•Working directly with local leaders will co-create solutions of long-lasting impact for conservation and it is essential that these local voices be amplified within the spectrum of decision-making.
•African traditional leaders representing various local communities will convene in Amboseli to discuss the strengthening of transboundary ecosystem connectivity across the continent.
On September 4th, government ministers, policy leaders, and conservationists are convening in Nairobi, Kenya for the inaugural Africa Climate Summit 2023, a historic moment as the first summit of its kind held on the African continent and an opportunity to show that African nations, her people and landscapes have many of the solutions the world needs to address the climate crisis.
With its precious biodiversity, expansive natural capital, and massive wild animal populations, Africa represents a vital natural safety net for the planet. Our tragedy, however, is that this crucial resource is rarely accorded due recognition globally as a steadying force against climate change, and that worse, Africa’s semi-arid lands, which are immensely rich in biodiversity and home to millions of people, suffer greatly from severe droughts and flooding arising from climate change.
Climate extremes are battering these landscapes leading to massive die-offs of livestock and wildlife as has been witnessed in recent years across countries in Eastern and Southern Africa.
The increased vulnerability of local communities to extreme climate impacts is pushing them into heavy reliance on natural resources for survival, leading to over-exploitation of habitats and wildlife, which triggers or aggravates climate calamities such as floods.
It is for these reasons that we urge delegates at the Africa Climate Summit to advocate strongly for protection of Africa’s biodiversity as a vital resource in mitigating the impact of climate change and to seek a declaration announcing the immeasurable value of Africa’s biodiversity as a global public good.
Interestingly, after the summit, African traditional leaders representing various local communities will convene in Amboseli to discuss the strengthening of transboundary ecosystem connectivity across the continent.
One connected landscape where nature literally has enough ‘room to roam’; where nature is welcomed and not diverted, and where African landscapes are shared unbound; where the local community, those who have lived alongside wildlife in some cases for millennia, are entrusted with the stewardship of their rich biodiverse heritage. In essence, community-driven conservation for a global community.
Those who live alongside wildlife are most often the ones that understand it best. Ancestral leaders and Indigenous communities have inextricable linkages to their land and wildlife. As we forge a new path for conservation—one inclusive to all—we must ask ourselves to not only recognize but actively support Indigenous communities and ancestral leaders as the true custodians of nature and agents of change. This will involve a fundamental change in mindset – the shifting to a new normal where everyone has a seat at the table.
AFRICA CLIMATE SUMMIT
This form of community engagement is fundamental to resolving the challenges facing nature today. Working directly with local leaders will co-create solutions of long-lasting impact for conservation and it is essential that these local voices be amplified within the spectrum of decision-making.
The roundtable gathering of community leaders will serve as a focal point for listening as much as it will for discussion. Leaders will share their opinions, perspectives, and most importantly, their local knowledge. A topic of discussion will no doubt be a revolutionary IFAW programme elegantly named Room to Roam, based on a conservation approach in Africa where ‘elephants lead the way’.
In essence, the concept ensures connectivity of transnational corridors for elephants and wildlife that not only strengthens biodiversity at the local level but also enhances the creation of climate-resilient ecosystems. Such nature-based solutions produce multiple benefits ranging from improved carbon sequestration to the creation of more climate-resilient livelihoods.
Finally, may the events taking place in September as part of The Africa Climate Summit and the ensuing traditional leaders roundtable prove transformative. May they forge new bonds and catalyse long-term climate action across the African continent and give rise to a future of environmental stewards yet to come.
And may the perspectives shared form the foundation of a long-term nature-based solution that is ultimately rooted in the fundamental principle of biodiversity protection – fueled by the experiences and wisdom of those that live most closely among wildlife and from those who give so much to protect it.
Azzedine T. Downes is President and CEO of the International Fund for Animal Welfare