The Future of Biodiversity in Africa

03 October 2008 | News story

African conservation leaders should “move beyond piecemeal projects” and “make biodiversity the foundation of African development,” by bundling ecosystem services to recognize nature as an asset for the well-being of society, according to Mohamed Bakarr, Senior Vice President of Conservation International. Bakarr was speaking at a workshop on the Future of Biodiversity in Africa, convened by IUCN in conjunction with the Africa Biodiversity Collaborative Group in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.

The workshop, held Sept 18-20 with support from the US Agency for International Development and the John D and Catherine T Macarthur Foundation, brought 35 experts from across sub-Saharan Africa together to review achievements in biodiversity conservation,scan the horizon for emerging challenges, articulate African perspectives on priorities for climate adaptation,and articulate a vision statement for the biodiversity from the standpoint of the year 2025.  The goal is to provide input into donor programs on the links between biodiversity and emerging challenges such as climate change and intensified investment in extractive industries.

The Africa Biodiversity Collaborative Group is a network of international conservation organizations with programs addressing biodiversity in Africa.  Members include the African Wildlife Foundation, Conservation International, IUCN, the Jane Goodall Institute, The Nature Conservancy, WWF, the Wildlife Conservation Society, and the World Resources Institute.

In the opening message to the workshop, the Director of Tanzania’s Ministry of Environment, Eric Mugurusi, conveyed a statement from the Minister of State for Environment, Dr. Baltilda Burian that “Africa is the most vulnerable continent to climate change.”  Burian noted that climate change would have a severe impact on national parks, wildlife conservation, agricultural lands and tourism, and called for the development of climate adaptation strategies, increase in the use of renewable energy, and improved land management including restoration of degraded lands. 

In his keynote address, Conservation International Senior Vice President Mohamed Bakarr reminded participants of the tremendous accomplishments of conservation in Africa, particularly in protected areas, which have preserved assets that otherwise could have been lost.

The challenge, he said, was that “people and nature are not separate, they are one and the same. We now have a chance to recognize that the well-being of people and of the planet depend upon the well-being of natural resources….we cannot keep creating protected areas if we can’t put them in the context of the services that are critical for the well-being of both people and ecosystems.”

The workshop produced a vision statement that will be shared with the US Agency for International Development for use in its biodiversity programming.

Key elements of the vision statement included recommendations to promote climate adaptation, reduce the impacts of agriculture and extractive industries, adopt landscape approaches to biodiversity conservation, restore degradated ecosystems, develop alternative livelihoods and sound governance and develop greater collaboration with faith communities. It will be shared with other donors and partners in African biodiversity as well, beginning at the Fourth World Conservation Congress this October in Barcelona.

For more information contact:
Kelly West, Programme Coordinator, IUCN Eastern and Southern Africa Regional Office, Kelly.west@iucn.org

Nancy Gelman, Coordinator, Africa Biodiversity Collaborative Group, nancy.gelman@wwfus.org

John Waugh, Senior Fellow, IUCN Multilateral Office
jwaugh@iucnus.org