Sustainability for ABN as a platform advocating for cultural and ecological diversity for people in Africa lies in establishing country nodes wherever its Partners are.  JOHN WILSON elucidates why doing so augurs well for ‘going back to roots’ by enhancing local, regional, continental and international linkages.

I have been involved with ABN since 2007. It took a number of meetings and years to begin to understand what ABN is all about. I don’t claim that I fully understand now but I have had the privilege to be part of many discussions about ABN and to see ‘ABN work’ on the ground in a number of different places.

Quoting from the ABN 2012 Evaluation, I think that “ABN offers a unique, very African, approach to sustainability and community resilience, rooted in traditional practices. The premise is that cultural and ecological diversity are intricately bound together and that only through restoring people’s strong and deep sense of connectedness to Nature and all that lies within it will people in Africa find ways to be resilient and to sustain their land and their natural resources.”

I believe that there are many people across Africa, despite the ongoing onslaught of the ‘Western/industrial’ way of life and values, who empathise with what ABN stands for. I would also love to see ABN sowing seeds for its own longer-term sustainability. We discussed this at a follow-up meeting in November and concluded that this ability to keep going into the future would/could hinge around establishing something along the lines of country nodes; and perhaps, especially in big countries, taking that further to a more local e.g. provincial or equivalent level.
ABN has been finding its way for more than a decade now. It is on the map. It has found and linked up a band of empathetic people across the continent. There are some differences in perspective but there is also a lot of common direction and identity, perhaps captured best in the first draft of the ABN Principles that Partners developed together in June 2015. The time seems ripe to work on establishing some kind of linking set up at country level. How this happens will need thinking through, and perhaps a first generic approach could be developed, to be adapted to each different context. One might ask, why is this coming from me and not the Secretariat or Board? I think that this process needs to be driven from the country level if it is going to root itself well and needs individuals and groups to take this task on, of course with back-up support from the Secretariat.

There are now enough individuals across the continent who could start taking this on in their own countries. Perhaps it might only happen in a few countries at first, but that would be a start.

The longer-term vision of ABN is to be a ‘Network of communities’ across the continent. However, to get there will need constant catalysing of actions and lots of learning from experience. We need to root the potential for this catalysing at the country, and more local level; while at the same time keeping up the regional, continental and international linkages. Many people across countries in Africa are still connected to their home rural area even if they do not live there now. They have strong ties to these rural areas. This is where their ancestry lies. ABN has always talked about ‘going back to roots’. These two notions seem to tie well.Below are the ABN Principles

It starts with each of us
Strengthening individuals to share and deepen their personal conviction, determination, understanding of, and commitment to ABN’s philosophy and practice as a basis of all ABN’s work.

Our work with communities
Recognising the devastating impact of colonisation and industrialisation, we accompany communities we work with in a patient, non-prescriptive and potentising way that draws particularly on the knowledge of Elders towards deep level transformation.

Those on the edge
Emphasising recognition of those who are marginalised by today’s modern world and bringing to light their knowledge and beauty as well as helping them to know their rights.

Learning towards practice
Developing an expanding range of methodologies and practice that are based on experiential learning and African traditional knowledge systems and which validate traditional knowledge and build confidence.

Ethical documentation
Documenting rigorously, carefully, selectively and creatively the experiences of our work, whilst always seeking permission from those we work with, following community protocols and sharing information back to the sources.

Building alliances towards a stronger global movement
Reaching out to work collaboratively with those who we recognise as allies in the bigger struggle and movement towards healthy communities and ecosystems across Africa.

Bringing in new Partners
Continually seeking out and actively supporting new Partners, communities and individuals to bring into the ABN fold.

Networking amongst Partners
Partners and the Secretariat taking up the responsibility to share often and openly their experiences, knowledge and skills with each other, towards a strong sense of collective ownership for the Network.

ABN gatherings
All ABN events, at whatever level, should strive to reflect ABN’s deeply felt respect towards and celebration of Nature and diverse African cultures.

Our institution
Having an effective and well-run organisation that is transparent and accountable while reflecting the
Pan-African value of Ubuntu