By Venter Mwongera
The International Day for Biological Diversity serves as a crucial reminder of our responsibility to protect and conserve the natural world that surrounds us. This year’s theme, “From Agreement to Action: Building Back Biodiversity,” emphasizes the urgency with which we must revitalize our ecosystems.
By examining recent research from various organizations, we can grasp the gravity of the situation and understand the importance of taking immediate action to safeguard and restore biodiversity.
The State of Biodiversity
Recent studies conducted by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) paint a distressing picture of the global decline in biodiversity. One report indicates that approximately one million species are currently at risk of extinction, posing devastating consequences for both ecosystems and human well-being. These findings underscore the urgent need to prioritize the conservation of biodiversity.
The Role of International Agreements
International agreements, such as the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), play a pivotal role in establishing a framework for global biodiversity conservation, as exemplified by the adoption of the Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF) in December 2022.
It is imperative that countries make progress in translating these agreements into effective action to realize the anticipated gains within the specified timeframes. The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) reports that only one out of twenty global biodiversity targets set by the Aichi Biodiversity Targets for 2011-2020 was fully achieved. This shortfall underscores the necessity for a concerted effort to move beyond mere agreement and translate it into meaningful action.
Building Back Biodiversity
To effectively build back biodiversity, we must adopt a multi-faceted approach. First, conservation efforts should focus on protecting key habitats and ecosystems. The African Biodiversity Network (ABN) is among the players on the continent who advocates for the establishment of protected areas and the adoption of sustainable land-use practices to build resilient communities and ecosystem services. These measures not only safeguard biodiversity but also promote ecosystem services and biocultural diversity crucial for human identity and well-being.
Integrating biodiversity considerations across various sectors is essential to ensure long-term conservation success. The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) emphasizes the significance of mainstreaming biodiversity in sectors such as agriculture, forestry, fisheries, and tourism.
The ABN, through its extensive network of partners in Africa, accompanies communities in adopting sustainable practices and actions toward the environment. Dr. Fassil Gebeyehu, the General Coordinator of ABN, highlights “We accompany communities to learn from them and reaffirm their efforts to resist harmful environmental practices to the environment. We encourage them to continue their agroecological and traditional farming approaches that prioritize soil health and environmental well-being.”
Empowering Local Communities
Recognizing the pivotal role of local communities in biodiversity conservation is of utmost importance. The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) stresses the significance of empowering local communities and indigenous peoples to sustainably manage and conserve their ecosystems. The Global Biodiversity Framework adopted in December 2022 also recognised the crucial role played by the local communities in winning the war against the loss of biodiversity.
“Local communities’ traditional knowledge and practices often hold valuable insights into biodiversity preservation, making their involvement vital for effective action.” Observes Dr. Fassil. Collaborating with the local communities fosters development from the grassroots to the national and other levels for the common good of all. “Communities are knowledge holders.
They are a critical player in the succeeding in biocultural conservation as we have observed that they hold a century-old knowledge which is relevant to solving the current climatic crisis sustainably.” States Method Gundidza, ED EarthLore Foundation, SA.
Financing Biodiversity Conservation
Allocating sufficient financial resources to biodiversity conservation efforts is a fundamental requirement. The World Bank highlights the need for increased funding, emphasizing that the economic benefits derived from biodiversity far outweigh the costs of conservation.
“Mobilizing resources through innovative financial mechanisms, public-private partnerships, and international cooperation, along with allocating budgets specifically for biodiversity conservation, can provide the necessary financial impetus to build back biodiversity.” States Dr. Sulemana Abudulai, Board Chairman of ABN, adding, “ABN is open to partnerships that strengthen the efforts to conserve biocultural diversity and protect ecosystem services to preserve lives and leave a better future for generations to come.
The Power of Education
Education and awareness are crucial tools in promoting biodiversity conservation. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) emphasizes the significance of integrating biodiversity education into school curricula and raising public awareness through media and community outreach programs.
“Instilling sustainable lessons to children is a sure way of building firm foundations of caring for biodiversity. At Ecolojah school, we train children on their role to care for the environment. We have observed immense change in habits of communities to adopt sustainable practices with pupils from our school leading in such initiatives.” Observes Eve Mer Jah, Director of CEVASTE in Benin and a Board Member of ABN.
On this International Day for Biological Diversity, the theme “From Agreement to Action: Building Back Biodiversity” calls for immediate and comprehensive efforts to conserve and restore our ecosystems. Let us seize this opportunity to act collectively and ensure that future generations inherit a rich and diverse natural world.
The author is a Communications and Advocacy Specialist, a mentor at the African Women Leaders in Agroecology-Initiative (AWOLA-I), Chairperson of National and International Engagements at the Inter-Sectoral Forum on Agrobiodiversity and Agroecology (ISFAA) and Treasurer of the Board at the Association of Media Women in Kenya (AMWIK).