The naturalist Jane Goodall has been announced as the 2021 winner of the Templeton prize in recognition of her life’s work on animal intelligence and humanity. Goodall, 87, built her global reputation on her groundbreaking studies of chimpanzees in Tanzania in the 1960s
One key lesson that ABCG learned at the onset of the Population Health and Environment project was that a difference of perception between actors involved in the activities caused differential levels of engagement. Therefore, one of the most important activity of the project is the mobilization of different stakeholder groups around the project. These mobilization events ensure sufficient and clear understanding of the project’s goals, specific project objectives and expected results.
The Minister of Environment for Rwanda Dr Jeanne d’Arc Mujawamariya and the Africa Protected Areas Congress Secretariat, on Tuesday 20 April 2021, launched the Africa Protected Areas Congress (APAC) in Kigali Rwanda. The APAC initiative, the first of its kind in Africa, will enhance the status of conservation in Africa by engaging governments, the private sector, civil society, indigenous peoples and local communities, and academia to shape Africa’s agenda for Protected and Conserved Areas to better deliver benefits for people and nature.
We join the rest of the world in marking World Water Day celebrated on March 22, 2021 by promoting integrated freshwater conservation and WASH (FW-WASH). This year’s theme on valuing water, raises awareness of the vital importance of water to safeguard human security and maintain the health of the planet’s ecosystems. ABCG is reducing watershed degradation and improving the health of freshwater ecosystems through linking freshwater conservation and water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH).
Community-Based Forest Management (CBFM) is the management, by communities or smallholders, of forests and agroforests they own, as well as the management of state-owned forests (some of which share customary tenure and rights under traditional laws and practice) by communities. The Africa Biodiversity Collaborative Group (ABCG) through its CBFM thematic working group is implementing the Community-Based Forest Management project in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). CBFM builds upon ABCG’s previous work on community forests under the Land and Resource Tenure Rights thematic area and is being implemented by ABCG members, World Resources Institute (WRI) and the Jane Goodall Institute (JGI).
ABCG talked to Prince Baraka, Natural Resources Policy Specialist at WRI to find out more about the project.
1. What is the importance of CBFM in DRC?
DRC is a country endowed with high forest cover with more than a half of the remaining Congo Basin rainforest found in the region (WRI). According to the World Bank, the Congo Basin rainforest is the second-largest tropical forest on Earth and comprises of about 70% of Africa’s forest cover. These forest’s ecosystem products and services supports the livelihoods of millions of people who live in these areas and beyond making CBFM an important management aspect.
In Community-Based Forest Management, the community takes greater ownership in the management and governance of the forests. With limited state resources for forestry management due to the country’s socio-political and socio-economic situation, implementing this project in DRC offers a cheaper and more effective approach to manage forests. Secondly, state governance of forest resources has proven to be challenging and inadequate in ensuring sustainability of forests. It is also a strategy for reducing poverty and improving conservation by empowering communities to manage their forest resources directly.
“Community forestry is an opportunity to explore conservation out of protected areas, and should be used as a tool to improve local governance and the well-being of forests” Prince Baraka
2. What strategy is the project employing in implementing CBFM in DRC?
We are employing two strategies, the first one looks at promoting and understanding best practices in the implementation of CBFM management plans in DRC for improved conservation outcomes. In this, we are trying to encourage a way of valuing community forestry as a conservation tool and equally as a local development tool. The second strategy focuses on better understanding the impacts of CBFM on forest cover in different landscapes through analysis of satellite imagery and other spatial data across diverse CBFM scenarios.
3. Tell us about some of the approaches you are employing in implementing the strategies.
We have been working on enabling the appropriate policy environment that supports CBFM. To this end, we collaborated with DRC’s Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development, and other partners, to develop the Ministerial Decree No. 025 which was signed into law in February 2016. It provides rules governing concession management by forest communities. In 2018 and 2019, WRI supported in the development of another Ministerial order which allowed the environment ministry to create a steering committee for the national strategy on community forestry in DRC. Additionally, we have been working on bringing institutional support and involvement in the development of important model tools such as legal frameworks that would support the implementation of CBFM. Further, we have developed an important guide for managing community forests in DRC, titled ‘Guide opérationnel d’élaboration des plans simples de gestion des concessions forestières des communautés locales’.
4. Elaborate further on the guide, ‘Guide opérationnel d’élaboration des plans simples de gestion des concessions forestières des communautés locales’ and its significance to the success of CBFM.
The name of the guide loosely translates to ‘Guide for the elaboration of simple management plans for forest concessions of local communities’ in English. The guide is a reference tool to assist Local Community Forest Concession (CFCL) user groups to set clear goals for management that will improve quality of life of communities whose forests constitute reserves of biodiversity and forest-dependent livelihoods. This offers an opportunity for them to engage in the project activities thereby being the core actors in managing their resources. The guide was developed by WRI (with co-financing from USAID CARPE SCAEMPS program) in collaboration with the Division of Community Forestry and was validated by stakeholders in Kinshasa, DRC in May 2019. In collaboration with the Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development, translation of the guide into local languages is ongoing. It will serve as the basis for WRI-led distribution to local actors and awareness raising on its application.
5. What are the positive outcomes witnessed as a result of using the guide and model tools developed?
One successful outcome has been the acceptance and validation of the guide by the highest political level, the Minister of Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development, and communities in Maniema and Kwilu Provinces. The adoption of these model tools has further led to an increase in the number of community forests attained, efficiency in administration service delivery in the provinces, and governance processes are now improved and harmonized.
6. What is the value-add to community members being involved in the project and in which provinces is CBFM being implemented?
By being involved in CBFM activities, community members make actors aware of their needs and concerns. This helps in the design and delivery of interventions that are beneficial to community members such as establishment of Local Community Forest Concession governance structures. Secondly, it enables communities to realize the importance of biodiversity conservation through their active involvement in the whole process of implementing the simple management plan. Lastly, involving communities promotes responsibility, better management of community forests, resource efficiency and reduces management costs for the government and partners as the activities are done by community members themselves. The CBFM project is being carried out in several provinces namely Maniema, Maindombe, Kwilu, Tshopo, Tshuapa, Mongala, North-Kivu and Equateur.
7. Who are some of your local partners in implementing CBFM in DRC?
The partnerships we form are critical for the success of our work, in implementing CBFM, we have partnered with Groupe d’Action pour Sauver l’Homme et son Environnement (GASHE) in Equateur, Réseau pour la Conservation et la Réhabilitation des Ecosystèmes Forestiers (Réseau CREF) in North Kivu, Centre d’Appui à la Gestion Durable des Forêts Tropicales (CAGDFT) and Conseil pour la défense environnementale par la légalité et la traçabilité (CODELT).
8. What are the challenges faced in implementing this project?
Encountering resistance from local communities who refuse to let go of their land can pose a big challenge to this work. Resistance can also come from movements of environmental civil society organizations who regards this process as a dispossession of communities from their land. Therefore, it is difficult to create community forests under the status of a national park, as this option is negatively perceived by the communities. This explains why we are moving more and more towards the creation of reserves and community conservation areas, because it is essential to have the support of local communities who customarily own their forests. Currently, with a view to guaranteeing the preservation of biodiversity, the forest concessions of local communities are considered to be an opportunity to extend conservation areas outside protected areas.
9. Which technique is WRI using to reach and engage with communities during this period of the
WRI staff now have less interaction with the communities and other partners due to the set COVID-19 guidelines. Communication challenges as a result of limited internet access further makes it difficult to engage with the communities as well as implement the planned activities on the ground. To continue our operations during this period, we are working more closely with local NGOs who are able to reach the communities and incorporate the use of the tools we helped to develop.
10. What would you recommend other actors to put emphasis on to ensure the success of CBFM?
It is important for all actors to ensure that community forestry effectively contributes to biodiversity conservation and local development particularly by promoting the local economic fabric through enhancement of natural resources. Promoting the economic benefits to communities is important in increasing the economic value of community forests that contributes to better management of the natural resources.
To learn more about essentials of making community forestry work in the Democratic Republic of Congo, read, In the Democratic Republic of Congo, 3 Essentials for Making Community Forestry Work, by WRI.
Over the years we have experienced a rising trend in emergence of zoonotic diseases such as MERS, SARS, Ebola and now COVID-19. These diseases are as a result of virus transmission from animals or insects to the human population. The occurrence of zoonotic diseases especially COVID-19 is a reminder of the interrelationship between human beings and nature. It is another step towards the realization that exploitation of natural resources by people can have a negative impact on our health, economies and ecosystem.
World Wildlife Fund’s WWF international science team conducted a review of scientific and government literature to determine where and how nature and zoonotic pathogen pathways intersect. During a webinar presentation of WWF’s literature review dubbed ‘Beyond Boundaries: Emerging zoonotic diseases, nature and human well-being’, Rebecca Shaw, Chief Scientist, WWF highlighted the three critical drivers accelerating the emergence of zoonotic diseases as:
- Land-use change for agriculture which results in degradation of nature
- Intensification and expansion of agriculture and animal production to meet increasing demand for animal protein worldwide
- High-risk trade and consumption of wild meat as a delicacy or alternative protein
According to the review, the outcomes of these activities are increased exposure and vulnerability of humans to animal pathogens. Since the pathogens that cause these diseases keep mutating, the increased frequency of interaction between animals and humans poses more danger increasing the probability of zoonosis.
The covid-19 pandemic has demonstrated the importance of a collective response by governments, civil society organizations, industries and the public towards transformative action to protect natural ecosystems thereby preventing future pandemics. In a report ‘COVID-19: Urgent Call to Protect People and Nature’, WWF calls upon these sectors to promote the recovery of natural ecosystems and create a nature positive world by 2030. The organization has put forward three recommendations that will help avoid future pandemics:
- Stop illegal, unregulated and high-risk wildlife trade and consumption
- Support sustainable food systems that stop encroachment on nature
- Build a more sustainable relationship between people and nature through sustainable and just economic recovery approaches with defined and holistic goals
Africa is thought to be the most vulnerable continent to climate change given its predominately climate-dependent livelihoods, extensive water-stressed populations, and low adaptive capacity. Weak economies, institutions, and governance structures all contribute to the low adaptive capacity. Human activities have been a leading cause of climate change through activities such as fossil fuel burning and deforestation. Among the major climate change impacts include variations in rainfall patterns, extreme weather, habitat loss, and new disease challenges.
Climate change has direct impacts on ecosystems and biodiversity, but may also indirectly impact nature through human adaptation responses which are less understood. Through its Managing Global Change Impacts working group, the Africa Biodiversity Collaborative Group (ABCG) has surveyed coping responses of human communities to climate change in 10 African countries as well as the biodiversity impacts of those responses.
A survey by ABCG in Tanzania revealed that communities are experiencing hotter, drier, windier, and unpredictable seasonality due to climate change. ABCG member, the African Wildlife Foundation (AWF), led the survey in Tanzania’s Kilombero Valley, an internationally significant biodiversity area in 2017. AWF interviewed key informants who were able to offer an overview of community circumstances across the valley. Findings from the survey revealed that many communities responses to climate change are having a negative impact on biodiversity compounding the global crisis.
Located in the southern part of Tanzania, the Kilombero Valley is an important ecosystem supporting the livelihoods of the local communities living in the area and other parts of the country. The valley sustains a vibrant agricultural sector, is home to a Ramsar site, and separates the Selous Game Reserve and the largest block of Eastern Arc Mountains which features several protected areas.
Climate observations and livelihood impacts
Community members cited significant climate impacts on their livelihoods including extensive crop failures due to lack of water, increased human-wildlife conflict from crop-raiding by wildlife, an increased prevalence of diseases in humans and livestock, and decreased fish harvests.
Impacts on biodiversity
To cope with these climate-induced changes, communities are clearing natural areas to expand cropland in a bid to increase their harvest, overgrazing areas with their livestock, and illegally hunting wildlife. Collectively these responses are having undesirable impacts on biodiversity particularly due to agriculture expansion into previously natural areas. A study published in 2019 that analysed the land cover changes of the Kilombero Valley in the last 30 years found that at least 60% of Kilombero Valley wetlands have been converted to cultivated land. Local wildlife populations such as the endangered and endemic puku are declining as their habitat is reduced or degraded and they face heightened hunting pressure. The valley has experienced an overall decline in wildlife abundance and diversity.
Nature plays a crucial role in providing essential goods and service to humanity. From food provision, timber, tourism, to delivering water for hydropower. Efforts that would support to restore and preserve the rich biodiversity of the Kilombero Valley through supporting communities in stopping practices that contribute to its degradation are important in securing and preserving the health of the valley.
Promoting alternative response
Community members participating in the reforestation activity in Mngeta Valley, Tanzania, organized by the African Wildlife Foundation and the Tanzania Forest Working Group
In 2019, AWF and partners organized community meetings to discuss the survey findings and formulate alternative but effective responses to climate change that will not have negative impacts on biodiversity. A forest restoration assessment performed by AWF and partners identified 38,656 ha of degraded areas in Kilombero’s Mngeta Valley suited to methods such as agroforestry, reforestation, afforestation, natural regeneration and riparian rehabilitation.
Guided by the assessment, AWF and the Tanzania Forest Working Group launched a reforestation activity targeting 1500 hectares involving communities in the Mngeta Valley in February 2020 where 22,347 tree seedlings were planted. Another 35,000 seedlings are yet to planted later in 2020. The reforested area will improve water provisioning to support agriculture and other activities while helping to reestablish ecological connectivity between the Kilombero Nature Reserve and Uzungwa Nature Forest Reserve where the valley lies.
The loss and destruction of natural habitat has been on the rise over the last decades. ABCG is working to stop this destruction by working together with the communities to develop interventions that would support them cope with climate change without affecting biodiversity.
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For more information about the ABCG Global Change Impact work: Why its Important to Understand the effects of Humans Comping Responses to Climate Change on Nature
Climate change survey country reports: Climate Crowd
The Africa Biodiversity Collaborative Group (ABCG) is a consortium of seven international conservation non-governmental organizations (NGOs): African Wildlife Foundation (AWF), Conservation International (CI), the Jane Goodall Institute (JGI), The Nature Conservancy (TNC), Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), World Resources Institute (WRI) and World Wildlife Fund (WWF). ABCG is supported by USAID to advance understanding of critical conservation challenges and their solutions in sub-Saharan Africa.
On April 22, 2020 the world celebrated Earth day, marking its 50th anniversary. The event reminded us the great task that we have as humanity of protecting our environment. This year’s celebrations come at a point in time when the world is fighting the effects of Corona virus, a global pandemic that has demonstrated how our survival on earth is very much dependent on how we take care of our planet. Scientists further warn that future pandemics could even be deadlier if we don’t take action now and protect our environment.
This news round is a compilation of insights and opinion pieces on the importance of nature protection amidst the pandemic shared by experts working in ABCG member organizations and other partners.
One of the assured ways for protecting ourselves against the pandemic is through proper hand washing and sanitation. Two ABCG’s FW-WASH task members from Conservation International, working on activities to integrate freshwater conservation (FW) and Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) so as to improve both conservation and human health outcomes, reflect on the current pandemic and their work.
- Coronavirus Drives Home the Importance of Hand Washing
- Advocacy for WASH in Watersheds is Needed Now More Than Ever in the COVID-19 Era
Time to renew the relationship between people and nature
Earth Day comes at a time when we are in the midst of the COVID-19 global health crisis that has infected over 2.5 million people and killed over 175,000 people worldwide. Today’s health crisis highlights the urgent need for an in-depth reflection on the relationship between human beings and nature, the risks associated with current economic development pathways, and how we can better protect ourselves and enhance our resilience to future pandemics. Today on Earth Day, we call on African leaders to come together to secure a New Deal for Nature and People that prioritises a coordinated approach across human and environmental health. Source, medium.
Conservation in crisis: ecotourism collapse threatens communities and wildlife
From the vast plains of the Masai Mara in Kenya to the delicate corals of the Aldabra atoll in the Seychelles, conservation work to protect some of the world’s most important ecosystems is facing crisis following a collapse in ecotourism during the Covid-19 pandemic. Throughout the pandemic, scientists have repeatedly urged humanity to reset its relationship with nature or suffer worse outbreaks. But the economic consequences of the Covid-19 lockdown have raised fears of a surge in poaching, illegal fishing and deforestation in life-sustaining ecosystems, with tens of thousands of jobs in the ecotourism sector at risk around the world. Source, the guardian.
To prevent the next pandemic, we must transform our relationship with nature
The transmission of zoonotic diseases from animals to humans has long been recognised as a serious threat by global health experts. Studies show that 75% of all emerging diseases come from wildlife, with recent years witnessing the emergence of SARS (from civet cats), MERS (from dromedary camels) and Ebola. In order to prevent the next pandemic, then, it is crucial that we greatly reduce the opportunities for viruses to jump from animals to people. First and foremost, the loss and degradation of natural habitats must be recognised as a key driver of emerging infectious diseases from wildlife. Source, medium.
Conservationists fear African animal poaching will increase during COVID-19 pandemic
The coronavirus pandemic has disrupted tourism the globe over, grounding travelers and shutting down nonessential businesses. For Matt Brown of the Nature Conservancy, that spells trouble for the wildlife the environmental organization works to protect. Until now, tourism was on the rise in Africa. Some 67 million tourists visited Africa in 2018, up 7% from the year before, according to the World Tourism Organization’s latest international tourism report. But in recent weeks, tourism — along with life as hundreds of millions of people know it — has ground to a halt across Africa. Source, abcnews.
Quarantining also means caring for our great ape relatives
Gorillas and other great apes are particularly susceptible to pathogens from humans, and the coronavirus responsible for COVID-19 poses a very serious risk to their survival. Protecting our closest wild relatives and closing wildlife markets for human consumption are both critical steps towards ensuring healthy futures for all, writes Elizabeth L. Bennett, Vice President for Species Conservation, Wildlife Conservation Society. Source, IUCN.
Authored by Colleen Sorto, Director, Development Partnerships, Center for Communities and Conservation, Conservation International and ABCG’s FW-WASH task lead.
Like everyone, COVID-19 is never far from my mind these days. I’ve been taking small actions from my computer by resharing vital handwashing and other water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) behavior messaging. Thinking about the communities we work with around the world who lack reliable access to clean water, I’ve been scouring the internet for advice from partners in the WASH sector working on the front lines.
During my search, a colleague at IRC asked if I was interested in joining a webinar about advocacy and COVID-19 that they were hosting among their Watershed partners. To be honest, I was kind of surprised. Why would I be thinking about policy changes needed to integrate plans for WASH and protecting water sources at a time like this? As governments battle the virus, what could an organization like Conservation International (CI) offer?
As Watershed colleagues on the webinar “Adapting your advocacy to COVID-19 health crisis” shared their experiences, I quickly concluded that perhaps we had more to contribute than I thought.
With support from the US Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Africa Biodiversity Collaborative Group (ABCG), CI and partners are developing advocacy strategy resources to help promote the benefits of cross-sectoral (i.e. conservation and WASH) policies. Conservation South Africa, CI’s local affiliate, is applying the methodology in the Alfred Nzo District Municipality of South Africa’s Eastern Cape Province. The Jane Goodall Institute is piloting the methodology in local villages in the Albertine Rift region of Hoima and Masindi Districts in Uganda. And ABCG’s Nairobi-based Community of Practice aims to build capacity in sub-Saharan Africa, led by CI and the ABCG Secretariat, for advancing integrated freshwater conservation-WASH projects.
As I listened to colleagues from Kenya, Bangladesh and Ghana, I was struck by three thoughts about our collective steps to respond to the virus and to act to protect communities involved in CI’s WASH in Watersheds initiatives.
- At this moment of crisis, WASH comes first. WASH saves lives. Our work to strengthen the connection between healthy, freshwater ecosystems and healthy people means we are committed “banner carriers” for WASH. It’s essential for the well-being of the communities where CI works. The increased vulnerability of communities without WASH face from COVID-19 only further emphasizes that point.
- Don’t pause, prepare. It feels like now is the time to take a pause on our advocacy plans, but actually we should be preparing for what will come next. After the world has responded to the immediate needs of the COVID-19 crisis, recovery plans will need to be developed and coordinated among global, national and local governments for economies, people and – we hope – nature. We need to be prepared to make the case for why safeguarding freshwater ecosystems needs to be part of all recovery plans, or we will be even more vulnerable.
- People need nature to thrive. One day, hopefully soon, the corona virus crisis will be behind us. Social media is prompting those of us hunkered down at home to be thinking if we as humanity need to define a “new normal.” Did this happen because we lost the balance between our needs and nature? CI has first-hand experience developing solutions for people and nature to thrive together. Our work in community-led restoration of rangelands, co-developing integrated health and ecosystem behavior change resources, and empowering local champions to manage shared water resources can be pathways for recovery and resetting our relationship with Mother Nature.
Many thanks to IRC for hosting the webinar and spurring colleagues to thoughtfully revise and update our advocacy strategies to respond to the new challenges we face due to COVID-19. I take to heart the lesson about doing our homework to be ready and will prepare for opportunities for watershed conservation to be integrated into our plans to heal and recover together.
Read ABCG’s advocacy efforts: Why is Advocacy Key to Natural Resource Management?
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