Improving protected area management through business skill-sharing partnerships

Earthwatch Europe
Published: 14 November 2015
Last edited: 01 April 2019
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Earth Skills Network (ESN) is a collaboration between Earthwatch, UNESCO, IUCN and businesses. It connects leaders from the business and conservation communities through mentoring and skill-sharing opportunities. The knowledge gained through this global network provides new resources and tools to safeguard the future of vital conservation areas.


East and South Africa
North Africa
West and Central Africa
Scale of implementation
Coastal forest
Forest ecosystems
Freshwater ecosystems
Grassland ecosystems
Marine and coastal ecosystems
Rangeland / Pasture
Temperate deciduous forest
Temperate grassland, savanna, shrubland
Tropical deciduous forest
Tropical evergreen forest
Tropical grassland, savanna, shrubland
Wetland (swamp, marsh, peatland)
Ecosystem services
Outreach & communications
Protected area governance
Protected area management planning
Sustainable financing
World Heritage
Other theme
Sustainable resource management
Inefficient management of financial resources
Lack of access to long-term funding
Lack of alternative income opportunities
Lack of technical capacity
Sustainable development goals
SDG 4 – Quality education
SDG 8 – Decent work and economic growth
SDG 11 – Sustainable cities and communities
SDG 14 – Life below water
SDG 15 – Life on land
SDG 17 – Partnerships for the goals
Aichi targets
Target 1: Awareness of biodiversity increased
Target 2: Biodiversity values integrated
Target 10: Ecosystems vulnerable to climate change
Target 11: Protected areas
Target 14: Ecosystem services
Target 15: Ecosystem restoration and resilience
Target 17: Biodiversity strategies and action plans
Target 19: Sharing information and knowledge
Target 20: Mobilizing resources from all sources


Africa | Across Africa


Protected areas are the cornerstone of international efforts to conserve biodiversity. They safeguard vital ecosystem services, upon which communities and businesses depend. Yet protected areas face a broad range of challenges with many sites struggling to meet minimum standards. A lack of key organisational, management and business skills is a contributing factor, but protected area managers rarely have the opportunity to train in these fields.

Companies have a wealth of experienced staff and devote significant resources to effective business management. However, there are often few opportunities for their managers to consider the value of natural resources to the business.


Protected area managers (at site, management authority or local government level).  Business professionals from ESN partners receive training as Business Mentors.

How do the building blocks interact?

Most protected area managers are trained conservation professionals, which gives them a solid grounding to respond to a wide range of challenges, but means they may lack business and management skills. The challenges they must address go beyond those relating to ecosystem health and include those related to running organisational systems and processes. If a protected area lacks organisational effectiveness then it will be compromised in its ability to deliver conservation outcomes.


Companies can offer experienced staff and expertise on key methods for business management. By training business leaders as mentors, ESN can help sites to take a more strategic approach. Furthermore, ESN benefits business by allowing senior staff to understand the value of natural resources to businesses and society, and how business decisions can impact on protected areas.


Cross-sector skill-sharing partnerships have many applications. Over the past nine years the programme has partnered 52 Business Mentors with 148 staff from 51 protected areas across Africa and Asia. As well as sharpening their professional competencies, business leaders build constructive dialogue with protected areas, which helps them to increase their understanding of protected areas and environmental and social sustainability.


Mole National Park, Ghana, is a key wildlife area for elephants and antelopes and is considered an important site by Ghana’s Wildlife Division, which is responsible for all wildlife in the country and administers the protected areas. Andrew Stevenson is a Global Account Manager from Shell. With a background in strategic planning and previous commercial experience in Ghana, Andrew made an ideal business mentor for Farouk Dubiure, the Park Manager at Mole National Park.


Prior to ESN, Farouk and his team had little exposure to business planning and marketing. Andrew brought a wealth of experience and supported Farouk in these areas during the Residential Training Programme and through ongoing mentoring.


The Residential Training Programme facilitated open discussion between Andrew, Farouk and his team on the needs and challenges of Mole National Park. They worked together to write an action plan to focus on priority needs for the protected area.


Over the 12-month mentoring period, Andrew helped Farouk and his team apply their learnings and implement the action plan. Actions included:

  • Developing a proposal to finance the upgrading of road infrastructure and the park’s facilities to enable Mole National Park to become more accessible and attractive to eco-tourists. Through this, they secured US$ 30,000 to upgrade critical game-viewing roads.
  • Developing a marketing plan to increase the visibility of the park. They have since developed a new website on Mole National Park (with the support of a partner) which is helping to attract new visitors to the area. The marketing plan is also allowing them to advertise their new luxury lodge to a different customer base.
  • Identifying and targeting potential sources of funding to help achieve the park’s conservation objectives. For example, Mole National Park successfully sourced over US$ 130,000 from the African Elephant Fund for the conservation of the park’s elephants.

Participating in ESN has enabled Farouk and his team to further develop their stakeholder skills. The Northern Regional Manager of Ghana’s Wildlife Division commented that “The ESN programme is showing a visible impact. Since receiving mentor support, [Farouk] is networking and collaborating more with organisations and attracting more development projects for the protected area.”


Andrew was inspired and motivated by his experiences of working with a protected area. This experience has benefitted his stakeholder engagement in sustainable development. 

Contributed by

Stacey Baggaley Earthwatch Europe

Other contributors

Earthwatch Europe