APAC: African leaders moot multi-billion dollar conservation trust fund

APAC: African leaders moot multi-billion dollar conservation trust fund
Leaders, citizens and interest groups in Kigali for the Africa Protected Areas Congress. Participants hail from 52 African countries and beyond.

Generations brace for the worst if current leaderships in Africa fail to urgently draw and implement properly thought-out plans to reverse toll inflicted on wildlife and wildland resources that are vital to human survival across the continent.

Conservation experts attending first ever continental gathering on conservation dubbed the Africa Protected Areas Congress (APAC) in Kigali, which opened on July 18, are of the view that, in particular,  African countries need to urgently devise ways to raise the much-needed funding for nature conservation or else next generations will suffer.

The African Wildlife Foundation (AWF) estimates the continent needs $7 billion annually to effectively manage the existing protected area estate, but this sum may go up significantly as the estate grows.

“While throughout this conference we expect to hear how investments into our protected areas can and will grow, there remains a significant challenge in mobilising the levels of consistent, sustained funding required to put the 6 million square kilometres of conservation estate in Africa on a sound footing,” said Hailemariam Desalegn, former Prime Minister of Ethiopia who is member of AWF global  board of trustees leading efforts to establish a pan-African conservation trust to address the conservation financing crisis.

The trust seeks to mobilise public, private and philanthropic funding into protected and conserved areas across all 54 African countries.

Also read: $6.7 billion urgently needed to preserve Africa’s wildlife asset

Over 2,000 attendees at the week-long Kigali conference heard that despite continent’s national parks and conservancies serving as both natural heritages and sources of basic livelihoods services/needs everyone depend on to survive, they are increasingly threatened at alarming levels by, among others, human activity with shortsighted economic gains.

Funding cuts

Existing financing for conservation which largely come from donors and tourism revenues suffered dramatic cuts as a result of the pandemic.

It has emerged that, in fact, many species would not have enough space to grow, to forage and hunt in the near future if governments and societies don’t act urgently.

“The earth is facing twin crises of climate change and biodiversity loss. Many species face extinctions and millions of people will suffer. The protected areas conservation are essential at the moment to halt tthese losses,” said Monica Medina, Assistant Secretary of State for Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs of the US.

Special Representative of the UN Secretary General for Disaster Risk Reduction Mami Mizutori, said already the world and Africa, in particular, is facing growing disaster risks which threaten to increase economic losses, worsen food insecurity and derail sustainable development.

Parts of the continent have already been suffering at the hands of recurrent droughts, floods and cyclones, and only nature based solutions can reverse the trend, she said.

Both Medina and Mizutori addressed APAC participants via video.

Consensus

“It is high time that African policy makers put in place strong measures and strategies to ensure that the devastation of our rich biodiversity is stopped, said Rwanda’s Prime Minister Edouard Ngirente, who officially opened APAC Monday.

“We need the consensus of this congress towards environmental conservation and, especially when it comes to raising sustainable and sufficient funding for protecting our environment.”

The conversations on ways to unlock financing for protected and conserved area estate on the African continent are expected to go on for the coming days with delegates deliberating possible sources of capital and disbursement modalities, among others.

‘This conference this week, provides the perfect opportunity to reset and remodel our aspirations to ensure that they align with the urgent conservation change that we all know we need,’ said AWF Chief Executive Kaddu Sebunya.

Also read: Continental conservation watchdog opens office in Rwanda

~ Reporting by Johnson Kanamugire