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
Happy #WorldWildlifeDay. The 2021, World Wildlife Day theme is, Forests and Livelihoods: Sustaining People and Planet, that highlight the central role of forests, forest species and ecosystems services in sustaining the livelihoods of hundreds of millions of people globally, and particularly of Indigenous and local communities with historic ties to forested and forest-adjacent areas.
Climate change impacts continues to loom as a major threat and uncertainty that has and will continue to add to the challenge of ensuring healthy and resilient systems across the globe.
Six years ago, in 2015, ABCG’s Global Change Impact working group began the process of understanding how communities are impacted by, and responding to climate change. The study was carried out in 10 countries in sub-Saharan Africa and revealed that these communities, like in many other parts of the world, are being negatively impacted by the effects of changes in weather and climate. Faced with these severe impacts, communities are finding ways of adapting and responding to climate change to reduce the harsh impacts of climate change on their livelihoods. As these communities adapt, the impacts to biodiversity need to be understood.
The study results showed that 35% of the adaptation responses conducted by local communities have a negative impact on biodiversity. Adaptation responses such as, increasing farm size by encroaching to natural habitats and overexploitation of resources are damaging to the ecosystem. Further, these responses are spontaneous and limit the community’s ability to adapt to long-term climate changes.
In Tanzania the impacts of climate change are driving extreme weather events such as drought and flooding, contribute to soil erosion, loss of native species, and allowing invasive species and diseases to flourish. ABCG member, The Nature Conservancy (TNC), led and carried out surveys in a number of villages in the Moduli District of Northern Tanzania. TNC observed that the way community members are responding to climate change, for instance through seeking alternative livelihoods and migrating to other areas such as natural reserves contributes to indirect and negative impacts on biodiversity.
In northern Tanzania, the indirect impacts observed as result of responding to climate change include, habitat loss and degradation due to expansion of cultivation and activities such as overgrazing that are causing a reduction of wildlife and reduced livestock productivity. The grasslands of Northern Tanzania are famous for being home to, and supporting wildlife and livestock populations through grazing. These indirect effects to climate change on biodiversity affect the entire ecological system and therefore pose a major challenge in communities’ resilience to climate change. A rich and healthy biodiversity is an important defense in controlling and mitigating the negative impacts of climate change.
Survey results showed that the invasive species Dichrostachys cinerea was dominating 75% of grazing lands in northern Tanzania. This invasive species was affecting the landscape’s ability to provide integrated grazing lands for pastoralists and seasonal habitat for wildlife by degrading both grassland and soil. According to nature.org, “…when these non-native (invasive) plants establish themselves in our local ecosystems, they outcompete and dislodge species that have evolved specifically to live there.” These plants affect the ecosystem by degrading soils and decreasing forage.
Community Engagement in Adaptation Response
To help communities adapt to climate change while at the same time protect and preserve biodiversity, in 2019, ABCG together with community members and other stakeholders began identifying on the ground adaptation projects in these surveyed communities.
In Monduli District, northern Tanzania, TNC together with community members, local leaders and other stakeholders convened a series of workshops and meetings to discuss climate change threats, rank them and come up with adaptation projects to implement. This process offered an opportunity for the communities and local actors to have a say and co-create, with ABCG members, solutions that offer an opportunity to safeguard their livelihoods against the impacts of climate change while protecting biodiversity.
In an area whose economy is largely supported by livestock production, controlling invasive species was observed as a highly essential and priority intervention by the stakeholders. The main objective of the invasive species remediation project was to uproot Dichrostachys cinerea within 20-40 hectares in two communities. Other interventions that were prioritized in the area included, planting trees and grasses, and building a living wall to protect livestock from wildlife attacks.
Building Resilience in Communities
In 2020, community members and TNC started the process of mechanically uprooting the species. As at today, over 50 hectares in the project area has been cleared of the invasive species. These efforts have seen the reemergence of native grasses in the area which in turn will increase livestock productivity. Other benefits as a result of controlling invasive species include improving ecosystem resilience and soil protection.
Agricultural dependent communities are particularly vulnerable to climate change. The role of community members, village leaders and local actors who are directly and adversely affected by climate change in coming up with solutions to tackling climate change is critical in coming up with tailor made solutions that can be owned, and implemented together with them. This not only ensures that pressing community needs are addressed but it enables them to be part of the fight against climate change while owing the initiatives.
Tackling climate change will only be possible when we are able to maintain a rich and healthy biodiversity. ABCG is implementing these adaptation projects that so that both people and nature can thrive. These projects help build resilient communities as they adapt to climate change and safeguard their livelihoods while building a safer future for our generation and future generations.
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UNEP Launches a New Scientific Blueprint to Tackle the Climate, Biodiversity and Pollution Emergencies
On Thursday February 18, 2021 UN Secretary-General António Guterres and UNEP Executive Director Inger Andersen officially launched a new report, Making Peace with Nature by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP). The report was released ahead of the fifth UN Environment Assembly in an online press briefing.
In its official communication of the report, UNEP noted that, “this new report is a scientific blueprint to tackle the climate, biodiversity and pollution emergencies. It flags the interlinkages between our environmental and development challenges and describes the roles of all parts of society in the transformations needed for a sustainable future.
“The report, lays out the gravity of the three environmental crises – climate, biodiversity and pollution – by drawing on global assessments, including those from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, as well as UNEP’s Global Environment Outlook report, the UNEP International Resource Panel, and new findings on the emergence of zoonotic diseases such as COVID-19.” UNEP.
The COVID-19 pandemic and other global crisis have shown that human beings are dependent on nature to thrive and survive and that it’s in our best interest to protect nature.
While speaking at the launch of the report, UN Secretary-General António Guterres said, “the global economy has grown fivefold in the past five decades but at massive costs to the environment. Governments are still paying more to exploit nature than to protect it, spending 4 to 6 trillion dollars a year on subsidies that damage the environment. We need to transform how we view and value nature reflecting its true value in all our policies, plans and economic systems.
“The only answer is sustainable development that elevates the wellbeing of both people and nature.
“The report shows that we have the knowledge to live in harmony with nature. Bottom line is that we need to transform how we view and value nature.
Report foreword note by UN Secretary-General António Guterres:
This report provides the bedrock for hope. By bringing together the latest scientific evidence showing the impacts and threats of the climate emergency, the biodiversity crisis and the pollution that kills millions of people every year, it makes clear that our war on nature has left the planet broken. But it also guides us to a safer place by providing a peace plan and a post-war rebuilding programme. By transforming how we view nature, we can recognize its true value. By reflecting this value in policies, plans and economic systems, we can channel investments into activities that restore nature and are rewarded for it. By recognizing nature as an indispensable ally, we can unleash human ingenuity in the service of sustainability and secure our own health and well-being alongside that of the planet.
2020 Achievements, Lessons and Plans for 2021: ABCG Freshwater Conservation and WASH Task Lead Shares
In December 2020, the ABCG FW-WASH task lead, Colleen Sorto, who is also the director of development partnerships at Conservation International, shared a special year-end message reflecting on the year that was coming to an end, and the inspiring work that the task group is looking forward to in 2021. In the message, Colleen shared how the task group made significant progress in pushing forward for the integration of freshwater conservation and Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (FW-WASH) despite the global challenges. In Uganda for example, a mandate was established at the district level to coordinate and create new tools so that water projects can both include consideration for WASH and environmental conservation. In South Africa, the task group received additional budget and funding for their activities from the district government because of the project intervention connection to WASH investment. Watch the 2 minutes video as well as read the transcript below:
Colleen Sorto year-end message
Hi, I’m Colleen Sorto, I’m the director of development partnerships based at Conservation International’s headquarters in the United States, I’m also the ABCG task lead for the theme on integration of freshwater ecosystem conservation and Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene, also known as WASH. Our task aims to improve the coordination between these two groups of the water sector (freshwater ecosystem conservation and WASH). Our work is focused on field demonstration of successful integrated models, educating community stewards and government champions on these connections, and advocating for policy funding or planning changes to enable integration at a larger scale.
Despite Covid-19, our task members still had some great achievement in 2020. In South Africa, the Conservation South Africa method of clearing alien invasive plants, which both support natural resource management strategies but also increase the availability of water, received additional budget and funding from the district government because of its connection to WASH investment.
In Uganda a mandate was established at the district level to coordinate and create new tools so that water projects can both include consideration for WASH and environmental conservation.
These achievements would not have been possible without our previous efforts with local communities to demonstrate what this looks like in practice.
In 2021, we are going to be releasing a lessons learned report that outlines additional learning from the advocacy process which we hope others in sub-Saharan Africa can benefit from as they also work to improve and promote integrated models of water resource management.
As this year comes to a close and we enter 2021, we sincerely hope to see more conservation and development practitioners adopt integrated approaches to protecting human and ecosystem health. And we hope that our work can continue to inform but also share with practitioners who are looking to grow the FW-WASH community of practice.
2020 has been a challenging year globally. At the same time, it has provided an opportunity to reflect and envision new possibilities for the future of conservation in Africa and beyond. We have been reminded of the great need to live in harmony with nature and to do our best to ensure that biodiversity is protected and preserved for the greater good of all.
A key focus for ABCG this year has been to take a closer look within, and explore our value and niche in a shifting conservation landscape so as to develop a stronger and more sustainable collaboration. We reflect on some of our accomplishments and challenges in this newsletter, ABCG 2020 Highlights
Translating On-The-Ground Successes into Policy Action: Advocating For Integrated Freshwater Conservation and WASH in Uganda
JGI Robert Atugonza presenting a progress report on the FW-WASH project to the workshop participants during training of the Sectoral Committee in Masindi, Uganda on the tools developed to integrate FW-WASH. Photo credit: Edirisa Isabirye
The Africa Biodiversity Collaborative Group (ABCG) aims to reduce watershed degradation and pollution by linking Freshwater conservation and Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (FW-WASH), thereby improving the health of freshwater ecosystems. ABCG’s FW-WASH task group is applying FW-WASH integration tools that have been developed over the course of the project to engage local community actors in development activities. These activities are geared at mitigating impacts and provide compensation for biodiversity loss to deliver positive conservation outcomes.
The project is now translating on-the-ground successes in policy action and have developed key advocacy resources to advance this work to the next level. One key tool being used by the task group is the ‘Freshwater Conservation and WASH Advocacy Strategy Workshop Facilitator’s Guide’. This guide lays out steps that conservation, WASH, development and conservation practitioners can use to develop an effective advocacy strategy that can enable them deliver positive conservation outcomes. This guide was developed by IRC and ABCG members (Jane Goodall Institute (JGI) and Conservation International). In addition to the advocacy strategy guide, the task group has developed guidelines and tools for integrating Environmental Conservation into FW-WASH activities. These tools include: i) Environment impact monitoring form, ii) Environmental and social management plan, iii) Environment certificate; and iv) Reporting (screening) tool on WASH.
In Uganda’s Hoima and Masindi District, JGI is using these resources to translate on-the-ground successes into policy action. JGI Uganda with the help of the local communities is advocating for the inclusion of integrated FW-WASH in planning, budgeting, implementation and reporting by the District Water Council.
JGI Uganda conducted a workshop in October 13-14, 2020 that was aimed at sensitizing, training and enrolling political leadership of the district as FW-WASH champions who appreciates the need of conserving freshwater ecosystems. And secondly, to secure approval of the tools to integrate environmental conservation into WASH activities developed by ABCG in 2019 and later on adopted by the Works and Technical Services Committee (DWSSC). This was intended to develop a consensus on the need to present a policy proposal to the District Council that will guarantee Integrated Water Resource Management (IWRM) actions in all capital development projects implemented by the district.
This workshop targeted the Masindi District Production, Natural Resources, Works and Technical services Communities (DPNRWTSC) and District Technical Staff who will implement the FW-WASH tools once approved by the District Council. The participants took part in workshop discussions and a field visit to have a practical experience of how the tools will be used. They visited two sites, a protected spring in Pakanyi Sub County and a borehole in Mirya Sub County which have WASH infrastructure. This presented an opportunity to pretest the planning and monitoring tools whereby each team member was asked to identify the environmental impacts of the infrastructure and their mitigation measures.
Activities conducted during the workshop resulted in the Sectoral Committee approving the tools. Secondly, it was resolved that the tools be presented to the District Executive Committee and Council for a policy to be developed.
With these advocacy efforts, ABCG hopes to be able to put in place a district level mandate for FW-WASH, mechanisms for coordination, and tools to facilitate the delivery of water projects that include both WASH and environmental conservation.
Read more about ABCG’s efforts to integrate FW-WASH:
The November 2020 Quarterly News Digest features the latest news of The Africa Biodiversity Collaborative Group (ABCG). This issue highlights how organizations can and should embrace integration to help people and nature build back better from the effects of Covid-19.
It also shares some of the milestones ABCG has achieved during this quarter such as the launch of the Freshwater Conservation and WASH Advocacy Strategy Workshop Facilitator’s Guide. The guide can be used by conservation, WASH, and development practitioners to develop an effective advocacy strategy that can enable them to deliver positive conservation outcomes.
Read the News Digest to know more about ABCG’s impact and access resources, including the recordings of our past webinars.
The new WWF 2020 Living Planet Report reveals that there has been a two-thirds decline in wildlife populations on average since 1970 and calls for urgent action to end the destruction of natural habitats for the health and well-being of humanity and nature.
From the executive summary
‘The global Living Planet Index (LPI) continues to decline. It shows an average 68% decrease in population sizes of mammals, birds, amphibians, reptiles and fish between 1970 and 2016. A 94% decline in the LPI for the tropical subregions of the Americas is the largest fall observed in any part of the world.
Why does this matter?
‘It matters because biodiversity is fundamental to human life on Earth, and the evidence is unequivocal – it is being destroyed by us at a rate unprecedented in history. Since the industrial revolution, human activities have increasingly destroyed and degraded forests, grasslands, wetlands and other important ecosystems, threatening human well-being. Seventy-five per cent of the Earth’s ice-free land surface has already been significantly altered, most of the oceans are polluted, and more than 85% of the area of wetlands has been lost.
Our World in 2020
‘In the last 50 years our world has been transformed by an explosion in global trade, consumption and human population growth, as well as an enormous move towards urbanisation. These underlying trends are driving the unrelenting destruction of nature, with humanity now overusing our natural capital at an unprecedented rate. Only a handful of countries retain most of the last remaining wilderness areas. As a result of our 21st century lifestyles our natural world is transforming more rapidly than ever before, and climate change is further accelerating the change.
‘Global economic growth in the last half century has changed our world unrecognisably, driving exponential health, knowledge and standard-of-living improvements. Yet this has come at a huge cost to nature and the stability of the Earth’s operating systems that sustain us.
‘Social and economic globalisation are undoubtedly the most important forces shaping contemporary societies. Since 1970, total gross domestic product (GDP) has increased four times, the extraction of living materials from nature has tripled and, in total, the global human population has doubled along with an enormous trend towards urbanisation.
‘People living in cities now account for 50% of the global population. In the last 50 years this number has increased more rapidly, by 30%, in developing and least developed countries where many live in slums lacking resources and access to public services. Yet, in the same time period, child mortality decreased overall, more sharply in least developed countries (350% decrease); and caloric intake increased globally by 20%, even though many people in least developed countries are still below the thresholds recommended by the World Health Organization.
‘Migration has also changed the face of our planet. More than 260 million migrants have entered other countries since 1970, mainly developed countries, and this migration occurs increasingly in precarious conditions. The global movement of people across regions increased at an unprecedented pace during this period, producing profound economic gaps.
‘Indeed, trade has exploded with the value of exports rising 200- fold from 1970 to 2017, with the largest increases in developed countries (1,200-fold). This boom has enabled higher-income countries to increase their consumption even though nature, within their own boundaries, is relatively well protected; much of the added consumption is of nature’s contributions imported from lower-income countries, which are sometimes surrendered for little economic growth. Supply chains that depend heavily on nature are often dominated by large corporations and when their, and others’, amassed capital is funnelled through tax havens it can be difficult to regulate the financing of activities that damage the planet’s natural systems.
‘Further, a number of economic policies currently provide incentives to degrade nature − such as direct and indirect subsidies to use fossil fuels, as well as those related to fisheries and agriculture. While eliminating this form of incentive is not impossible, the political complexities and constraints are vast. However, increasingly, some policies offer incentives to reflect the value of nature’s contributions within individual behaviours, as do some private incentives, for example through certified supply chains. Nations also create protected areas, including different types in recognition that empowering local interests in conservation is critical.
‘These patterns of production, consumption, finance and governance, alongside population, migration and urbanisation demographics, are indirect drivers of biodiversity loss as they underlie land-use change and habitat loss, the overexploitation of natural resources, pollution, the spread of invasive species and climate change – the direct drivers of the destruction of terrestrial, freshwater and marine ecosystems.
‘Indeed, one-third of the terrestrial land surface is now used for cropping or animal husbandry, while of the total amount of water that people withdraw from available freshwater resources, 75% is used for crops or livestock.
‘In marine ecosystems, the direct exploitation of organisms, mainly in fishing, has expanded geographically and into deeper waters, and now covers over half the surface of the oceans. With shipping accounting for 90% of world trade 17 to destinations all over the globe, our oceans are also a conduit for the spread of invasive alien species that often ‘hitchhike’ to new places – for instance in ballast water, as fouling organisms attached to the hulls of ships or in packing materials, living plants or soils. The rate of new introductions of invasive species has increased steeply since 1950, and a recent study found that 37% of all recorded alien species were introduced between 1970 and 2014. In parallel, the impacts of ‘these introductions on biodiversity and human livelihoods are increasing worldwide.
Climate change is accelerating, leading to the increased frequency and intensity of extreme weather events and sea level rise, putting further pressure on ecosystems and biodiversity.
‘Until now, decades of words and warnings have not changed modern human society’s business-as-usual trajectory. Yet in times of rapid upheaval and disruption new ideas, creativity, processes and opportunities for transformation can arise. The future is always uncertain but perhaps the COVID-19 pandemic will spur us on to embrace this unexpected opportunity and revolutionise how we take care of our home.
Read the whole report, WWF (2020) Living Planet Report 2020 – Bending the curve of biodiversity loss.
Coronavirus, a zoonotic disease, has demonstrated the strong interconnection between ecosystem health and human health. It has demonstrated that no sector can be able to conduct business in a degraded environment, and the need for integration and collaboration among sectors for the health of both people and nature.
Despite these challenges, there are opportunities to shape and define our work to ensure a more resilient ecosystem.
The second series of the Covid-19 and Adaptive leadership webinar, held on October 13, 2020, discussed key practices and integrated solutions for building back better in the midst of a pandemic. Organized by the Africa Biodiversity Collaborative Group (ABCG) and other conservation NGOs, the webinar featured an illustrious set of panelists from both the conservation and development sectors. They included, Alice Ruhweza, Africa Region Director, World Wildlife Fund International; Josphat Ngonyo, Executive Director, Africa Network for Animal Welfare; Lisa Parrot, Regional Programme and Quality Director, Save the Children; and was moderated Lucy Waruingi, Executive Director, African Conservation Centre.
While speaking on the topic of building back better through a green and just recovery, Alice talked about the immense opportunities that the pandemic provides for Africa to build back better through nature. Nature is a critical launch pad in this recovery. Alice highlighted the numerous ways through which nature can aid in the process of building back better through its contributions to the food system, the health system, and the important contribution of nature on the economy.
This pandemic has greatly undermined the resilience of communities. Josphat discussed the practical applications to support people and rural communities to build back better. Among the ways to support communities is through being inclusive in community participation, public support, community empowering and promoting sustainability. Core to this is building and nurturing partnership with communities and integrating them into conservation and development activities.
“There is a clear impact on the livelihoods, health and education system because of the pandemic,” Lisa said. Furthermore, the stress on the livelihoods of communities, has a direct threat to the environment through poaching, deforestation and other negative environmental practices as communities try to secure livelihoods. Lisa mentioned that it would be advantageous to adapt the One Health approach whereby health in the community encompasses the health of people, livestock, wildlife and the environment. This approach ensures that all sectors are provided for as they are interdependent.
The webinar called on the need to enhance integration and partnerships among the conservation, humanitarian, development and other sectors to holistically and effectively address the economic, social and environment concerns of our world.
Click below to watch the webinar recording
WWF policy brief: Africa in the context of COVID-19
Save the Children’s report: Protect a Generation: The impact of COVID-19 on children’s lives
Caring classrooms: Lessons plans in humane education
A summary of the Covid and Adaptive Leadership webinar series I: Practices Conservation Leaders Can Employ to Cushion their Organizations During Crises