Celebrating 20 Years of African Biodiversity Network: Shaping a Sustainable Future
The African Biodiversity Network (ABN) stands as a beacon of hope in the face of ecological and socio-economic challenges that have plagued the African continent. Conceived in 1996, and official registration in 2002, ABN emerged as a response to the growing concerns over threats to biodiversity and the necessity of cultivating strong African voices in the global discourse. Venter Mwongera, the Communications and Advocacy Coordinator of ABN shares highlights of Part I of the ABN celebrations at 20.
This ABN is the fruit of tireless collaboration with partners like the Gaia Foundation, NORAD, the Greenbelt Movement, Grain, Swedbio, Bread for the World, the European Union, and GAIA Amazonas. The network envisions vibrant and sustainable African communities living in harmony with the nature. It champions the idea of fostering an African network rooted in biological, cultural, and spiritual diversity, where communities have the power to influence policies and practices that respects the rights of both people and nature. The crux of ABN’s philosophy revolves around rekindling a profound connection between people and nature, emphasizing the significance of indigenous knowledge, and embracing ancestral wisdom.
Scope of ABN’s Work
Currently, ABN collaborates with 41 partners from 17 African countries, encompassing Benin, Botswana, Egypt, Kenya, South Africa, and many more. The network’s endeavours are concentrated in areas such as Community Seed and Knowledge (CSK), Community Ecological Governance (CEG), Youth Culture and Biodiversity (YCB), besides advocacy and communication, while fostering network practice and development. Moreover, ABN has taken an active stance on global issues, standing among other African Civil Society organizations, saying “Yes to Life, No to Destructive Practices to Nature!”
Deliberations and Proceedings
ABN’s 20th-anniversary celebrations were held from September 19th to September 22nd, 2023, at the Bantu Mountain Lodge in Nanyuki, Kenya. It was graced by over 60 delegates around Africa. A spectrum of critical issues was discussed by these participants as topics that will chart ABN’s course for the next 20 years. These topics revealed the diversity and depth of concerns within the network and were further placed under 5 broad categories as follows;
- Environmental Sustainability and Conservation.
- Gender Empowerment and Equality.
- Cultural and Spiritual Connection.
- Youth and Community Engagement.
- Global Advocacy and Policy Engagement.
During these celebrations, new partner organizations were introduced to the participants after an approval by the Board of Trustees. Six new organizations joined the ABN family. They brought diverse experiences and expertise aligned to the ABN philosophy. These are;
- Regional Schools and Colleges Permaculture Programme (ReSCOPE) – Zambia.
- Seed Savers Network – Kenya.
- Pesticide Action Nexus Association (PAN-Ethiopia).
- Centre for Human Rights & Governance – Congo.
- Grow Bio-Intensive Centre of Kenya (G-BIACK) – Kenya.
- Ngatho Community Foundation – Kenya.
These new partners shared their enthusiasm and intentions, offering fresh perspectives and potential collaborations to further deepen and scale out ABN’s philosophy around Africa.
Constitutional Review and Future Directions
ABN is on the cusp of transformative change. Participants engaged in a robust discussion about the network’s future governance and priorities. There were considerations about adding new board members, but after extensive discussions, it was decided to create a constitution review team rather than induct new members at this time. The newly formed constitution review team will review and recommend the updates to the current constitution to be adopted or further discussed in the next biennial meeting.
Communing with Nature and Embracing Culture
As we commemorate ABN’s achievements and envision its future, participants also embraced the African heritage. A visit to the Tharaka community was a poignant reminder of our interconnectedness with nature, culture, and the enduring power of indigenous knowledge. These stories inspire all to protect Africa’s heritage, encourage young people to embrace their traditions, and ensure that their roots remain firmly planted. In the celebration of ABN’s 20 years, we celebrated a journey towards decolonization. The path ahead is filled with challenges and opportunities, but as a united network, we are poised to steer Africa toward a future where biodiversity, culture, and the environment are cherished and protected.
The launch of the ABN Barefoot Guide marked an important moment ABN’s commitment to knowledge sharing and learning. These stories serve as a valuable resource for future generations, bridging the gap between tradition and modernity.
A Bright Future for ABN
On the last day of celebrations, it was clear that;
- Participants look forward to the next two decades with great anticipation. ABN stands at a crossroads, a juncture where everyone has the opportunity to shape the course of biodiversity conservation in Africa. Dedication, resilience, and unity of purpose will guide all on the path to embrace nature, culture, and knowledge.
- ABNers remain committed to promoting sustainable agriculture, preserving indigenous knowledge, and championing the rights of African communities. The future is full of promise, and with ABN leading the way, Africa’s biodiversity and cultural heritage will thrive.
- In unity, ABNers will continue to tread the path toward preserving a shared legacy for the generations to come. ABNers’ commitment to Ubuntu, the spirit of togetherness, will be a guide for all to embark on this journey of stepping ahead into the next 20 years.