ToT workshop on SAFE System
As part of the WWF’s support in Human-wildlife conflict (HWC) management, a training of trainers (ToT) workshop on SAFE system approach to HWC was conducted from 4-6 January 2023, at Gelephu. The ToT was facilitated by Mr. Sither Tenzin, WWF TAI with technical support from Nature Conservation Division and WWF-Bhutan. The main objective of the ToT was to capacitate national and field officials on SAFE system and to create a good pool of trained officials on SAFE approach to HWC in Bhutan.
A total of 30 participants participated in the three-day ToT program. The participants were from the Department of Forests and Park Services (both from the headquarters and field offices), and district livestock and Agriculture offices.
On day one, a core group comprising of officials from WWF, Nature Conservation Division, Forest Protection and Enforcement Division, Royal Manas National Park, Phibsoo Wildlife Sanctuary and Sarpang Forest Division met to run down the rapid assessment SAFE tool to refine and adapt it to Bhutan’s context. The adapted RA tool was used for the main ToT sessions with the participants.
On day two, the participants were introduced on the overview of HWC in Bhutan followed by the introduction to Safe Systems Approach to HWC. While the participants were oriented on the SAFE systems, they were further introduced to adapted RA tool. Following this, a mock training session on how to use RA tool was organized. After the hands-on training, the participants visited Gelephu gewog whereby a simulation exercise on RA tool with the local community members was provided. A total of 17 local community members participated in the simulation exercise.
On day three, the facilitator trained the participants on interpreting the results. This was followed by a guided session on how to develop SAFE strategy with key short-term and long-term interventions that can be taken up based on RA findings. Also, field experiences on Safe systems approach implementation from the Sarpang Forest Division and Royal Manas National Park was shared.
In the afternoon, the participants made a field visit to Shompangkha and Samtenling gewogs under Sarpang Forests Division to learn more on the SAFE approach interventions implemented in the two gewogs.
SAFE System Approach to HWC
SAFE System is an integrated approach to HWC that provides a framework to assess, guide, develop strategy, implement, and monitor by improving the safety of wildlife, habitat, people and their assets with the vision of moving towards coexistence. The goal of the Safe System approach is to design systems that are intrinsically safe to all stakeholders. In the case of HWC, stakeholders include people, their assets, wildlife and habit. In the long term, the focus is on safety of each part of the system that can lead to gradual decrease in the incidents and therefore contribute to maintaining tolerance for wildlife locally.
This approach underscores the need to fall down to the system level for effective HWC management; it is not just one variable/part in isolation that will reduce HWC significantly, but is the combination of all of the pieces working together in an integrated package consistently and over time. The approach was first developed to eliminate road deaths in Sweden’s zero vision project and adapted in several other countries.
System designers are responsible for the safety of those involved in the system, whether human or wildlife. Safe System establishes that the strategic outcomes act as a minimum standard for human-wildlife conflict management and that if each of thw four strategic outcomes (SAFE People, Wildlife, Habitat and Assets) are met, then contact between humans and wildlife is minimized, and both can be safe in the event of contact within acceptable limits of tolerance.
An integrated approach to HWC means that managers recognize that HWC is a system, and that the six elements of HWC (Policy, Prevention, Mitigation, Understanding the Conflict, Response, and Monitoring) must be accounted for in any management program, and none should be implemented in isolation. Actions and lessons in each element reinforce and inform efforts on others.
Therefore, effectiveness of any intervention depends on the concurrent implementation of components in the management plan. However, not every conflict situation will require the implementation of every action but could be solved using a combination of appropriate ones.
This approach builds on existing HWC interventions but reframes the way in which HWC is viewed and managed in the community. It stimulates the development of the innovative interventions and new partnerships that are necessary to achieve ambitious long-term targets. This new thinking also means a cultural shift and sharing of responsibility for overall HWC, requiring a high level of political, social and community commitment, with government, other groups and individuals all having important roles to play. A Safe System approach is appropriate for countries at all levels of HWC safety performance, with specific interventions likely to differ from country to country.
The guiding principles of Safe System approach
- It recognizes that wildlife is wild and conflict is always likely to occur even with continuing focus on various measures. When conflicts occur however, the interventions across the system should ensure that the impact of an incident does not exceed the limits of community tolerance, and does not result in retaliatory killing.
- It stresses that individuals, communities, leaders and the public who design the system need to accept and share responsibility for the safety of the system, and those that use the system must accept responsibility for complying with the rules and constraints of it.
- It aligns conflict management decisions with broader development plans and processes that contribute to economic, human and environmental goals.
- It guides interventions to meeting minimum standards and long-term goals rather than setting specific targets. Long term goal of safe system will take time to achieve.
- It considers safety as an ethical imperative like any other domains.
- It focuses on systematically addressing factors involved in specific HWC incident across the network to reduce the conflict /risk of injury to survival levels.
- It continues to apply human factors good practice to reduce human errors/to offset limits of performance.
- It changes mindset from single interventions to potential combined effects of interacting safe system interventions as well as improving individual intervention.