Celebrating 20 years of ABN where conservation and culture merge
In a harmonious celebration that intertwined spirituality, culture, and environmental consciousness, the African Biodiversity Network recently marked its 20th anniversary. This article by Hannah Kigamba, M& E Coordinator explores Part II of ABN’s story of two decades of commitment to conserving Africa’s biocultural diversity.
The African Biodiversity Network (ABN) celebrated its 20th anniversary from the 19th to the 22nd of September 2023, a significant milestone that seamlessly intertwined spirituality, culture, and environmental consciousness. This four-day event brought together ABN’s partners, friends, and supporters to commemorate 20 years of unwavering dedication to conservation, sustainability, and the preservation of Africa’s rich biocultural diversity.
The festivities started with a Mystica exercise daily. On the first day, Simon Mitambo, Founder of SALT and former ABN regional Program Coordinator led the session together with elders. Participants gathered under the sacred fig tree, to establish a deep connection with nature through this spiritual practice. Following this, keynote speeches and reflections on ABN’s history took center stage, emphasizing the importance of cherishing past accomplishments, sharing success stories, and addressing challenges.
Words from some of the Co-Founders
ABN’s Co-founding trustee and first Board Chairman, Zachary Makanya, recounted the network’s journey since its inception in 2002. He emphasized the crucial role of collaboration in the preservation of biocultural diversity. Mr. Makanya, who is also the Co-founder and CEO of Rural Initiatives Development Programme (RIDEP) based in Tharaka, an ABN partner in Kenya, provided valuable insights observing that determination, and resilience were among the key insights that informed the formation of the ABN. Dr. Suleiman Abdulai, a Co-Founding Trustee and the current Chairman of the Board of Trustees (BoTs), also echoed words of Mr. Zachary adding that Africa’s challenges are best addressed by Africans through unity of purpose. Furthermore, Dr. Million Belay, also a Co- Founding Trustee of ABN and the current General Coordinator of AFSA, praised ABN’s support in establishing AFSA as a regional advocacy platform dedicated to championing Seed and Food Sovereignty campaigns and agroecology throughout Africa.
Coinciding with International Peace Day
These event’s highlight came on the third day when participants visited the Tharaka community that has been a part of the ABN journey. This community provided a glimpse into the rich cultural heritage and indigenous knowledge of the Tharaka people. Elders shared their origin stories, underscoring the importance of cultural preservation and the harmony that exists between their culture and nature. Coinciding with International Peace Day, this visit emphasized the Tharaka community’s unwavering commitment to peace and sustainability, urging all participants to embrace traditional practices for ecological balance.
The last day of the celebrations was a culmination of festivities as ABN’s achievements were acknowledged, and the ABN Barefoot Guide was unveiled. This guide, a collaborative effort involving 30 authors, shed light on ABN’s journey, philosophy, and the vital role of indigenous knowledge and culture in conservation. As participants delved into the guide’s excerpts, they were deeply moved by stories that touched on ABN’s humble beginnings, the healing power of nature, and the indispensable role of indigenous knowledge in the preservation of biodiversity.
Dr. Fassil, ABN’s General Coordinator, emphasized the significance of ABN’s work in promoting culture, indigenous knowledge, and food sovereignty in Africa. He encouraged all participants to proudly present their ideologies and engage more closely with nature, recognizing its global importance.
Link to ABN Barefoot Guide: