Africa Set to Lose 50 Percent of Birdlife, Unless Land Areas Are Protected

(File photo).

The world faces an environmental disaster. In the last 50 years 60% of wildlife has disappeared, we're losing more than 18 million acres of forest every year and 1/3 of global fish stocks have been depleted due overfishing.

In Africa the situation is even worse and by 2050 we are set to lose 50% of all bird and mammal populations and see a 20-30% decline in the productivity of Africa's lakes. In addition, an estimated 500,000 square kilometres of African land has been degraded by overexploitation of natural resources, erosion, salinsation and pollution.

The severity of these numbers often fails to be properly understood. This rapid loss of biodiversity, and our extreme vulnerability to the impacts of climate change, will have the greatest impact upon communities which are already economically marginalised and can least afford it.

This was the backdrop to over 90 government representatives and non-governmental organisations meeting in Addis Ababa last week to develop the post-2020 Biodiversity Framework, convened by the UN's Convention of Bio-Diversity (CBD).

Home to some of the world's most diverse ecosystems, it is time for Africa to take the lead in the fight to protect our natural world. We must convert the abundance of goodwill and proactive energy from community groups into action from our political leaders.

What was unanimous amongst delegates was that the current framework, outlined by the Aichi Targets, had not gone far enough and that we must work collectively to ensure that the new Post-2020 framework is our most ambitions and innovative yet.

Until now many have failed to realise that across Africa bio-diversity is inextricably linked to the livelihoods, health, and food and water sources of our citizens. This fight is about more than just protecting the 'Big Five', Africa's immense natural resources and our rich cultural heritage are our most valuable assets.

For this reason, it is vital that any Post-2020 Framework is reflective of the urgent needs from the many indigenous groups that rely on bio-diversity to thrive. Most notably women, youth, and local communities, who have often been overlooked or excluded from attempts to conserve our natural resources. The best custodians of ecosystems are the individuals living within them.

There is one solution to the bio-diversity crisis that offers a clear opportunity to empower local communities and promote bio-diversity at the same time – protected areas.

For many, the term protected areas can conjure up images of fences, boundaries and exclusion. However, many African nations, such as Namibia, Botswana and Kenya have been pioneering community led conservation areas with remarkable results.

By creating community managed protected areas and promoting grassroots solutions we can encourage equitable benefit sharing, empower vulnerable communities and provide sustainable income for many.

It is estimated that the value of services provided by nature each year stands at $125 trillion - imagine the employment and socio-economic development opportunities in Africa if we worked together to harness this value.

That's why organisations such as the Campaign for Nature and their goal to protect 30% of land and seas by 2030 are so important, IPBES's most recent report clearly outlined that African government efforts to protect biodiversity and its contributions to people must be enhanced.

The integration of indigenous and local knowledge into these efforts and an increase in community led protected areas must be at the forefront of the Post-2020 Framework.

The Campaign for Nature is a global effort to raise awareness of the threats facing our natural world and inspire world leaders to take action to protect it. Launched in October 2018, the Wyss Campaign for Nature , the National Geographic Society, The Nature Conservancy and a growing coalition of conservation advocates are calling on policymakers to commit to clear and ambitious targets at the Convention on Biological Diversity's Conference of the Parties in October 2020 to protect at least 30 percent of the planet by 2030. This commitment is a critical milestone toward preserving the half of the planet that remains in its natural state and represents our best opportunity to protect the ecosystems that are critical to our survival.

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