While significant challenges for researching and managing biodiversity in Africa remain, there is enough information available to give broad but concrete direction to the development of national, sub-regional and regional biodiversity policy.

Multilateral agreements

Many multilateral environmental agreements (MEAs) exist to promote biodiversity protection. Most African countries have ratified the Ramsar Convention (protecting wetlands of international importance), the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS), the Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage (the World Heritage Convention), the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), and the CBD. These global MEAs are complemented by sub-regional and regional agreements, such as the African Convention on the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (ACCNNR) and the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) Environmental Initiative. The 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) saw convergence on a shared vision of sustainable development as a way of alleviating poverty, raising human well-being, and simultaneously meeting biodiversity protection objectives. Recognition of the administrative burden that the multiplicity of environmental agreements places on resourceconstrained governments has prompted a desire to rationalize their implementation. Among the conclusions of the WSSD was that the link between the conservation of natural resources and economic development in Africa is particularly close.

The CBD has three
objectives: the
conservation of
biodiversity, the
sustainable use of
its components, and
the equitable
sharing of benefits
arising from the use
of biodiversity.

The CBD is particularly focussed on biodiversity. It has three objectives:

  • The conservation of biodiversity;
  • The sustainable use of its components; and
  • The equitable sharing of benefits arising from the use of biodiversity.

Realizing any one of these objectives is dependent upon the other. This requires adequate political and legal instruments to appropriately allocate access, benefits and costs and to make linkages between different environmental sectors as well as with development sectors. Such an approach is discussed in Chapter 8: Interlinkages: The Environment and Policy Web. Partnerships with non-governmental organizations (NGOs), community-based organizations, and the technical and scientific community play an important role in conservation planning and policy. Such partnerships are also critical to the success of implementation efforts.

Box 5: Collaboration and conservation

Biodiversity gains are best made through the avoidance of ecosystem degradation. This may demand inter-state collaboration or statecommunity collaboration.

The Central African Forest Treaty is an example of a successful interstate collaboration. The area of Congo forest that is formally protected has increased by 36 per cent (an addition of 46 000 km²) since the Yaoundé Declaration of 1999. At the national level, the Declaration triggered re-evaluation of protected area networks. In Gabon, 13 new national parks covering 30 000 km² were established in 2003, making up about 10 per cent of the national land area. A similar process is under way in Cameroon. The DRC and Central African Republic (CAR) are planning similar reviews of their protected area networks. In February 2005, at the second Congo Basin Forest Summit, the Central African Forest Treaty, Africa’s first region-wide conservation treaty was signed. It creates a single organisation, the Central African Forests Commission (COMIFAC), to oversee forest conservation activities in the Congo basin. Future efforts will focus less on opening new parks and more on implementing sustainable forestry in the areas outside the parks.

Collaboration between the state, representing the needs of society as a whole and those of future generations, and those people and groups that get all or part of their livelihoods from use of the resources, may also be important in protecting biodiversity. Experience in several parts of Africa and elsewhere is that when use rights for biodiversity are devolved to groups of people who have a vested interest in the maintenance of the resource in the long term, the outcome for biodiversity and livelihoods is favourable and reduces the burden on governments (Hulme and Murphree 2001). In Il Ngwesi, Kenya, a community partnership with a private-sector ecotourism operator and a government parastatal, the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) saw a reversal in the rate of biodiversity decline and a reduction in the vulnerability of a pastoral community within a period of six years (UNEP 2004a). The community established a conservancy area of 8 700 ha to restore plant biodiversity in order to attract wildlife back to a group ranch for ecotourism. They also formed a group of scouts to control poaching and cattle rustling. Household incomes increased from almost zero to US$800 annually over the same period (UNEP 2004a).

Sources: COMIFAC 2005, Hulme and Murphree 2001, UNEP 2004a

Biodiversity policy

A cost-efficient and robust strategy for biodiversity conservation may have two pillars. The first pillar is the classical approach of identifying those parts of the land, waters and sea where the conservation value exceeds any other use value, and requires strict protection. The second pillar recognizes that, even with such a safety net in place, most wild organisms live in places that are used primarily for purposes other than biodiversity conservation. Adjustments to the way in which these ecosystems are used can lead to a high degree of biodiversity preservation, without unacceptable decreases in the output of other services.

The key issues for establishing an effective protected area network are prioritization of levels of protection and use. Identifying protected areas should not be arbitrary. Sufficient knowledge exists to apply more refined techniques to identify locations that are critical for many species, robust to climate change, and have a good chance of being economically viable. In general, consolidated reserves are more viable than the equivalent area of isolated patches. In some instances transboundary parks are important for habitat protection.

There are known priority areas for conservation in every country, but overall, the greatest current urgency relates to multitaxon centres of endemism, such as the Eastern Arc mountains and Mt Cameroon. As shown in Box 5, adopting collaborative approaches at multiple levels can be important for achieving biodiversity conservation objectives.

Improving science

About US$245 million is currently spent annually by the international community for protected area management in SSA (James and others 2001). The efficacy of these investments depends partly on the availability and reliability of information on the spatial distribution and condition of biodiversity (Balmford and Gaston 1999). The currently available information on biodiversity is inadequate in several respects:

  • It is biased towards terrestrial biodiversity, and towards large mammals and birds. The greatest proportion of Africa’s biodiversity, invertebrates, is not well known to science.
  • For most species, only parts of their distribution ranges are documented. In many areas there is inadequate documentation, including in Ethiopia, the Congo basin, Angola and Mozambique.
  • Information on the biodiversity actually conserved in protected areas (eg in the form of species inventory lists) is widely lacking but is essential to document the success of conservation measures currently undertaken and to guide further conservation activities.
  • A vast amount of locally and regionally available biodiversity information is not connected and standardized, which is a significant impediment to making priorities comparable at regional to global scales.
  • Data on biodiversity condition (ie population size and trend, rather than simple presence or absence) is virtually absent. This information is essential for effective conservation of viable populations (Gaston and Rodrigues 2003) and for giving warning of impending problems well before they are irremediable.
  • Biodiversity measures are still commonly restricted to how many species there are, while there is very little information on qualitative aspects of biodiversity such as phylogenetic or functional diversity.

Other important areas of research that would support effective biodiversity policy include: quantification of the current and potential economic benefits provided by ecosystem services, and the consequences and costs of ecosystem destruction; understanding the link between ecosystem diversity and ecosystem integrity; methodologies for the integration of climate change adaptation strategies into conservation planning; and the development of a conceptual basis and methodology to incorporate biodiversity sustaining and generating processes and functional biodiversity into conservation strategies.