Taking urgent steps to conserve bio-cultural diversity
The African Biodiversity Network recently launched a new project on Conserving Bio-Cultural Diversity to strengthen community ecosystem resilience amidst climate crises and unknown pandemics. Venter Mwongera, ABN’s Communications and Advocacy Coordinator, explains the relevance of the project.
Thanks to funding from the Swedish International Development Authority (SIDA) through the Swedish Embassy of Addis Ababa, 38,000 African communities are set to benefit from a new ABN project that started last month. This project will run until August 2024, with over 20 partners across 14 countries in Africa, aiming to contribute to the conservation of Bio-Cultural Diversity through strengthening community and ecosystem resilience.
The new project focuses on strengthening and diversifying community livelihood options based on good bio-cultural diversity and seed governance; revival of the community ecological governance system based on time-tested community knowledge and practices; contributes to the various Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) especially SDG 15, ‘Life on Land’, the establishment of a strong proactive youth movement that celebrates and engages in biocultural diversity issues across Africa; increase support for community-led advocacy for building coalitions for policy influence on prioritized issues and improved adoption of the ABN networking and practice of methodologies among communities, partners and allies including Francophone and North and Central African regions.
Finding solutions to challenges
It is vital for smallholder farmers to be able to exercise their rights to freely use, save, exchange their local seeds and propagate planting materials. If they are unable to do so, it is a great threat to their being able to achieve seed and food sovereignty. However, the ongoing imposition of new and inappropriate technologies of gene modifications, as well as the over-application of chemical fertilizers to increase farm productivity has led to reduced farm produce and heightened biodiversity loss. There is much evidence of this documented by various research bodies such as Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) among others.
The newly published World Metrological Organisation (WMO) Report on the State of the Climate in Africa (2020) revealed that current retreat rates of the African mountain glaciers are higher than the global mean. If this continues, WMO says it could lead to total deglaciation by the 2040s. Mount Kenya is likely to be deglaciated a decade sooner, which will make it one of the first mountain ranges to lose its glaciers entirely due to anthropogenic climate change. Higher-than-normal precipitation predominated in the Sahel, the Rift Valley, the central Nile catchment and North-Eastern Africa, the Kalahari basin, and the Congo River’s lower course. Dry conditions prevailed along the South-Eastern part of the continent, in Madagascar, in the Northern coast of the Gulf of Guinea and North-Western Africa.
The effects of conflicts, political instability, climate crises, incursion of desert locusts in some countries, pest outbreaks and economic meltdown, worsened by the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic, have been the key drivers of a significant increase in food insecurity. Food insecurity has increased by 5–20 percentage points with each flood or drought in sub-Saharan Africa. Associated deterioration in health and children’s school attendance can worsen longer-term income and gender inequalities. In 2020, there was an almost 40% increase in the population affected by food insecurity compared with the previous year.
The WMO report further estimated 12% of all new population displacements worldwide occurred in the East and Horn of Africa region, with over 1.2 million new disaster-related displacements and almost 500 000 new conflict-related displacements. Also, the report revealed that floods and storms contributed the most to internal disaster-related displacement, followed by droughts revealing that in sub-Saharan Africa, adaptation costs are estimated at US$ 30–50 billion (2–3% of regional gross domestic product (GDP) each year over the next decade to avoid even higher costs of additional disaster relief. Moreover, the report highlighted that the right of peoples to healthy, culturally appropriate, sustained ecosystems with healthy biodiversity, contributes to food produced without depleting the natural resources, adhering to the rights of people to define their food and agriculture systems. “Worldwide, up to 10 million hectares of agricultural land are lost annually due to severe biodiversity degradation, contributed mainly by deforestation and natural disasters…,” the WMO states.
Evidence from such reports make this new project from the ABN more urgent as life on the land is threatened. The work draws many partner organisations together to make a significant contribution to restoring the ecosystem services and the severely degraded biodiversity, to foster harmonious living of all organisms on the land.