ABCG at IUCN World Conservation Congress, Marseille

The 2021 IUCN World Conservation Congress set the nature conservation agenda for the next decade and beyond and had a strong focus on post-COVID recovery, the biodiversity and climate crises, and on the role and rights of indigenous peoples in conservation. ABCG organized a number of events on, land use planning, climate change, integrating freshwater conservation and Water, Sanitation and Hygiene, and Population, Health and Environment.

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ABCG News Digest: August 2021

The August 2021 Africa Biodiversity Collaborative Group (ABCG) Quarterly News Digest features our latest news and upcoming events. Get to read about lessons learnt in the application and implementation of Freshwater Conservation and Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (FW-WASH) advocacy strategies in South Africa and Uganda in translating projects to policies. As well as, lessons from Africa to the Navajo nation on freshwater resources management.

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ABCG Initiates Five Community Based Adaptation Projects in Zimbabwe to Empower Communities to Adapt to Climate Change

The uncertainty that is caused by climate change has resulted in disruption of lives and livelihoods of many communities. Among the worst affected communities are communities whose livelihood is dependent in livestock, agriculture and fisheries. Farmers living near Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe’s Matabeleland North province whose livelihood is mainly dependent on crop production and livestock keeping are experiencing insufficient water and an increase in prevalence of pests.

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Empowering Communities in Tanzania to Adapt to Climate Change through Locally Led Interventions

Community members learning about the climate change survey in northern Tanzania. Photo Credit Roshni Lodhia

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.

Invasive Species Threat

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
Community members uprooting invasive species

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.

Read related blog posts:

  1. Supporting Communities in Tanzania Adapt to Climate Change through Forest Restoration

  2. Building a Knowledge Base to Advance Understanding of Climate Change on Communities and Nature

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Supporting Communities in Tanzania Adapt to Climate Change through Forest Restoration

ABCG LRTR On going deforestation of Namwai Forest Reserve in Ihenga Village Tanzania

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

ABCG GCI reforestation activity in Mngeta Valley Tanzania organized the African Wildlife Foundation and the Tanzania Forest Working Group 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.

For more information contact: dwilliams@awf.org

Related resources

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 

Status of Land Use Planning, Land Tenure and Biodiversity Conservation: A Focus of Udzungwa-Magombera-Selous Landscape and Mngeta Corridor in Kilombero District

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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.

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