Last week,while officiating at the opening of the Business of Conservation Conference organised by the African Leadership University (ALU), President Kagame made a wake-up call to business and political leaders across Africa to take action through growing regional integration across the continent to improve their collaboration in efforts to conserve African wildlife.
In his speech, President Kagame underlined that “the African conservation agenda should be owned and driven by us. Our people stand to harvest the benefits and it is also our responsibility”, implying that the degradation of wildlife has no borders.
He further noted that the role of the wildlife conservation is incumbent upon everyone.
However, as a matter of principle, political leaders bear a primary responsibility to demonstrate the political will underpinned by enforcement mechanisms, by designing policies and strategies aimed at turning the conservation around.
Interestingly, President Kagame’s message resonated with ‘Living Planet report 2018: Aiming Higher’, published on October 29, 2018 by World Wide Fund (WWF), an international non-governmental organisation founded in 1961, whose principal mandate is to stop the degradation of the planet’s natural environment. So, what does the Report bring to light?
The report describes exploding human consumption that has caused a massive drop in global wildlife populations in recent decades. In particular, the report unearths losses in vertebrate species, notably mammals [animals], fish, birds, amphibians and reptiles.
It reveals that the Earth is losing biodiversity at a rate seen only during mass extinctions. It, therefore, urges policy-makers, especially governments, to set new targets for sustainable development. The Living Planet Report is typically published every two years to assess the state of the world’s wildlife.
In fact, today, one third of the world’s protected lands are being degraded by human activities and are not fit for any other purpose. Approximately, six million sq. km of forests, parks and conservation areas are under ‘intense human pressure’ from mining, logging and farming.
Countries rich and poor, are quick to designate protected areas but fail to follow up with funding and enforcement. This is why biodiversity is still in catastrophic decline. Measures for a turnaround in wildlife conservation, incidentally, vary from a country to country.
In spite of existing international and regional instruments, plus national legislations, the implementation lies in the hands of States. For example, on African continent, the level of implementation isn’t uniform.
Some countries have strengthened their law-enforcement capacities with respect to the implementation of wildlife conservation legal and policy frameworks while other States are still lagging behind, perhaps due to lack of change of mindset.
Despite such, a quite big number of African countries have acknowledged sustainable development is unachievable without conservation.
It is, however, quite noteworthy that our planet is at a crossroads and we have the opportunity to decide the path ahead. But what causes the conservation havoc? As study revealed, change is being driven by ever-rising food production and increased demand for energy, land and water.
Arguably, there’s less awareness campaigns about importance of nature to humans and other living creatures. Both regional and national efforts to raise awareness are needed to change the beliefs and practices with respect to wildlife conservation.
The nature conservation agenda is not only about securing the future of mammals, but also all the amazing diversity of life we love and cherish on Earth. It’s bigger than that. Our day-to-day life, health and livelihoods depend on a healthy planet.
There cannot be a healthy, happy and prosperous future for people on a planet with a destabilized climate, depleted oceans and rivers, degraded land and empty forests, all stripped of biodiversity, the web of life that sustains us all.
Today, there’s a need for new global deal for nature and people similar to the 2015 Paris agreement to tackle climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
Decision makers at every level need to make the right political, financial and consumer choices to achieve the vision that humanity and nature thrive in harmony on our only planet.
As Marco Lambertini put it, “we have the knowledge and means to redefine our relationship with the planet. There is no excuse for inaction. We can no longer ignore the warning signs; doing so would be at our own peril.
What we need now is the will to act – and act quickly.” He further noted that “everything that has built modern human society is provided by nature and, increasingly, research demonstrates the natural world’s incalculable importance to our health, wealth, food and security”.
It is indeed noteworthy that humans have evolved, grown and thrived, in nature. In fact, nature, and everything that it gives us, has been the catalyst for where we are today. Its resources have enabled people to dominate the planet complete with modern expectations, benefits and luxuries.
To sustain modern human society we will continue to need the resources of nature that, throughout history, have allowed us to thrive.
In redefining the path ahead, it’s quite reasonable to take action in light of SDG Goal 15: “Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss”.
The writer is a law expert.
The views expressed in this article are of the author.