How Mother Nature can get Africans away from shocks brought by climate change

Forty per cent of East Africa’s total wealth is derived from natural resources

SATURDAY November 06, 2021

The Member of Ikonga Ijinyu Village government, Mr Lekey Ole Milakon (Left), briefs visiting conservation experts and journalists (not in the picture) on human-livestock-wildlife conflicts pastoralist community members face at the drought-stricken village bordering Mkomazi National Park in Same District, Kilimanjaro Region, Tanzania. WWF Tanzania has constructed a dam along the national park buffer zone to relieve villagers, livestock and wildlife animals of the conflicts which claimed two lives and several injuries between January and October 2021. PHOTO | MARC KWAME

By Joe Lihundi

Tranquility News Reporter, Arusha, Tanzania

The East African Community has the prospect of reaping over $20 billion annually should the bloc capitalise on unlocking potentials of the green and blue economies, conservationists say.

The income is equivalent to about 10 per cent of the $193.7 billion combined GDP of the EAC partner states with a population of nearly 180 million people.

Unlike the business-as-usual brown activities, green economy focuses on energy, transport, agriculture and forestry; while the blue one centres on fisheries sectors, marine and coastal resources.

Both sleeping economic giants incorporate strategies for mitigating and adapting climate change whose impact is a big threat to the sectors.

According to one of the latest reports of World Wide Fund for Nature(WWF):  the conservation experts explain how strategies for green and blue economies have the potential for improving the health and livelihoods of approximately 26 million East Africans, equivalent to 15 per cent of the entire region’s population

WWF Tanzania Wildlife Species Expert, Prof Noah Sitati, takes a selfie along with a rhino called Jabu at a highly protected Mkomazi sanctuary which is open to tourists.

“These benefits are spread across sustained livelihoods and pre-emptive transition to low carbon solutions,”  the WWF report dubbed Building Forward Better: Towards a Carbon Neutral, Equitable and Nature Positive Africa.

The conservation experts are optimistic that East Africa’s vast natural capital and its majority rural and nature-reliant population can present a singular competitive advantage to drive the bloc into green and blue investments.

Thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic for creating a unique momentum to rally investment towards green and blue solutions, with governments reworking budgets and revising sector economic plans.

The experts highlight in the report the need for protecting and improving the livelihoods of the local population, as 40 per cent of the community’s total wealth is derived from natural capital.

With 70 per cent of the citizens dependent on agriculture in rural settings, resilience against climate-induced shocks should be strengthened, given the fact that limited social safety nets make populations vulnerable to droughts and floods in those areas.

Ikonga Ijinyu villagers, conservationists and journalists pose for a souvenir picture after inspecting a water dam constructed along Mkomazi National Park buffer zone under the auspices of the WWF Tanzania. PHOTO | HASHIMU

Green and blue solutions’ benefits

Formalisation of activities currently undertaken through illegal or informal channels will help governments to capture additional revenue, as well as to introduce legislation that limits detrimental practices.

Climate-smart practices, including application of digital solutions, will help to improve agricultural productivity and boost overall self-sufficiency across communities.

Regional-level green and blue investment will safeguard the rights of indigenous peoples and local communities, ensuring just resource and benefit sharing.

Reduced costs when compared with business-as-usual, including costs to recover from climate-induced natural disasters and pandemics.

Reducing adverse environmental impact will mitigate costs associated with rebuilding communities and supporting populations affected by droughts and floods, among other climate-induced shocks.

A team of conservationists from WWF Tanzania and TRAFFIC as well as journalists pay a courtesy call on Mkomazi National Park in Kilimanjaro Region, Tanzania, which borders with Kenya’s Tsavo. Elephants have been migrating from Tsavo National Park to Mkomazi lately following what the WWF Tanzania Wildlife Species Expert, Professor Noah Sitati (Second Left), says avoiding ecological stress in their former habitat. PHOTO | MARC KWAME

Green and blue economies will reduce the risk of future pandemics and avoid loss of life by putting emphasis on the health of people, animals and an environmental approach dubbed: One Health will be supporting healthy ecosystems.

Furthermore, future brown-to-green and brown-to-blue transition costs and impact, including the risk of stranded assets, can be mitigated by applying green and blue policies.

The report unveiled early this year is part of the Conserving Natural Capital and Enhancing Collaborative Management of Transboundary Resources in East Africa project dubbed Connect which is funded by the USAID and implemented in collaboration with the EAC Secretariat.

The project is tasked to provide the bloc with technical assistance on the formulation and implementation of transboundary natural resources management policies, strategies and legal frameworks.

It also seeks to strengthen existing regional conservation initiatives by generating evidence-based information, innovative methodologies, tools and best practices for the EAC partner states and its citizens to reap benefits of their natural resources instead of endless conflicts pitting human, livestock and wildlife.

Dr Peter Mathuki, the EAC Secretary General, says the report would go a long way in alleviating poverty compounded by climate change and in conserving ecosystems which are key assets of the community.

On his part, the WWF Wildlife Species Expert, Prof Noah Sitati, says “the EAC must now walk the talk and implement the transboundary agreements and memoranda of understanding to safeguard the natural capital that is dwindling at an alarming rate”.

Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta was among the world leaders who addressed the ongoing COP26 in Glasgow, Scotland, Britain. PHOTO | THE EAST AFRICAN

The report comes when world leaders and tens of thousands of negotiators, government representatives, businesses and citizens are meeting in Scotland, UK, for COP26 talks aimed at accelerating action towards the goals of the Paris Agreement and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.

Addressing the world at the COP26, Kenya President Uhuru Kenyatta called on leaders of developed countries to consider ‘special needs and circumstances of Africa’ in the fight against climate change, stressing that the continent had its own challenges.

“We expect that detailed rules and procedures for implementing the Paris Agreement will be finalised and a clear way forward for a climate-resilient pathway set,” President Kenyatta, who doubles as the EAC Heads of State Summit Chairman, told the conference.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres greet Tanzania’s President Samia Suluhu Hassan as she arrives for the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow, Scotland, Britain. PHOTO | QUARTZ

His Tanzania’s counterpart Samia Suluhu Hassan exhorted wealthier nations to fulfill climate finance goals of donating $100 billion by 2025 to facilitate the implementation of the Paris Agreement.

“Our pride — Mount Kilimanjaro — is drastically becoming bald due to glacier melting. Our exotic and beautiful archipelago — Zanzibar — is struggling with temperature rises, saltwater intrusion and inundation, thus impacting its tourism ecology,” she lamented.

Besides WWF and USAID, the report is a collective work involving Environmental Incentives, International Union for Conservation of Nature and TRAFFIC — a non-governmental organisation working globally on trade in wild animals and plants.

The overarching goal of the report is to help the bloc to strengthen cross-sectoral decision making for sustainable development of transboundary natural resources management, while increasing political support on the economic and intrinsic value of natural ecosystems.

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