As we celebrate World Environment Day, we find that Africa and the world are at crossroads, trying to reconcile the conservation and recuperation of the economy. A vast majority of people globally have lost their jobs and livelihoods due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Powerful external forces are taking advantage of the situation and diverting us from seeking solutions that come from within our relationship with nature and our diverse cultures. The proponents of the Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) and pesticides are for instance parading through global governments, FAO and WHO corridors, therapeutics as the solutions for the problems facing the world today with the development of COVID-19.

However, it is important to appreciate that the solutions that we seek already lie deep within our indigenous cultures and the natural environment. The indigenous and traditional knowledge systems have demonstrated their capacity for protecting the future of global biodiversity. For hundreds of years, indigenous people have warned that destroying our environment would lead to diseases and other natural calamities that we continue to witness, even with global warming and enormous losses to biodiversity. With the global lockdowns to prevent the spread of Covid-19 and the closure of industries, we have witnessed the enormous regeneration of nature. In Kenya, we have witnessed the Nairobi River coming back to life, Mt. Everest being visible from Kathmandu in Nepal for the first time in living memory, and Mt. Kenya being visible from Nairobi. All these have happened as a result of significant reduction in air pollution.

Let us take time to celebrate countries like Spain who have recently unveiled a climate law to cut carbon emissions to net-zero by 2050. They join a handful of countries to have set out a legal binding strategy to end their contribution to global warming in the next 30 years. These include Austria, Bhutan, California, Canada, Chile, Costa Rica, Denmark, Fiji, Finland, France, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal and Sweden among others. We need more of such efforts that ban the use of coal, oil and gas projects to shape the recovery efforts to Covid-19, as well as work as other countries who have recognised the rights of nature such as Ecuador, New Zealand, Colombia, Australia, United States, Bangladesh and India.

With ‘celebrating biodiversity’ being the theme of this year’s World Environment Day, the African Biodiversity Network is committed to unearthing nature and culture-based solutions, and implementing these solutions to mitigate challenges facing Africa and building solidarity on biodiversity and community rights’ issues on the continent. As we strive to rebuild the broken economies, let us not continue with business as usual. Let us include the true value of nature and culture in rethinking and rebuilding economies after Covid-19.