, a RSG Recipient from Ghana
Dr. Evans introduced and welcomed our guest of Honour Mr. Japhet Roberts from Ghana Wildlife Society, on behalf of Dr Erasmus Owusu the CEO of Ghana Wildlife Society who was not able to make it to the conference that morning due to some urgent incident.
Interestingly, Japhet was commissioned by his boss to represent him in this conference while he had been already applied to attend this conference, as he is currently working on his RSG project proposal. “I’m privileged to be here as a representative of Ghana Wildlife Society and I was to be here anyway as prospective RSG Applicant“ Japhet said.
“When you look at the Rufford Foundation website you can see many funded conservation projects around Ghana. We thank the Rufford Foundation for such a great support” Japhet said. Even if many projects have been funded and implemented in Ghana, Wildlife Society has no data on those individual projects due to lack of collaboration between conservation organizations. This calls for a better collaboration, communication and coordination among the conservationists. Japhet also mentioned that, apart from the opportunities like Beauty of the Nature that attract more partners in nature conservation and tourism business, there is a need of individual researchers especially RSG Recipients to use their researches to influence policies. “Influencing Policies is the best way to insure sustainability of your work as a conservationist” Japhet said. He thanked Director Josh Cole for the conference and all great work that Rufford Foundation has done in Ghana and around world. And He welcomed all participants and officially declared the conference open at 9:30.
Session Three: Group Discussions - Chaired by PEREKI Hodabalo from Togo and Andrews Agyekumhene from Ghana
After coffee break, the participants were split into four groups according to their thematic areas interest. Some went for Group1 Education and Outreach, others for Group2 Policy and Law Enforcement, others for Group3 Research in Conservation, and others for Group4 Community and Engagement. To guide the discussion, some general questions were posed including what are the Challenges met, Opportunities, Future partnerships, And Recommendations? Each group was also tasked to identify a unique project that proves special achievements or challenges to be presented among two special RSG projects.
This session lasted for three hours and twenty five minutes of participatory discussions where every participant shared the experience of his/her projects especially RSG projects. Different participants seemed to be more interested in the work of other participants from different countries as they were seen posing questions to one another. Notes were taken by the secretary and were later presented in the after-lunch session.
Participants enjoyed discussions to the extent they didn’t want to finish this session. And some participants showed interest in knowing what other groups discussed. This made the planned group presentation make sense as these presentations help everyone to know what presented in other groups.
A special project from research group was identified and presented before lunch - Gilbert Adum Baase, presenting his Save The Frog Project, 2nd Booster RSG Project
Gilbert’s presentation, of his Save The Frog Project, was full of beautiful photos and it amazed participants. Gilbert shared a story how they spent a whole year without finding any single Giant Squeaker Frog, a specie that they were trying to do research on and conserve. It was such inspiring story of how this project that had started as a failure became a highly successful conservation project which has received 2nd, 3rd and 4th Rufford Small Grants and other awards including the Whitley Awards.
Session Four: Group Presentations - Chaired by PEREKI Hodabalo from Togo and Andrews Agyekumhene from Ghana
After lunch - a moment when participants enjoyed Ghanaian typical buffet and kept networking, four groups presented what they had discussed in their respective groups. The audience was also given time to ask questions and get answers from each group.
Various challenges, opportunities, future partnerships and recommendations were presented by each group. The most common challenge for all groups was tradeoff between survival of rural communities and conservation where the RSG Projects should always insure alternative livelihood for rural community to survive without compromising on nature. Most of all presentations recommended that Rufford Foundation should provide training to applicants or recipients especially in the field of nonscientist communication. Detailed information of each presentation are enclosed in the annex of this report.
Session Five: Feedback from Participants and closing remarks - Chaired by Rachel Ashegbofe Ikemeh from Nigeria
All participants were given opportunity to give feedback regarding the conference and the first day sessions. Below are their recommendations and observations;
-The attendance is very encouraging
-All the activities are very good
-Discussions have been very productive
-The tags should have had individual names of participants instead of participant
-Names of participants and their country should have been placed in front of the participants.
-There should have been a group photograph after the opening Ceremony
-Next conference, field trips should be included
-Very grateful to Alphonse Karenzi for being the brain behind this important conference.
-Next time map and contact number of the venue for the conference should be sent to participant before the conference day to make accessibility of the venue very easy.
The first day session was ended at 17:30 as it was planned. The rest of the day (evening and night) was used for networking where participants really networked and enjoyed a shared dinner together and great stories.
Day Two: October 30th 2016
This was the final and most exciting day of the conference. Two special projects were to be announced and presented. These two projects were to be chosen over four projects which had been selected by four groups. Participation Certificates signed by RSG Director Josh Cole were to be handed over to Participants too. And three Rufford Project Photo winners were to be announced and receive their awards. This day was to be ended as early as 11:30 am for some people to leave and others observe different places in Ghana (especially Cape Coast). This day was also characterized by much exchange of contacts among participants.
Session Six: Discussing the way forward - Session chaired by Justus Precious Deikumah from Ghana
Different participants gave their views on the way forward. Below are common points that participants made;
- We should always include communication costs in conservation project proposal
- Our conservation projects should incorporate income generation schemes.
- Organization with common interests and areas should work together (network)
- We should establish MoU, Management plans for trans-bordering collaboration
- Sub-regional partnership: Rufford should try and establish sub-regional partnership.
Session Seven: Handing Over Certificates
This was an exciting conference where every participant received his/her participating certificate in front of the audience. Facilitated by Justus Deikumah, Josh Cole signed and handed over the certificates to the participants.
Session Eight: Announcing and Rewarding the Photo Competition Winners
Rufford Project Photo Competition was participated by 17 RSG project leaders who submitted 50 photo entries. A team of four representatives from Ghana, Togo, Benin and Nigeria was selected and led by Alphonse Karenzi (the conference organizer) to carefully select 6 best photos. Josh Cole was then involved and asked to choose the first, second and third winner out of those six best photos. Three winners proudly received their prizes and certificates. Facilitated by Alphonse and Justus, Josh Cole gave away prizes to the winners.
Session Nine: Two Special Project Presentation - the first special project was “Status and Conservation of Robbins House Bat in Krokofua Hills Forest Reserve” by PAUL TEHODA, from Ghana.
The second special project was “Promoting Best Practice for Combating Bowalization in West Africa” by Elie Antoine Padonou, from Benin.
Session ten: vote of thanks and closing remarks - Session Chaired by Racheal from Nigeria
Participants including Evans, Racheal, and Andrew thanked Rufford Foundation to support conservation works in the region and also bring together the regional RSG Recipients in Ghana. Rachael emotionally expressed her gratitude towards Rufford Foundation, saying “Rufford Foundation believed and supported my idea from its earliest stage, when it seemed to be no other funders to believe in me”. Many thanks also went to Alphonse Karenzi for organizing such a successful participatory conference in Ghana.
At 11:30 AM, the conference was declared ended. Participants shared the last lunch at Erata Hotel, some especially local participants departed that after noon, others mainly participants from Nigeria, Rwanda and Cote D’Ivoire stayed one more night and visited different places in Ghana, companied with Ghanaian friends.
A Word from Conference Organizer
I thank very much The Rufford Foundation for continually supporting my conservation projects; from the starting of my career as an environmentalist with RSG phase-one to the recent finished 2nd Booster RSG Project. I also thank the Rufford Foundation for trusting and giving me an opportunity to organize the RSG Recipients Conference in both Rwanda 2014 and Ghana in 2016.
Let me take this opportunity I thank the RSG Director, Josh Cole, for trusting and directing me. Thanks to you all the Ghana conference participants -you have made this conference a success. Special thanks go to Mr. Mike Owusu, who has been my first contact person in Ghana in organizing this conference, my secretary Mutoni Mable who fairly handled the logistics, and Dr. Evans Ewald Nkrumah, Dr. Justus Precious Deikumah and his secretary Mary Adjei-Ayiah, Mr. Andrews Agyekumhene, Evelyn Asante-Yeboah, Paul Tehoda, PEREKI Hodabalo and Rachel Ashegbofe Ikemeh who chaired different sessions and greatly contributed to the success of this conference.
I also congratulate the three photo competition winners (respectively Houngnon Alfred, Andrews Agyekumhene, and Tajudeen Okekunle AMUSA) and special project leaders (PAUL TEHODA and Elie Antoine Padonou). On behalf of my organization Sustaining Africa Youth Organization (SAYO), I thank you so much !
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