Despite the threats from human activities, population growth and climate change, conservation in Africa’s biodiverse hotspots is suddenly taking off, with recent funding and heightened stakeholder engagement leading the way.
In early March, Libreville, the capital of Gabon, hosted global leaders at the sixth edition of One Forest Summit, an event designed to put declarations on the protection of forests into action.
The summit saw French President, Emmanuel Macron, pledge $53.3 million for a new global mechanism that will reward countries for protecting their forests and biodiversity.
France’s pledge will be complemented by US-based non-profit, Conservation International, and the Walton Foundation, bringing the total fund to $103 million.
The fund will propagate the conservation efforts of the Congo basin, known as ‘the lungs of Africa’ – and the broader continent. The Congo basin is home to an estimated 10,000 species of plants and 1000 bird species and over 400 mammal species.
Human-imposed pressures are taking a toll on the natural resource-rich rainforest. In 2019, DR Congo lost about 475,000 hectares (1.17 million acres) of forest to human-related activities.
However, the tropical rainforest’s preservation could soon get a significant boost if a New York investment firm’s bid succeeds.
In 2022, the DRC put up 27 oil and three gas blocks for auction. The blocks are located along the Congo basin rainforest, including in Virunga national park, home to some of the world’s most endangered gorilla habitats.
EQX Biome, a New York-based biodiversity fintech firm, has expressed interest to the DRC government for oil concessions in the 27 blocks with plans to transform them into conservation projects.
The $400 million bid aims to prevent oil exploration in the areas and instead partner with NGOs to set up conservation projects.
The company will then look to sell carbon and biodiversity credits generated by the projects instead of oil.
In the 20 years of the estimated operational period, EQX says the project would facilitate investment worth US$6 billion, create more jobs than oil exploration and produce higher tax revenue for the DRC government.
While there isn’t an official government report on the country’s position, The Guardian reports that “DRC ministers are considering the proposal.”
Even as this critical consideration awaits possible nod and rollout, other conservation efforts are taking shape elsewhere on the continent.
The South Africa National Biodiversity Institute, SANBI, recently launched the Biobanking South Africa, BBSA, to increase and improve access to research and development.
Besides preserving available biobank samples, the bank will facilitate the institute to collect more samples and secure them over time.
This is important as it will help “to create a time-series of biomaterials that will help understand change, and allow predicting how this change will play out into the future.”
With plans to extend services to the rest of Africa, the biobank opens up opportunities for Africa to identify and preserve unknown species.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature, IUCN, estimates that there are about 1.9 million known plant and animal species with estimated more than 3 million more species remaining unidentified.
bird story agency