Celebrating Two Decades of ABN’s Environmental Dedication
The climax of celebrating ABNs 20th anniversary takes place on 21st-22nd September 2023 at Bantu Lodge in Nanyuki, Kenya.
The climax of celebrating ABNs 20th anniversary takes place on 21st-22nd September 2023 at Bantu Lodge in Nanyuki, Kenya.
This report and the achievements it outlines are, therefore, the culmination of the collective efforts of all stakeholders who believe in ABN’s vision, mission, and philosophy. We sincerely hope that the passion and commitment demonstrated thus far will persist, providing unwavering support for strengthening and deepening the network and the realization of ABN’s vision to build resilient communities and ecosystems. ABN extends its gratitude to all those who have contributed their positive energy, fostering these remarkable achievements through partnership and solidarity.
The African Biodiversity Network (ABN) is pleased to announce to our distinguished stakeholders, partners, and all enthusiasts on issues of biodiversity from across the globe to join us in celebrating a momentous occasion – the 20th anniversary of ABN. This auspicious event, scheduled to take place in the last quarter of 2023, marks two decades of steadfast commitment to African biodiversity protection and building communities’ resilience.
The event will begin with the Biennial General Meeting (BGM), where ABN Partners will convene to deliberate on ABN’s achievements, discuss emerging trends, and collectively envision the path forward. The BGM will provide a unique opportunity for partners to shape the future of Africa’s biodiversity conservation, develop action plans, and establish collaborative initiatives.
Under the theme “Celebrating 20 Years of African Biodiversity Network: Nurturing community livelihood through re-connection with Nature and Culture.” This landmark celebration will serve as a platform for reflection, inspiration, and planning for a sustainable future.
The journey begun all those years ago with pioneering support from partners like the Gaia Foundation, NORAD, Greenbelt Movement, Grain, Swedebio, Bread for the World, the European Union, and GAIA Amazonas, to name a few. The event will witness the highly anticipated launch of the Barefoot Guide to serve as a comprehensive resource of ABN and by the communities we accompany in championing community-led conservation practices.
During the course of the event, long term, esteemed and dedicated guests will have the opportunity to engage in a series of activities designed to showcase ABN’s accomplishments, foster knowledge exchange, and forge collaborative partnerships. Through panel discussions, presentations, and interactive sessions, participants will gain insights from various knowledge holders in Indigenous Knowledge and the relevant fields of science, who will share success stories, lessons learned, and strategies for addressing the emerging challenges in conservation of the bio-cultural diversity in Africa.
Moreover, the Barefoot Guide launch will unveil a vital tool for practitioners, highlighting case studies, principles, and practical approaches to community-led conservation. This comprehensive resource will inspire new practitioners, individuals and organizations with the necessary knowledge and tools to engage in effective, sustainable bio-cultural diversity conservation practices. As ABN proudly celebrates two decades of dedicated work, we invite you to be a part of this significant milestone in conservation of Africa’s bio-cultural diversity. Your presence and wisdom will contribute to a vibrant gathering that nurtures dialogue, collaboration, and shared learning.
Soon, we will share finer details about this celebration as we look forward to welcoming you to this exceptional event, where we will unite in our commitment to safeguarding Africa’s rich biodiversity, culture, building resilient communities, and forging a sustainable future for generations to come. Stay tuned for further updates regarding the dates, venue, program, registration details, and logistical arrangements. Together, let us celebrate and pave the way for a flourishing African biodiversity.
With warm regards,
Fassil Gebeyehu (PhD)
African Biodiversity Network
The African Biodiversity Network (ABN) is an African network of individuals and organizations seeking African solutions to the ecological and socio-economic challenges that face the continent.
Currently, ABN has 41 partners drawn from 19 African countries: Benin, Botswana, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Mozambique, South Africa, Tanzania, Togo, Uganda, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Burkina Faso, Rwanda, Central Africa Republic, Cameroon, Gabon, Morocco and Egypt.
We strive to grow and nurture an African network of individuals, communities, and organisations, increasingly rooted in their own biological, cultural and spiritual diversity. With the capability to govern their own lives and livelihoods.
Bagungu custodians of sacred natural sites and Buliisa Women Farmers in Buliisa District show-casing their eco-maps.
Buliisa Women Farmers in Buliisa District, North-West of Uganda.
In partnership, the African Biodiversity Network and the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency have embarked on a collaborative initiative to strengthen community resilience and conserve biocultural diversity across the African continent. The project places special emphasis on preserving biocultural diversity, bolstering community resilience, and safeguarding ecosystem services. Recognizing that the protection of Sacred Natural Sites and Territories forms the foundation of a thriving biodiversity, the project seeks to revitalize traditional knowledge, practices, and governance systems, empowering Indigenous and Local Communities (ILCs) and nurturing their ecological, spiritual, social, and economic well-being. The ABN is implementing the project through its Sub-Regional Node approach, which includes the East, West, Southern, and an upcoming node for partners in Central Africa and the North.
From May 16th-18th, 2023 the ABN will be supporting partners within the Eastern Sub-Regional Node as they learn from communities collaborating with the African Institute for Culture and Ecology (AFRICE) in Uganda to implement the African Commission’s Resolution 372, which focuses on the protection of SNS&Ts as part of efforts to curb biodiversity loss. The Maendeleo Endelevu Programme (MEAP), as the Leading Organization (LO) for the Eastern Sub-Regional Node, will provide guidance, with support from AFRICE as the Learning Centre (LC) and ABN providing backing throughout the process. These upcoming activities will be held at the Miika Hotel in Hoima, followed by a visit to the Buliisa community in Uganda under the auspices of AFRICE.
Focus Areas of the Project
The project centers around four thematic areas: Community Ecological Governance (CEG), Livelihoods and Ecosystems Community Seed Knowledge (CSK), Youth Culture and Biodiversity (YCB), and Strengthening Networking, Communication, and Regional Advocacy. By addressing these areas, the project aims to enhance the capacity and confidence of ILCs in embracing sustainable lifestyles and safeguarding biocultural diversity. An integral part of the project is the Annual Review Meeting (ARM), a platform for ABN and SIDA to assess progress and draw valuable lessons from the year 2022. Additionally, partners within the Eastern Sub-Regional Node will convene for a two-day meeting to exchange experiences, enhance their implementation capacity, and uphold the principles outlined in AC Resolution 372, which centers on protecting SNS&Ts.
By fostering strategic collaborations and empowering communities to build resilience, we can effectively address the challenges posed by climate change, combat biodiversity loss, and contribute to achieving various Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). These include eradicating poverty, ensuring zero hunger, promoting good health and well-being, striving for gender equality, advocating for clean water and sanitation, fostering decent work and economic growth, creating sustainable cities and communities, promoting responsible consumption and production, taking climate action, conserving life below water, safeguarding life on land, striving for peace, justice, and strong institutions, and fostering partnerships for the goals. These efforts also align with international treaties and agreements, such as the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), Paris Agreement under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), and Aichi Biodiversity Targets.
Editors of the ABN Barefoot Guide. The guide unpacks the philosophy of the ABN, whose tenets anchor the work of ABN and its partners in caring for the Earth.
The African Biodiversity Network (ABN), in collaboration with partners from most parts of Africa, has been taking actions for the last two decades. Significant investments have been made to promote sustainable land use practices, conservation of bio-cultural diversity, and support practices of indigenous communities, such as Community Ecological Governance and Intergenerational learning. The ABN also advocates for policies that promote sustainable development and creates networks of like-minded individuals and organizations to build community and ecosystem resilience, which is the basis for improved livelihoods in the course of prevailing climate crisis.
A call to action for business communities and individuals alike
Investing in our planet for ABN means taking action to mitigate the negative effects of harmful practices, such as carbon emissions and the release of greenhouse gases, eliminating all forms of pollution in the sea and on land, and protecting the rights of all beings to sustainably live in harmony with nature. It means developing innovative technologies through co-creation of knowledge between science and Indigenous Knowledge and embracing relevant practices that reduce the negative impact on the environment to preserve the delicate balance of nature. It also means advocating for policies that promote clean energy, protect wildlife, reduce waste, and take sustainable actions towards a substantiable future.
The ABN encourages business initiatives to prioritize sustainability in their operations and supply chains, invest in renewable energy, and reduce waste and pollution. By doing so, they not only contribute to a healthier planet but also create opportunities through new models of economic growth that sustain life on Earth for all. Evidence shows that companies engaged in sustainable practices are becoming more attractive to customers, investors, and employees who care about the environment and want to make a positive impact on the planet.
Individual citizens can also make a difference by investing in our planet and setting an example for others to follow. These initiatives by individuals could include reducing the use of plastics, practicing water conservation, managing waste, and walking or biking instead of driving, among others.
Creating an enabling policy environment for the well-being of Mother Earth
Governments also play a crucial role in investing in our planet Earth. They can introduce policies that incentivize sustainable practices, promote renewable energy, and protect natural habitats. They can also support research and development of new technologies that reduce our impact on the environment. By doing so, governments can create a regulatory environment that encourages businesses to prioritize sustainability and citizens to make more environmentally conscious choices.
On the commemoration of Earth Day 2023, themed “Invest in Our Planet,” let us be reminded that we must take action to protect our planet and leave a better world for future generations. By prioritizing sustainability in our businesses, governments, and personal lives, we can create a more sustainable, equitable, and prosperous world for all. ABN joins the world today in reminding everyone to take up the challenge and invest in our planet, leaving a healthy inheritance for future generations.
The vital role of forests in human health and well-being
ABN acknowledges forests as crucial spaces for biodiversity conservation at the genetic, species, and ecosystem levels. Forests play a crucial role in sustaining productivity through gene pool between wild crop relatives and domesticated seed varieties, thereby achieving global food sovereignty. Experience from the perspective of Indigenous and local peoples across the world shows that people living in nature and forest areas generally have better health conditions compared to those living in cities where different forms of pollution prevail. Numerous studies have also highlighted the health benefits of spending time in forests. For example, research published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health found that forest therapy, which involves spending time in natural settings, can reduce stress, anxiety, and depression. Similarly, a study conducted by the University of East Anglia found that living near green spaces, including forests, can improve mental health and well-being.
Forests contribute to physical health by providing clean air and water. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), approximately 2.2 million deaths each year are attributable to unsafe water, sanitation, and hygiene, highlighting the importance of forests in maintaining healthy water resources. This scenario can be significantly reversed if emphasis is given to afforestation practices since forests are critical for maintaining clean water systems essential for human health.
A community collaborating with Green Development Advocates (GDA) on afforestation initiatives to alleviate the effects of climate change. GDA is an ABN partner in Cameroon.
Photo credit: GDA
Forests are under threat
Despite the numerous health benefits of forests, they are under threat from deforestation, primarily driven by commercial logging and agricultural expansion. Deforestation leads to habitat destruction, loss of biodiversity, and increased carbon emissions, which contributes to climate change. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) estimates that climate change will lead to an increase in vector-borne diseases such as malaria and dengue fever, as well as air pollution-related illnesses.
To address these challenges, ABN and her partners in the network, such as Green Development Advocates (GDA) in Cameroon, Muyissi in Gabon, AFRICE and NAPE in Uganda, ICE, MEAP, and RIDEP in Kenya, ISD, MELCA, and PELUM in Ethiopia, Usiko and EarthLore in South Africa, and PELUM Zimbabwe, GRABE-Benin and CEVASTE in Benin among other partners, are promoting sustainable forest management practices that prioritize both environmental and human health. For example, these organizations and like-minded partners collaborate with communities to raise awareness of the linkages between forests and human health. They also lobby and advocate for policies and practices that support sustainable forest management. Such conservation approaches seek to improve the health of forests, which has a ripple effect on human health in forested regions.
On this International Forest Day, we extend sincere appreciation to all of our partners who have worked tirelessly to plant relevant tree species adoptive to the local ecosystem and restore degraded landscapes across Africa. Your commitment and dedication to the health and vitality of our forests is truly inspiring. As we celebrate the progress we have made in restoring and protecting our forests, we must also remember the commitments made by our governments to afforest the African continent. We urge all governments to prioritize their efforts towards reforestation and work towards meeting their obligations to protect our forests.
Vegetation cover is critical for conservation of biodiversity
Increasing vegetation cover is not only crucial for the conservation of biodiversity but also for mitigating soil erosion. The loss of fertile soil due to erosion is a threat to food sovereignty, and it is our responsibility to protect and manage our natural resources to ensure that future generations can thrive in a healthy environment. The benefits of protecting and restoring forests go beyond human health and well-being. Forests are also a critical component in mitigating climate change, as they absorb and store carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) recognizes the important role of forests in climate change mitigation, and has established programs such as REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) to support sustainable forest management practices. By protecting and restoring forests, we can contribute to both human well-being and the health of the planet. Let us all work together towards a sustainable future for Africa and the world.
Furthermore, we encourage individuals to educate themselves on the importance of forests and the impact of deforestation on the planet. By increasing awareness and taking personal actions such as reducing paper and wood consumption, supporting sustainable forestry practices, and advocating for policies that protect forests, we can all contribute to a healthier and more sustainable future.
Let us all work together towards a sustainable future for Africa, and celebrate the International Forests Day with a renewed commitment to the health and vitality of our forests.
A mixed farmer from Ghana practicing agro-ecological farming methods under the mentorship of RAINS, an ABN partner.
Photo credit: ABN
The African Biodiversity Network (ABN) recognizes the vital role of women in achieving food sovereignty and enhancing living in harmony with nature. As part of this effort, the network has embraced digital technologies as a pathway to reach diverse audiences and is committed to build the capacities of the partners in the network on the effective interactions on the digital platforms. ABN believes in women’s contribution to household and communities’ resilience as knowledge holders of seeds and agriculture. Accompanying women in the use of appropriate technology and innovation to adopt to the changing global technological paradigm shift is a necessity. There are many opportunities of sharing knowledge by accessing such pathways through digital platforms, crucial for achieving food sovereignty and resilient communities in Africa.
Digital technology could further food sovereignty agenda
Digital technology has been instrumental in sharing information and knowledge in agriculture further enhancing women’s productivity. Mobile phones and social media platforms have enabled women to access information on weather patterns, market prices, and farming techniques, leading to increased yields and improved income. Guided by ABN’s philosophy on proper use of technology, the network has sagaciously engaged in digital platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and WhatsApp platforms.
Using such digital platforms has continued to enable communities to share experiences across Africa regardless of distance. Such an experience of sharing knowledge through digital platforms has an effective methodology to the communities. The ABN’s Facebook internal report in 2022 shows that 25% of women engage in the platform. This is an indication that continued capacity building of women on the use of digital technology would further increase their participation in virtual environment discourses concerning their wellbeing.
Furthermore, digital platforms continue to allow women to connect and form networks, enabling collective action towards food sovereignty. Research indicates that “women’s collective action through social networks can help them achieve greater agency and collective voice, leading to better access to resources, services, relevant institutions, and improved well-being” (van Wijk et al., 2020, p. 6). For instance, the African Women Leaders in Agriculture and Environment (AWLAE) platform has connected women across Africa, enabling them to share knowledge, experiences on sustainable agriculture, climate change adaptation, and gender-responsive policies.
Governments and organizations should recognize and support women’s role in food production, distribution, and consumption. By promoting gender equality even in digital dispensation, creates opportunities for women’s participation in decision-making processes and collaborating to enhance their technology absorption skills and meaningful engagement. Investing in digital technologies and promoting women’s active participation contributes to communities’ resilience and food systems, thereby achieving food sovereignty and communities living in harmony with nature in Africa.
Community Seed and Knowledge
One of the common pressures faced by the ABN, and the rural communities with whom the partner organisations work, has been the tremendous push from governments and corporations to use hybrid and increasingly, genetically-modified seeds, which require costly inputs like fertilizers.
Community Ecological Governance
We recognise that elders within the community play a vital role in upholding the ecological knowledge and customs practiced over generations which maintain the well-being of Sacred Natural Sites, ecosystems, territories and local communities.
Youth Culture and Biodiversity
The Youth, Culture and Biodiversity thematic area of ABN aims to deepen peoples’ sense of belonging, with one another and with the earth in order to restore confidence eroded over years of marginalisation of indigenous ecological knowledge and practices.
Advocacy & communication
We aim to strengthen networking, communication and regional advocacy. We work with likeminded individuals and organisations to catalyse wider actions and influence policy and public opinion on ecological and socio-economic issues that affect Africa.