How private sector can lead conservation charge in Africa

Rhinos at Lewa Conservancy. Modern technology and partnership with the local community have enabled the conservation to curb poaching of rhinos in the sanctuary. [George Kaimenyi, Standard]

It's no doubt Africa is home to some of the world's most endangered species of animals. To protect these populations from further decline, there is need to empower local communities through conservation-friendly development and work with agencies and organizations to protect Africa's natural resources.

Whether it is humans poaching wildlife or wildlife attacking people and their livestock, the problem cuts both ways. The needs of people and wildlife are slowly, showing greater success through electrical fence controls, and needs more education, training, funding, and strategic support for the communities and authorities' partnerships.

As human populations grow with the development of industry and infrastructure, our programs balance multiple priorities to mitigate the threats facing endangered species and historic wildlife habitats.

As per statistics documented, more than 62 per cent of Africa's rural population relies on the continent's diverse natural ecosystems for their food, water, energy, health, and secure livelihood needs. This biodiversity provides an arsenal of genetic capital beneficial not just to the people living in these ecosystems but to the world.

Measures to be taken

Anti-poaching initiatives to stop poaching in Africa's protected areas have saved some species from further decline. However, there is much more that needs to be done to destabilize the international trade that has decimated populations over the last few decades, authorities need to combat wildlife trafficking and strengthen the prosecution of wildlife crimes in strategic wildlife crime hotspots.

As a matter of fact, it is essential to educate people in demand centres where ivory is carved while rhino horn and pangolin scales are wanted as a traditional medicine that the products are ineffective and in fact destroying Africa's valuable ecosystems. Laws to protect wildlife in most countries have made the trade difficult and must continue to be toughened with strong monitoring, security and technological mechanisms.

Communities need to work closely with authorities to make sure they get direct benefits from conserving wildlife and protecting natural habitats.

Education outreach programs can also help locals to reduce human-wildlife conflict; also projects that create a positive impact for the entire community should be implemented.

Farming communities should be helped to explore sustainable agriculture, growing their income and reducing pressure on living and natural resources. Growing of sunflower and beekeeping is a good way to protect corridors of wildlife and keep animals like elephants, not to enter human farming areas.

For instance, Bidco Africa and Kenya Wildlife Services have done some very good pilot programs in certain areas in Kenya with the communities and buy the sunflower as raw material giving revenue to communities.

African states should also launch awareness campaigns in countries consuming poaching products informing them about the brutal truths behind the global wildlife trade.

Kenyan governments burnt thousands of tonnes of ivory and rhino horns as a statement and action to stop wildlife illegal trade.

Presidents and governments can help stop poaching and increase the protection of the animals which attract tourism revenue as well as protecting our forests.

Much applause goes to President William Ruto's initiative to increase forest cover to grow billions of new trees with the private sector and other stakeholders to reach a record forest cover of about 20 per cent and over in the next few years.

Governments should also advocate for protection agencies to ban international trade in wildlife parts like ivory and introduce stiffer penalties for criminals.

Africa is rich in natural wealth

With its tropical forests, vast rangelands, marine resources and iconic wildlife, Africa is rich in natural wealth.

In my humble opinion, this 'natural capital' provides invaluable local and global benefits, including food, energy and water - while also helping to regulate our rapidly heating climate. However, private and public sectors must partner and encourage programs to mitigate human-wildlife conflicts programs.

Data shows that Africa has nearly 2,000 key biodiversity areas and supports the world's most diverse and abundant large mammal populations.

Financially, the most apparent value of Africa's wildlife and wildlands stems from wildlife-based tourism, which generates over 29 billion dollars annually and employs 3.6 million people.

Tourism helps governments justify protecting wildlife habitats. It creates revenue for state wildlife authorities, generates foreign exchange earnings, diversifies and strengthens local economies, and contributes to food security and poverty alleviation.

Tourism generates 40 per cent more full-time jobs per unit investment than agriculture, has twice the job creation power of the automotive, telecommunications and financial industries, and employs proportionally more women than other sectors.

Global tourism accounts for more than one in every ten jobs. In Africa, tourism is estimated to support over 24 million people with employment. Tourism also drives 8.5 per cent of Africa's economy, and it is growing.

Globally, nature-based tourism is growing and it is anticipated that by 2030 the number of tourists in Africa is projected to grow from 62 million to 134 million.

By supporting African nature-based and wildlife tourism, we not only make a social impact by providing jobs and financial support but also provide support for conservation initiatives.

Private sector and conservation

With increasing major voluntary corporate commitments, the private sector is becoming ever more aware of the responsibility it shoulders for ensuring its development projects and investments in conservation.

The private sector can play a role in managing protected areas, given their need for sustainable management and the financial constraints in the public sector. Potential areas of involvement are explored below.

For instance, in 2019, USAID invested 181.4 million dollars to help people, enterprises, and governments in 45 countries improve forest and land management, with 180.8 million dollars focused on tropical forests.

In 2016, Toyota provided approximately 1.2 million dollars to IUCN, with the aim of broadening the scope of The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. This new knowledge provided a roadmap to guide conservation - concrete action which could positively affect the livelihoods of hundreds of millions of people worldwide.

The collaboration is also in line with Toyota's 'Environmental Challenge 2050,' which aims to reduce the negative impacts associated with automobiles to as close to zero as possible, whilst simultaneously making positive impacts on society.

Private sector-conservation partnerships have arisen for good reasons. It has become clear that the traditional means of wildlife conservation protected areas are necessary but rarely sufficient to conserve ecologically functional wildlands and to ensure the long-term persistence of large mammals.

The future long-term protection of endangered species and best environmental global practice will be through, partnerships between the private sector and governments that will also increase and see better impact programs.

The writer, Chris Diaz, is a conservationist.

Twitter - @DiazChrisAfrica