It is now an accepted fact that the people who live in close contact with and depend upon natural ecosystems for their survival must be fully involved in all efforts to find solutions to conservation issues we are facing today. In mountain areas of the Albertine Rift region, this aspect becomes even more crucial given these areas are very densely populated and the mountain communities highly depend on nature through agriculture and other nature-based livelihoods. It is thus clear that ensuring sustainable development in these areas requires developing these livelihoods activities into viable enterprises or businesses that can ensure income security for households while also conserving the natural environment processes and services that underpin this productivity. In light of this, ARCOS has embarked on a journey to develop nature-based enterprises in the Albertine rift in the effort to make these enterprises viable (business-wise), sustainable and environmental-friendly. Currently, ARCOS has engaged 30 community groups in the 3 countries of the Albertine rift region namely 2 groups in Burundi, 22 groups in Rwanda and 5 groups in Uganda. Organizations engage communities for many different reasons, but how they go about this is what makes the difference. ARCOS’ approach to community development is termed BEST approach which focuses on four key areas: B: Building leadership and sustainable institutions Supporting the community to develop good cooperative management and governance, setting targets and work plans, and integrate gender and youth aspects. E: Enhancing environmental resilience Promoting efficient use of natural resources in the community production systems through sustainable agriculture, enhancement and protection of soil and water ecosystems and biodiversity, forest landscape restoration, Ecosystem Based Adaptation, and promotion of green energy technologies. S: Sustainable business solutions Assisting the community to develop a viable business through effective business planning, value addition, market linkages and quality certification. T: Transforming and inspiring others Supporting the community to play the role of a model for other surrounding communities. This is achieved using the concept of the Nature Based Village (NBV) which is geographically defined village where efforts are concentrated to serve as demonstration site in integrating sustainable environment and livelihoods practices. ARCOS NBCEs program envisions to improve rural livelihoods at the household level through sustainable management of natural resources by communities in the Albertine Rift by providing support in the development and networking of Community Based Organizations (CBOs). So far, the programme has demonstrated that this a good model that can be followed by community development social workers especially in mountain areas where communities mostly depend on nature for their livelihoods.
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