(Black rhino in Namibia; Baron Reznik via Flickr)

As part of CollaborateUp’s work on USAID’s VukaNow Activity, a multi-stakeholder partnership focused on combating wildlife crime (CWC) across Southern Africa, CollaborateUp recently designed and facilitated a workshop (Special Platform for Action, Reflection, and Collaboration in CWC or ‘SPARCCie 4’) on national cost-benefit analysis (CBA) for CWC. The fourth in a mini-series of workshops that provide conservation stakeholders with learning opportunities on specific issues, SPARCCie 4 enabled participants to hear directly from economists at the Conservation Strategy Fund (CSF) and the Namibia Nature Foundation (NNF) who developed and applied a CBA tool in Namibia with funding through VukaNow.

This virtual convening brought together approximately 30 conservation stakeholders from across Southern Africa to review, understand, and practice applying cost-benefit analysis to the fight against the illegal wildlife trade. CBA is a policy evaluation method and decision-making tool that quantifies the monetary value of a particular policy’s effects. It helps policymakers understand the potential impact of policy changes, initiatives, or investments, and facilitates comparisons across different options. As such, cost-benefit analysis sheds light on the economic justification for policymakers to invest in combating wildlife crime. During SPARCCie 4, CSF and NNF economists shared the results of their study in Namibia, which found that governments, landowners, and communities all profit from investments in anti-poaching and the protection of endangered species. The CollaborateUp team led small group discussions in which participants conducted mock cost-benefit analyses in Namibia, Zambia, and South Africa to familiarize themselves with the challenges and considerations of the process.

SPARCCie 4 generated thoughtful and lively discussion around the strengths and weaknesses of CBA as a national policy making tool for combating wildlife crime. Participants noted that although this CBA case study clearly illustrated how Namibian governments, private landowners, and communities stand to benefit economically from anti-poaching measures, it is difficult for this kind of analysis to quantify and account for social costs and benefits that are particularly relevant and nuanced at community-levels. Gaps in data on poaching, population sizes, and a wider range of impacted species also hinder and limit the application of this tool.

Despite its limitations, CBA can be part of a useful toolbox for government leaders to better understand the approaches that deserve investment to combat wildlife crime. At SPARCCie 4’s conclusion, the CollaborateUp team encouraged participants to brainstorm ways to maximize the accuracy and effectiveness of cost-benefit analysis, and ensure that subsequent policy decisions benefit all impacted stakeholders equally.