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Action, local involvement urged to protect Sahel birds and wetlands

©FAO/Bruno Portier

05 December 2018, Durban – FAO and its partners today called for urgent action to find alternatives to unsustainable hunting of migratory birds in Africa’s Sahel region, saying it was essential to conserve the area’s waterbirds and wetlands and improve long-term food security.

Speaking at an international conference on waterbirds in Durban, South Africa, FAO and partners stressed the importance of a multi-faceted response involving close coordination with local communities who depend on the wetlands for food and income.

FAO led a panel discussion of this topic with researchers, academics and governmental experts on the sidelines of the MOP7, the main decision-making meeting of the African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbird Agreement (AEWA), in Durban, South Africa.

“One of the major challenges is to achieve sustainable levels of waterbird use, particularly of migratory species, and this is an urgent task given the pressures of climate change and the deterioration of wetland habitats,” said Bruno Portier, Coordinator of the FAO-led project “Strengthening expertise in Sub-Saharan Africa on birds and their rational use for communities and their environment.”

Migratory and resident water birds are important sources of food and income for rural people in the Sahelian Wetlands, but bird counts have dropped by 40 percent since 1960.Their ability to thrive is essential to the health of the region’s natural resources.

“We need to improve our knowledge of waterbird populations, raise awareness, strengthen legal and institutional frameworks, and work with national environment authorities and local communities to improve wetland management. We also need to create income-generating opportunities as an alternative to unsustainable hunting,”” FAO’s Portier added.

The "Strengthening expertise in Sub -Saharan Africa on birds and their rational use for communities and their environment" (RESSOURCE) Project focuses specifically on wetlands in Chad, Egypt, Mali, Senegal and the Sudan and includes the AEWA Secretariat and international technical partners.

The project receives financial support from the French Facility for Global Environment (FFEM) and the European Union-funded Sustainable Wildlife Management (SWM) Programme.

Conservation for the future

AEWA is an intergovernmental treaty signed by seventy-seven countries and the European Union and administered by the United Nations Environment Programme. It currently covers 254 species of birds which depend on wetlands for at least part of the year.

“As many livelihoods are intertwined with the conservation of our natural resources, we need to build alliances with local communities for the wise use of wetlands and their birds”,  Jacques Trouvilliez, Executive Secretary of the UNEP/AEWA Secretariat, said. “Our MOP7 slogan, Beyond 2020: Shaping flyway conservation for the future, recognizes that migratory waterbird survival will depend on our work and commitment.”

About the French Facility for Global Environment (FFEM)

The French government created FFEM in 1994 to contribute to the protection of the environment in developing countries by co-financing projects related to biodiversity, climate change, land degradation, desertification and persistent organic pollutants.

About the Sustainable Wildlife Management (SWM) Programme

The SWM Programme is an African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States (ACP) initiative. Funded by the 11th European Development Fund and implemented by a consortium of partners (FAO, the French Agricultural Research Centre for International Development, the French Agricultural Research Centre for International Development and the Wildlife Conservation Society), SWM has the RESSOURCE as one of its projects. The initiatives under SWM seeks to improve wildlife conservation and food security.

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