Reflections from ABN’s 7th Biennial General Meeting
Fassil Gebeyehu, ABN General Coordinator
The 7th African Biodiversity Network (ABN) Biennial General Meeting (BGM) was held at Bantu Lodge in Kenya from 9-13 December, 2019. The meeting was attended by 33 representatives from ABN’s partners, strategic partners, the Board of Trustees and the Secretariat staff. The main purpose of the meeting was to review the ABN’s performance over the last two years and to agree the strategic direction for the next 2 years (2020-2021).
Each day began with prayers and mystica sessions, an ABN tradition to draw participants’ attention and remind them of the ABN purpose regarding values of nature, cultural practices and the role of elders in the process of reviving community and ecosystem resilience.
Pernilla Malmer and Maria Tengö from SwedBio sent a video message with their apologies and high praise of the work ABN has been doing. This was watched on the first day before the meeting began. The rest of that day was focused on reports and updates including ABN’s work from 2017 to 2019, financial highlights, and evolution of ABN presented mainly by the Secretariat. Discussions, questions and answering sessions were held and emerging issues captured for deeper analysis.
The second day focused on evaluating ABN through its principles. Participants worked in groups to rate how each of the 10 principles are implemented by respective partners. The average score given was 3.3.
On the third day, participants were treated to a presentation on Earth Jurisprudence and the African Commission study on Sacred National Sites Agroecology by Simon Mitambo of the ABN Secretariat. Other presentations included one on Seascape/Marine by Joséa S. Dossou-Bodjrenou from Benin partner Nature Tropicale; one on Pastoralism by Abdiaziz Maalim Aftin from EPAG-Kenya; on Traditional Knowledge and Agroecology by Dr. Daniel Maingi from Growth Partners; on Agroecology by Hailu Araya from PELUM Ethiopia and by Collins Ochienge Othieno from PELUM Kenya, and on Seed Sovereignty and the 2019 Seed and Food Fair held in Harare presented by Gertude Pswarayi-Jabson from PELUM Zimbabwe. In addition, partners reviewed ABN’s Vision, Mission, Core Values & Theory of Change. These updates will be published in due course.
On day four, the main focus was on country and sub-regional nodes – this was a major focus for this Biennial General Meeting. As General Coordinator of the ABN, I presented ABN’s strategic direction on rooting ABN across the continent by the developing of national and sub-regional nodes.
This session kicked ABN off a new milestone through country and sub-regional nodes in response to the changing environment both internally and externally. It is a strategy that has been debated since 2015 with lots of brainstorming sessions held at various levels. The ABN secretariat presented the consolidated experiences of partners so far and explained why ABN needs to ensure such an initiative takes root. Country and sub-regional nodes are defined as clusters of partners in each country/sub-region in which they can share experiences such as exchange ideas and knowledge on farming, seeds and associated cultural practices, tools as well as create alliances at country/sub-regional levels.
Substantial of time was allocated for partners to learn from one another and explore various perspectives of such initiative at various levels. This exercise help partners to develop action plans for sub-regional nodes and develop the ABN road map considering the unfolding opportunities as well as potential challenges in the coming period.
The 2019 ABN BGM concluded with the launching of the 2019-2021 Strategic Plan, a colourful event full of laughter and sharing of cultural practises.
ABN accompanies Africans in voicing their views on issues such as food and seed sovereignty, genetic engineering, agrofuels, biodiversity protection, extractive industries and the rights of small-holder farmers.