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African Birds at Risk

Africa`s Protected Areas face funding shortfall

US$300 million per year is the estimated cost of managing and protecting Africa`s 1,200 plus existing Protected Areas. This is the conclusion of a recent global gathering of Protected Area managers and experts.

[There are over 1200 national parks, wild reserves and other protected areas in Africa. National Parks and wild reserves cover more than 2 million square kilometres (9% of the total land area). Protected Areas are major sources of income that support local livelihoods (food, medicine and other alternatives)]Meeting in Nairobi from 1?2 February 2005, the discussions were organised by BirdLife International and the African Protected Areas Initiative (APAI). The Africa Protected Area Initiative is a Pan-African process whose vision is to ensure that Africa`s biodiversity and ecological integrity are securely conserved in perpetuity and contributing to sustainable livelihoods and economic development. It comprises a network of African conservationists seeking solutions to the major challenges facing the management of biodiversity in Africa. The meeting was sponsored by The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) and the Swedish International Biodiversity Programme (SwedBio). Its aims were to put a precise figure on the funding shortfalls African governments face with regards to running their terrestrial and marine protected areas effectively; seek consensus recommendations on strategies that will enhance the ability of national and regional institutions to mobilise substantial additional financial resources for protected areas in Africa and build increased understanding, among key national and regional policy makers, of the economic value of protected areas.Participants made it clear that Protected Areas in Africa form part of the mosaic of land-use that must be managed for the health of the region, and argued that they are essential ingredients for achieving the Millennium Development Goals by 2015. All Africa faces a daunting challenge to reconcile the sustainable management of its natural resources with pressing development needs. But it is widely acknowledged that biodiversity has a direct link to poverty, human health and well-being and a wide range of biological resources provide food, medicine and alternative sources of income for rural communities. In this complex landscape, the role of Protected Areas in development is insufficiently recognised and the threats these areas face are compounded by inadequate allocation of financial resources in national budgets and a marked imbalance in the distribution of costs and benefits. Most critically, the global benefits that Africa`s Protected Areas provide, in terms of the preservation of biodiversity and the ecosystem functions they support, have not attracted anything like adequate funding from the international community. The global community must increase the level of sustainable long term funds it provides in support of biodiversity conservation to ensure it meets its fair share of the costs.There is ample evidence to suggest that, in addition to helping guaranteeing the survival of global biodiversity, the long-term benefits derived from these areas exceeds the costs. In Madagascar, for example, experts at the workshop pointed out that studies have shown that for every one US$ invested in conserving that country`s extraordinarily rich biodiversity, two US$ have been generated for sustainable development. Dr Hazell Shokellu Thompson, Head of BirdLife International`s Africa Secretariat commented: Although on paper many of our region`s best wildlife areas appear to be protected, the reality is that they are severely under funded. And even though $300 million per year seems like a lot of money, the benefits to people and wildlife are worth much, much more. But as well as properly funding existing sites we need to expand the Protected Areas network to truly reflect Africa`s biodiversity for the future of all its citizens.

4th July 2014