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 Nun planting treeReligious faith plays an enormous role in the lives of people around the world, helping to provide an understanding of the world around us and lighting a moral path to follow in times of uncertainty, need or joy. The intersections of faith and conservation are an important element of the Dar Vision on the Future of Biodiversity in Africa, in which experts from throughout Africa came together to articulate multidimensional approaches to biodiversity conservation in Africa.

Recently, the Biodiversity Analysis and Technical Support program of USAIDs Africa Bureau commissioned a report on religion and conservation in Africa. This work, From Practice to Policy to Practice: Connecting Faith and Conservation in Africa, was written by Amy Gambrill of IRG, which explores some of the current practices of connecting faith and conservation, provides information on some of the faith groups doing conservation work, and presents several case studies on faith-based conservation.

Connecting with Communities: WASH, Wildlife, Agriculture & Faith

On November 28, 2012, ABCG hosted an event to share the results of the “Many Heavens, One Earth, Our Continent” conference in Nairobi as well as other efforts on faith and conservation.

Our speakers shared their experiences in working on WASH (water, sanitation and health), wildlife conservation, sustainable agriculture and more with communities of faith in Africa and around the world.

Speakers included:

A full recording of the event can be found at this link: . (Advance to 02:50 in the recoriding for the beginning of the event).

From 18-20 September 2012, ARC hosted the “Many Heavens, One Earth, Our Continent: African Faith Commitments for a Living Planet” conference during which faith groups from throughout sub-Saharan Africa launched their long-term plans for conservation. These plans are compiled in a volume of the same title. During the workshop, more than 100 participants gathered at the All Africa Conference of Churches Archbishop Desmond Tutu Ecumenical Centre for three days of celebrating the long-term conservation plans, as well as discussions of engaging faith communities, developing partnerships, sustainable agriculture, education, tree planting, the role of women, and illegal wildlife trade.

Celebration and storytelling were important components of the conference. Martin Palmer of ARC emphasized the importance of celebration in all faith traditions, and so the conference began with joyous recognition of the work and commitments of each faith group. Guest speakers included the President of the All Africa Conference of Churches, the Acting Ambassador of Norway, the UNEP Africa Region Permanent Secretary and school children from Muslim and Christian eco-schools in Nairobi. Tree seedlings were blessed with Muslim, Christian and Hindu prayers and were presented to Kenyan leaders at the conference.

Faith leaders celebrate their commitments to conservation (c) N. Bailey/ABCG

The plans focus on faith-based responses to the issues of agriculture practice, sustainable use of land and water and education on the environment in faith schools. They include:

Tree planting and agroforestry are important parts of many faith plans. For example, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tanzania intends to set up 26 tree nurseries training over 200 women in tree nursery establishment, tree planting and agroforestry.

Many faiths have strong commitments to sustainable agriculture. One of these, the Abaja Ba Kristo (the Servants of Christ) agro-pastoral centre, run by a women’s religious congregation in Karongi Region, Rwanda, proposes expanding its farmer training in sustainable agriculture.

Water. sanitation and hygiene (WASH) projects are also very important to many faith groups, as is environmental education from a faith perspective. ARC is working with the Kenyan Organization for Environmental Education and other faith groups to development an education for sustainable development toolkit for faith primary schools in Kenya that incorporates faith values, using eco-schools as a strategy for the curriculum of faith-based schools.

Islam, Christianity and African spirituality all have important ways of relating to the environment, and many faith groups have goals for education and community engagement. Mosques in Uganda are promoting Green Fridays – designated days for discussion and action on the environment. In addition, more than 10,000 Christian and Muslim congregations in Ghana will hold awareness creation workshops on environmental protection.

For more information on the faith commitments, click here:

ARC Conference

Agenda for the Many Heavens, One Earth, Our Continent conference

Many Heavens, One Earth, Our Continent book

Faith commitments to conservation – full plans

ARC’s video summary of the conference and faith commitments

Illegal Wildlife Trade

With support from USAID through ABCG, WWF and ARC announced a first-ever partnership with faith leaders from across Africa to unite against the killing of endangered species caused by illegal wildlife trade. In an unprecedented move, 50 African religious representatives from different faiths and countries have come together to call for the end of illegal wildlife trade, which is annihilating the continent’s elephant and rhino populations.

WWF and ARC have worked with leaders from Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Jewish, Buddhist and traditional faiths to align around the wildlife crisis facing Africa. We have held several meetings including a wildlife safari in Nairobi National Park to discuss the role of religion in Africa to halt the trade. The leaders gave a moving tribute to all of the wildlife exterminated due to the trade. They also prayed for the wellbeing of local communities and for the many hundreds of rangers that have lost their lives protecting wildlife across Africa.
Hajjat prays

Christian, Muslim and Hindu faith leaders pray for protection of wildlife and park rangers at the site of the 1989 ivory burn at Nairobi National Park (c) J.Morgan/ WWF

Illegal wildlife trade commitments:

ARC summary of commitments
WWF Press Release
Associated press
Christian Science Monitor

On 1 June 2011, ABCG held a meeting on Faith and Conservation in Africa at the International Resources Group (IRG) in Washington, DC. The meeting was chaired byTom Dillon, Senior Vice President, Field Programs, World Wildlife Fund, US. The meeting’s objectives were:

  • To explore the opportunities available for collaboration between faith communities and conservation groups
  • To understand the funding mechanisms that can support such collaboration
  • To learn about how conservation groups have developed relationships with faith communities and how they have implemented projects together

Meeting Agenda

Tom Dillon, Senior Vice President, Field Programs, World Wildlife Fund, US Meeting Chair

Amy Gambrill, IRG Consultant

  • Working with African Faith Leaders to Develop Eco-Action Plans

Martin Palmer, Executive Director, Alliance for Religion and Conservation
*This presentation can be heard on IRG’s recording (29:19 – 51:08).

Zeenat Rahman, Deputy Director, USAID Center for Faith Based and Community Initiatives

Alice Macharia, Director for East Africa Programs, Jane Goodall Institute

Heather E. Eves, Virginia Tech, JHU/SAIS and Mt. Olivet United Methodist Church
Tony Mokombo, former WWF and current Pastor
Lisa Gaylord, Wildlife Conservation Society

Click here to read the minutes from the event.

Click here for IRG’s full recording of the meeting!

For the list of meeting participants,click here.

January 24, 2012 – Martin Palmer, Secretary General, Alliance of Religions and Conservation

Working With Faith Communities as Real Partners in Conservation

Religious communities have a common thread of compassion and care for the natural world that is at the heart of pledges made by 20 significant Christian and Muslim faith traditions from throughout sub-Saharan Africa, representing many millions of followers. They each pledged to create a long term plans to protect and nurture creation.

At a two-day workshop organised by ARC in Nairobi, Kenya in 2011, representatives of the 20 faith groups said they had a “God-given duty” to protect creation, and committed their resources, energy and faith to developing new action plans on the environment. As well as planting millions of trees (8.5 million on the slopes of Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, 10 million in Rwanda, for example), the faiths will be managing their land sustainably, protecting water sources, reducing energy use and working to enhance biodiversity. They will also be embarking upon a major effort to train young people in environmental care and protection through their schools and youth groups.

With 90 per cent of Africa’s population declaring themselves to be either Christian or Muslim, ARC Director Martin Palmer said this was an historic moment: “The way to the heart of Africa is through faith and faith will be the engine that changes the way Africa’s environment is managed by its own people. This is a truly historic moment where faith, conservation and civil society meet and begin to change the world for the better.”

The Alliance of Religions and Conservation (ARC) is a UK-based charity that works with all the major religions of the world to help them develop environmental plans based on their own beliefs, practices and teachings. With support from USAID’s Biodiversity Analysis and Technical Support (BATS) program, ABCG is working with ARC, WWF-US and the Jane Goodall Institute to support conservation work in partnership with faith groups in Africa.

 Faith & Conservation in Action
The International Small Group & Tree-Planting Program (TIST) – Planting Trees and Improving Agriculture for Better Lives

To follow the initial meeting on Faith and Conservation in Africa,ABCG held a brown bag presentation and discussion on 22 September 2011 featuring Vannesa Henneke from The International Small Group & Tree-Planting Program (TIST), hosted by World Wildlife Fund. Vannesa shared TISTs inspiring work on connecting with rural communities to plant and maintain trees based on a series of best practices, their innovative use of technology for monitoring and the critical connections to carbon, climate change and local economic development.

Click here to read a summary about TIST and the brown bag discussion themes.

More Resources on TIST

Additional Resources

The July/August 2011 issue of State Magazine featureswork engaging faith-based communities to advance foreign policy aims. It highlights the White House/NSC led interagency reporting on Religion and Global Affairs, as well as the trainings on partnering with faith-based communities. Check outReaching the Faithful: Engaging believers advances foreign policy on pages 28 and 29.

Wildlife Conservation Society’s Stateof the Wild 2010-2011 features a faith and conservation piece in Chapter 3 within the “art and practice of conservation section.” In”Faith, Hope, and Conservation,”Martin Palmer, Alliance of Religions and Conservation, and Tony Whitten, Senior Biodiversity Specialist at the World Bank, outline how the world’s major religions and conservation organizations can work together on the issues facing our planet.

Background on the Theme of Faith and Conservation in Africa
Faith and conservation is an important component of the Dar Vision for the Future of Biodiversity in Africa. One element of this vision is a specific directive to: Reach out to faith communities for dialogue and collaboration. The global urgency for a sustainable world demands multidimensional approaches and a persistent push for ideals based on innovative and pragmatic strategies. Faith-based communities comprise the largest social organizations in Africa, representing a repository of opportunities to spread the cause for sustainability in the continent. Conservation leaders should reach out to religious communities to collaborate in implementing these recommendations, with a view to enhancing the capacity for value-based sustainability decisions that link nature and human well-being.

In September 2010, IRG hosted a gathering to discuss a white paper that USAID commissioned from IRG via funding from the Africa Bureaus Biodiversity Analysis and Technical Support (BATS) program. (ABCG and U.S. Forest Service-International Programs are also BATS partners.) From Practice to Policy to Practice: Connecting Faith and Conservation in Africa, explores some of the current practice of connecting faith and conservation, provides information on some of the faith groups doing conservation work, and presents several case studies on faith-based conservation. The paper presents the beginnings of a broader discussion on how to best learn from and partner with faith communities on biodiversity conservation in sub-Saharan Africa. About 20 conservation and faith experts participated in the discussion, including several participating in the discussion from Africa (Uganda and Ghana) and the U.K. via Skype and teleconference.

The paper briefly reviews the diversity of faith in Africa. More than 90% of the population in Africa identifies itself as either Christian or Muslim, and nearly all hold traditional indigenous beliefs as well. The diversity of indigenous belief is also reviewed, including notation of traditional taboos, customs and leaders. Interfaith groups and most major religious sects are committed to addressing climate change, assuring clean water, campaigning for eco-justice and working on other environmental issues around the world. Faith-based development organizations play instrumental roles in providing development and health care services to many countries in sub-Saharan Africa. For conservation and faith groups to partner toward common aims of conserving biodiversity and helping the poor, they must understand one anothers context and language and work to build trust.

Twelve U.S. Government agencies have faith-based initiatives, including the White House, USAID, Health & Human Services and USDA. Operative guidance for USAID is found in 22 CFR Parts 202, 205, 211, and 226: Participation by Religious Organizations in USAID Programs and in the Automated Directive System (ADS) 303.3.28: Participation of Faith-Based and Community Organizations. USAIDs Center for Faith-Based and Community Initiatives has worked with faith-based and community organizations to multiply the impact of foreign aid by leveraging existing resources overseas. Their Strategic Partnerships Guidebook details how best to partner with faith-based and local organizations. USAID has a library of best practices for partnerships on its intranet site.

Above photo (c) HEAR-Uganda

Activities & Achievements

FY 2014 Activities and Achievements

In September 2012, twenty-seven long-term plans of action, focused on education and sustainable land and water management, was initiated by the Alliance of Religions and Conservation (ARC) and in part, supported by ABCG. In 2014, JGI, WWF and ARC continued to work together and with faith groups in Africa in the areas of environmental education and wildlife trade.

Under the environment and education activity, a successful workshop bringing together 120 stakeholders from a broad spectrum of sectors was organized by ARC, JGI and the Uganda Faiths Network on Environmental Action. A summary document was prepared, titled ‘Faith-Based Environmental Education Stakeholders’ Workshop in Uganda—Workshop Highlights‘, while the workshop proceedings are published in the report titled ‘The Faith Based Environmental Education Stakeholders’ Workshop Report‘.

FY 2013 Activities and Achievements

In 2013, ABCG members the Jane Goodall Institute and World Wildlife Fund-US as well as UK NGO the Alliance of Religions and Conservation, will continue to work together and with faith groups in Africa, expanding on efforts initiated in FY 2012, particularly in the areas of environmental education and wildlife trade.

Recently, the BATS program of USAID’s Bureau for Africa commissioned a report on religion and conservation in Africa. This work, From Practice to Policy to Practice: Connecting Faith and Conservation in Africa, was written by Amy Gambrill of IRG, which explores some of the current practices of connecting faith and conservation, provides information on some of the faith groups doing conservation work, and presents several case studies on faith-based conservation.

The Faith-based Education for Sustainable Development Teacher’s Toolkit, integrating faith values about caring for Creation with teaching on the environment in faith-sponsored primary schools, was launched in Nairobi, Kenya, on July 17, 2013. The result of two years’ work by the Alliance of Religions and Conservation (ARC) and the Kenyan Organization for Environmental Education (KOEE), the groundbreaking toolkit has been endorsed by Kenya’s major Christian, Muslim and Hindu groups as well as the Ministry of Education and National Environment Management Authority.

In order to encourage other faith leaders to recommit to wildlife protection and to lead environmental activities, the Catholic Church held an interfaith event with presentations from a Catholic Bishop, Franciscan lecturer, Hindu Council of Kenya, Muslim, Sikh Community, Interreligious Council of Kenya, Chairman of Kenya Forestry Service, and Wildlife Clubs of Kenya –National Coordinator/CEO. The final output for this partnership included several media interviews given by local religious leaders to Kenyan outlets including an interview with Father Charles and Dekila Chungyalpa of WWF Sacred Earth that built on last year’s safari event and combined the activities of this year (see: In battle to end poaching, God gets urgent SOS call).