Post APAC: Eyes now on African govts to prioritise conservation in spending

Post APAC: Eyes now on African govts to prioritise conservation in spending
APAC attracted over 2,400 participants from across the African continent and beyond, including local communities and Indigenous Peoples. PHOTO | AWF

As African countries draw plans to set up a trust fund dubbed A-PACT as lasting solution to the conservation funding crisis, conservationists say governments need to increase budgetary allocation to the sector to ease cost pressure across conserved areas.

Much as conservation actors say the establishment of the trust and its capitalization are urgent and require speed, it has emerged that its operationalization could take longer as the process must be subject to approvals and adoption by all the 54 African countries and the African Union.

So far, key Pan-African conservation organisations spearheading the scheme say it’s too early to determine when the governance structure, capitalization and disbursement modalities for A-PACT will be deliberated and agreed upon by concerned parties.

They only announced that a steering committee instituted at the just concluded Africa Protected Areas Congress (APAC) in Kigali has been tasked to expedite the process.

APAC ended on July 23 with a “Call to Action for People and Nature” which stresses the need for greater public and private financial investment in nature conservation, and integration of environmental priorities in economic and financial planning.

Other demands presented to the African governments include one of addressing the significant under-resourcing of Africa’s protected and conserved areas, and others.

Budget shortfall

African Wildlife Foundation (AWF) Chief Executive Kaddu Sebunya told Rwanda Post that budget required to run conserved areas annually is just a fraction of what Governments in Africa allocate to sectors such as infrastructure, education, or agriculture.

“Africa’s commitments to infrastructure, education or agriculture is trillions of dollars… for conservation we are asking for $2 billion only,” Mr. Sebunya said, adding analysis of governments’ budgets for the last five years indicated that the problem has never been about money.

“The issue we have is mindset. I’ve looked at the budgets where governments are supporting agriculture at around between 11 to 23 per cent of budget and then majority of that money is going into purchasing pesticides and fertilizers, whereas if a percentage of that is invested in conservation, you don’t need fertilizers in many cases for agriculture,” he said.

“Governments are investing in freshwater supply, piping water, purifying water, and we are saying that part of that budget needs to go where water is coming from -- these are water sources we are talking about,” he added.

Deficit

Studies suggest African countries fall short of over 70 per cent of funding needed to preserve estimated 8,600 nature estates across the continent.

For instance, while it cost $1,000 to run a square kilometer of the protected areas to levels desired, governments are estimated to be allocating only $50 on average.

This, experts say, is bad for a continent that hosts 30 per cent of biodiversity of the entire world.

A-PACT has been mooted with plans to mobilise enough funds to consistently meet routine costs of conserving estates managed by state agencies, indigenous peoples, local communities or private individuals across the 54 countries.

Also read: Big salaries, posh offices and cars eating up funding for conservation in Africa

On top of contributions from individual African governments into the trust, donors, philanthropists and industrialized nations are expected to contribute to the fund as part of their responsibility to mitigate climate change.

While addressing journalists at the end of APAC, organisers indicated there were talks with a number of African governments’ leaders and institutions with regard to contributing to A-PACT.

The Rwandan government already indicated it would soon contribute money to the trust fund.

“His excellency President Paul Kagame has already committed to contribute to the trust fund. Soonest possible you will hear how much Rwanda is contributing,” said Jean D’Arc Mujawamariya, Rwanda’s Minister of Environment.

Catch more details about A-PACT and how it will operate in this video

~ Reporting by Johnson Kanamugire