We provide specialised support services and expertise aimed at adding value and filling gaps in existing capacity. Specialising enables us to keep abreast with emerging international best practice, and to continually build our hands-on skills and practical experience. We are continually striving to introduce new approaches and methodologies that respond to rapidly changing realities, and we are always keen to work with our customers to explore new opportunities and directions. Our four main current areas of expertise are outlined below.

Conservation planning

Planning for conservation - whether for an ecosystem or natural landscape, a national park or a community wildlife area - is a vital yet underutilised tool for achieving the delicate balance between preservation and use of an area’s natural resources. We believe that planning provides the means to build stakeholder consensus around the conservation and development goals of an area, and to overcome sometimes divergent and conflicting needs. We also believe that management plans not only provide a vital framework for the long-term management of a conservation area, but can also be used by stakeholders as a yardstick to measure progress. All our plans are developed using participatory planning techniques which allow stakeholders to contribute fully to their development. They have a simple logical structure which keeps technical language to the minimum to ensure the plans are easy to understand and straightforward to implement.

Programme and project design and evaluation

Mountain gorillas in Uganda

Good programme and project design is the cornerstone for achieving tangible and lasting conservation impacts. Crucially, this requires developing an understanding of the underlying processes that lead to the unsustainable use of natural resources, and how these processes can be influenced and reversed. This provides the basis for developing a “Theory of Change” of how the programme or project can best achieve tangible outcomes and ultimately realise conservation and sustainable development impacts, by identifying and addressing the necessary drivers of change, including factors such as financial sustainability, institutional capacity, socio-economic conditions, and legal and governance systems.

Impactful project design also relies on a good understanding of what can be practically achieved on the ground, not just in theory on paper. To strengthen our understanding of the factors that enable a realistic project intervention, we have also built up strong skills in the evaluation of a wide range of conservation and development projects, both as evaluation team leaders as well as in specialist capacities.

Wildlife law enforcement and trafficking

Poached elephants in Eastern Africa park

Illegal killing and trade in African wildlife, especially of iconic species such as elephants and rhinos, has now reached crisis proportions. Illicit wildlife trafficking is now the fourth largest illegal trade internationally after arms and drugs trafficking, and trafficking in human beings. In recent years, tens of thousands of elephants have been killed every year for their tusks. Faced with this unprecedented level of poaching and organised wildlife crime, many conservationists now fear that species such as elephants and rhinos may disappear in the wild within our lifetime.

CDC is assisting international, national and site-level efforts to address this crisis in several ways. Firstly, we are working with key agencies to develop new project initiatives designed to bolster efforts to combat wildlife crime and to strengthen law enforcement efforts at both site and national levels. Secondly, we are assisting in the identification and promotion of wildlife law enforcement best practices, in order to ensure that interventions are based on the best available knowledge of what works and what doesn’t. And thirdly, we are helping to understand the status of law enforcement and wildlife trafficking prevention measures, so that national governments, conservation organisations and donors know how best to focus their resources to stem the tide in wildlife losses.

Conservation and sustainable development governance

Across Africa, there is a growing disparity between the livelihood needs of a rapidly expanding human population and the conservation needs of Africa’s outstanding but increasingly vulnerable biodiversity and habitats. From our experience over the years, we believe that natural resource governance systems are especially important for reconciling conservation and human development needs. This includes aspects such as natural resource institutions and legal frameworks, resource ownership and use rights and responsibilities, and mechanisms for equitably distributing the costs and benefits of conservation. CDC’s work in this area has focussed on developing an understanding of the socio-economic factors at play in unsustainable resource use and biodiversity loss, as a basis for designing more effective natural resource governance mechanisms. We have also provided practical support for the development of natural resource governance approaches that respond to changing socio-economic and environmental circumstances and increasing human development expectations.