ACT - Volume 9 Issue 1
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On Enrolling Members & Opening Chapters in the Africa Section
By Fola Babalola
Email Fola for information on starting a Chapter in Africa
The Society for Conservation Biology (SCB) was founded in 1985 with the vision of advancing the science and practice of conservation biology. The Society’s international and local meetings are much awaited annual events for conservation professionals from around the world to share, disseminate and network for the cause. The Africa Section of SCB is tasked to assist conservation scientists facing harsh realities and unique challenges in the continent regarded as a treasure-trove of biodiversity.
Much as the SCB faces a problem to enroll and retain new members at the global level, it is disconcerting when there is a decline in membership among young conservation professionals who are meant to be the ultimate beneficiaries. This calls for urgent action to strengthen local bodies or Chapters for appropriate membership recruitment and retention.
Chapters are the grassroots of SCB and include student and professional members. Currently, a number of SCB Chapters have been formed around the world in universities and other institutions, states, cities, among others. The activities of SCB Chapters are facilitated and coordinated at the SCB global level by the Chapters committee. The committee assists Chapters in contributing to the mission and strategic plan of the Society.
The key role of the Chapters is to motivate their members to think globally and act locally. Some SCB Chapters have successfully conducted projects including restoration of degraded lands and vegetation, public education, and working with communities for conservation. Most importantly, SCB Chapters have high potential to enroll and retain new members for the global SCB, as well as inspire and provide opportunities for the existing members.
Despite its potential, the Africa Section is under-represented and has low membership base. This likely is due to the SCB members in Africa restricted mostly to South Africa, Nigeria, Kenya, Uganda, Ghana, and they are few and far between. Only 3 chapters are there in Africa: East Africa, Namibia and Nigeria. The Namibia and East Africa are currently inactive while the Nigeria Chapter was just formed in 2014. The Nigeria Chapter was endorsed in January 2014 with 26 members. Within 2 months of its formation, the Nigeria Chapter has grown to 80 members. This shows the potential of active and functional Chapter in building membership for SCB at the grassroots.
In conclusion, there is need for more SCB Chapters in Africa, and to achieve the Society’s founding vision in the continent. Even in Southern Africa with high presence of SCB members and more conservation awareness compared to other countries in Africa, there is a need for more SCB Chapters. The SCB Chapters committee needs to make their presence known in Africa by working with the Section Board in providing necessary support and assistance for Chapters formation. Then second critical task is to follow-up on the activities of the Chapters in keeping them functional and active. Setting goals and objectives in line with the local conservation needs, and aligning with strategic plans of SCB is the mission of the Chapters. Finally, each Chapter should formulate plans for short and long term activities and these should also be linked with an appropriate implementation strategy.
Fola Babalola is the Membership Coordinator and Nominations Officer of the Africa Section of SCB and president of the SCB Nigeria Africa Chapter.