'Environmental goals must be community driven', is the message from CBD’s recent workshop.


Gertrude Kenyangi

By the end of this century climate change alone could cause the loss of over half of African bird and mammal species. This, combined with illegal wildlife trade and increasing levels of human-animal conflict, means there is an urgent need to rethink the protection of bio-diversity on the continent.


Last week the Convention on Biological Diversity held its Regional Consultation on the Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework for Africa in Addis Ababa, bringing together the leading experts in their fields, from NGOs operating at grassroots levels, to government officials.


With the devastation of Cyclone Idai fresh in delegates minds, there was a heightened sense of urgency to establish what was needed to ensure that the revised targets were ambitious enough to halt further bio-diversity loss and climate change. 


What was clear amongst delegates was that the current framework, outlined in the Aichi goals, does not go far enough to raise awareness of the severity of the situation Africa faces.


Many African leaders have failed to recognise that bio-diversity is inextricably linked to the livelihoods, wellbeing and food and water security of the poorest and most vulnerable people in Africa. With our population set to double by 2050 the pressure on nature is only increasing, and if strong action is not taken now we risk causing irreversible damage to our environment.


Although there are a number of tools that governments could deploy to help prevent further loss of bio-diversity, the most recent IPBES report highlighted to the Regional Consultation that there is a clear link between protected areas and positive bio-diversity trends. Adding credence to the Campaign for Nature’s global deal to protect at least 30% of the planet by 2030.


There are some shining examples of success already on our continent. Namibia and Botswana have already taken action to protect  30% of their land; Rwanda has been bold in its ambitions to conserve bio-diversity by protecting their mountain forests in law; and the meeting’s host, Ethiopia, have been developing a ‘Green Economy’ Strategy to ensure its socio-economic development takes place in harmony with nature.


In addition, calls for more ambitious protected area targets were echoed by non-governmental stakeholders such as APAC, WWF NEPAD and CABI.


Indeed, CABI’s Senior Scientist noted; ‘Protected areas remain the only place where threatened flora and fauna are protected from the adverse effects of invasive species, pests and disease.’


However, it’s not just political leaders and global institutions who will decide the fate of Africa’s bio-diversity. What was clear at this Regional Consultation was that for the new Framework to be a success indigenous peoples and local communities must be at the forefront of any new goals, and protected areas offer an opportunity for nature and people to live in harmony.

This was reinforced by Edward Samuriwo, Zimbabwe’s Director of Environment and Natural Resources, who said ‘Zimbabwe was very pleased by the enthusiasm of African delegates at the CBD regional workshop in Addis, there is a strong sense that we need to be more ambitious and innovative when it comes to revising the Post-2020 Framework, for Zimbabwe this means more community led protected areas.’

Kebaabetswe Keoagile, Botswana’s government representative, summarised her country’s position as, ‘Botswana has placed environmental management in her top priorities in recognition of the role it places in sustaining the economy and more importantly, the role it plays in supporting the rural communities. This is pursued mainly through a network of protected areas and we have seen real success with our Community-Based Natural Resources Management Policy which encourages equitable benefit sharing amongst rural communities from the Sustainable utilisation of natural resources surrounding them.’


The last 10 years have demonstrated clearly that if local communities and indigenous people are not considered and consulted when formulating environmental goals and targets, their effectiveness is limited. If we can collectively follow the example set by nations’ such as Botswana and Namibia, and ensure that 30% of land and sea globally is protected by empowered communities, both bio-diversity and local economies can thrive. This is a challenge we must work together to rise to, before it is too late.



Gertrude Kenyangi is an Ambassador for the Campaign for Nature and Executive Director for the Support for Women in Agriculture and Environment (SWAGEN).


For more information please see: www.campaignfornature.org

Blessing Mwangi