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The Berga Floodplain Site Support Group - a local initiative for a globally important site

White-winged Flufftail, © Alistair McInnes

The Berga Floodplain Important Bird Area, in the north-western highlands of Ethiopia, is the world’s premier breeding site for the Endangered White-winged Flufftail Sarothrura ayresi. A local Site Support Group, which involves members of all relevant stakeholders, is collaborating both for the conservation of the site and the development of income-generating tree nurseries and vegetable-growing.

A Local Conservation Group is a form of independent community-based organisation, its members motivated by a shared desire to conserve 'their' site. Such groups build on local experience and existing organisational team spirit. The communities they come from will often have been managing the natural resources of the site or surrounding areas for generations, even if their primary purpose has not been biodiversity conservation. Harnessing this knowledge and long-term commitment gives the best prospects for genuinely sustainable local conservation action. In Africa some 82 such groups (called Site Support Groups: SSGs) have been formed to take action at and for Important Bird Areas (IBAs) in eleven countries.

The Berga Floodplain IBA, in the north-western highlands of Ethiopia, holds several globally threatened bird species and is the world’s premier breeding site for White-winged Flufftail Sarothrura ayresi (Endangered). The Berga Floodplain SSG grew out of a conservation task force set up in 2000 through facilitation by the Ethiopian Wildlife and Natural History Society (BirdLife in Ethiopia). The current members of the SSG include representatives of four peasant associations, a large dairy farm and the District Agricultural Officer. Activities undertaken by the SSG include:

  • preventing unauthorised grass and sedge cutting
  • ensuring that cattle do not enter the site during the flufftail breeding season, through contact with adjacent farmer associations
  • developing tree nurseries and vegetable growing, to provide income for the group’s conservation activities.

All the appropriate stakeholders are involved, including the local decision-making structures (the peasant associations), guards, forage collectors, individuals who assist forage traders from outside the area, the district agriculture office and the dairy farm. The SSG provides a forum for sharing ideas, fears and needs. The strong relationship between the local people and the site is demonstrated by the fact that they are willing to contribute to its protection. A local farmer donated a plot of 3,000 m2 of land to the group for nursery activities. The poorer members who take on conservation activities voluntarily are finding that the nursery work and vegetable growing are appropriate alternatives for meeting their food requirements. The SSG at Berga is young but demonstrates the potential for the emergence of home-grown solutions appropriate to the context of the individual site (Arinaitwe 2003, Coulthard 2002).

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Arinaitwe, J. (2003) BirdLife Secretariat Final Report on the ‘African NGO Government Partnerships for Sustainable Biodiversity Action’ Project. Unpublished report.
Coulthard, N. (2002) Impacts and lessons learned from the ‘African NGO-Government Partnerships for Sustainable Biodiversity Action’ Project. Unpublished report.

Compiled 2004

Recommended Citation:
BirdLife International (2004) The Berga Floodplain Site Support Group - a local initiative for a globally important site. Presented as part of the BirdLife State of the world's birds website. Available from: Checked: 26/10/2016

Key message: There are many different ways to keep Important Bird Areas safe
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