Historically, Afghan society has been based on a traditional self-governing structure where issues affecting the community such as natural resource management are resolved by local decision-makers during consultations (or “shuras” as they are known in Afghanistan). After three decades of conflict across the country, the reach and rule of Afghanistan’s central government in rural areas has become particularly weak.Poor local enforcement of policies developed at a national level and a lack of environmental education within communities has often resulted in unsustainable exploitation of natural resources. It is therefore critical that these two governance structures (local and national) work together if conservation measures are to work effectively in Afghanistan in the future.
WCS Afghanistan is working to improve both central and rural governance by focusing on building relations between the two levels through vertical coordination of its programs. WCS has been mobilizing community men and women since 2006 and is assisting the government to create new legislation and institute new policies at the national level. WCS trains both government staff and local community members in the application of these new policies. An important component of this is WCS’s Environmental Allocation Program that works alongside local government agencies and educational facilities to educate rural communities on the benefits of biodiversity and how wildlife conservation can ultimately benefit their communities as a whole. The WCS teams also work closely with the Provincial Government offices, training them in skills related to environmental legislation and public outreach. In this way, government staff can continue with the education program, helping to strengthen linkages between the national government and the populace.
WCS has also developed community-based governance institutions and technical tools for resource management in over 55 communities across rural Afghanistan, linking communities with their national government. WCS facilitated the formation and democratic election of two such institutions in the provinces of Bamyan and Badakhshan, both of which demonstrate the effectiveness of co-managed environmental committees.
In Bamyan province, the Band-e-Amir Protected Area Committee (BAPAC) was established in 2007 primarily to provide liaison between government and communities around Band-e-Amir National Park (as Afghanistan’s first officially declared protected area); to provide policy guidance on the Park’s management to the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock(MAIL) including the submission of a three-year Preliminary Management Plan; and to administer any revenues generated from the Park. The Wakhan-Pamir Association (WPA) was established in Badakhshan during 2009, with assistance and technical advice from WCS, and is now registered as an official Social Organization. It is an umbrella organization consisting of members from each of the 42 Wakhan communities, and which includes three women on its governing board. WCS has worked with all the representatives to develop and institute natural resource rules and regulations for the area. The WPA has formulated a draft management plan for the Big Pamir Wildlife Preserve together with provincial and central government officials. Local communities and the government have also worked with WCS to demarcate the boundaries of the future Big Pamir Wildlife Preserve.
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