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Traditional medicines could help african environment
Conservation of the central albertine rift
Transfrontier conservation areas
Baltic forest
Twenty percent of the world’s mangroves lost over the last 25 years
Asian nations to build biodiversity conservation corridors
European union to give e30 million for biodiversity conservation in china

Traditional medicines could help african environment

Growing plants used in traditional medicines could rescue Africa’s driest regions from total soil degradation and provide much-needed income and health care for the rural poor, said the World Bank in a report published last week.

It says that the global market for traditional medicines and the plants they are derived from is worth about US$65 billion, partly because of demand for plants used as raw materials in western medicines. Being able to capture even 1 percent of this – $650 million – would mean a significant injection of cash for Africa’s arid regions, says Warren Evans, the World Bank’s director of environment.

Millions of people in sub-Saharan Africa struggle to make a living from arid land that not only gets little rain but has also been damaged by overgrazing, deforestation and poor irrigation practices. According to the report, growing medicinal plants “can help check runoff and erosion, control flooding, purify water and protect against wind”.

The report identifies 38 plants that could grow in dry conditions. One is a type of acacia tree that is the source of gum arabic, used to treat inflammation of the throat and stomach. The Sudan’s dry savannahs are a major source of the gum, with a global market worth $90 million. Another of the plants, known as devil’s claw (Harpagophytum procumbens), is grown in the arid grasslands of southwest Africa. It has anti-inflammatory properties and is used to treat arthritis.

The report stresses the need for growing indigenous plants. Although non-native plants might hold more commercial promise, it says, they could threaten local biodiversity. (Source: SciDev.Net [United Kingdom], 31 October 2005.)

Conservation of the central albertine rift

Home to the world’s remaining mountain gorillas and many other endemic species of mammals, birds and plants, the Central Albertine Rift region has become the focus of joint conservation efforts by the governments of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Rwanda and Uganda. On 14 October 2005 ministers from the three African nations signed the Tripartite Declaration on the transboundary natural resource management of this biodiverse region.

This declaration recognizes the need to conserve the unique ecosystem of the Central Albertine Rift Transfrontier Protected Area Network through a collaborative management of eight parks and establishes a strategic management system that will enable sustainable conservation of natural resources for the benefit of the people of Rwanda, Uganda, the DRC and the international community.

The eight parks will be managed as one collective ecosystem and the countries have pledged to collaborate further on research, monitoring, community-based conservation, knowledge sharing and ecotourism to ensure sustainable biodiversity conservation. (Source: African Wildlife Foundation, 25 October 2005.)

Transfrontier conservation areas

The World Bank has approved a US$10 million credit for the conservation of Mozambique’s biodiversity and natural ecosystems through the promotion of sustainable use and the development of natural resources by local communities.

The transfrontier conservation area and tourism development project, for which the bank approved the credit, represent the second phase of a 15-year initiative known as the Transfrontier Conservation Area (TFCA) programme, the long-term objectives of which are to conserve biodiversity in the southern Africa region and emphasize regional collaboration in the management of transfrontier resources.

A World Bank press release said the funds would be used to establish and manage conservation in three areas on the Mozambican border with significant transborder biodiversity linkages with neighbouring countries. Public sector and local community capacity would be strengthened to manage biodiversity and natural resources, while the private sector is to be engaged through the promotion of ecotourism.

Environmentally sustainable tourism development links the conservation and development objectives of TFCA by providing an economic alternative to the

unsustainable, destructive use of natural resources, as well as a direct economic incentive to maintain the natural ecosystems and their biodiversity.

Further financing for the project will come from a $10 million grant by the Global Environment Facility and a $3.7 million grant from the Japanese Policy and Human Resources Development Fund. (Source: IRIN [in Reuters Alert, 2 December 2005].)

Baltic forest

Twenty-five partners from nine Baltic Sea countries (Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, the Russian Federation and Sweden) have agreed to cooperate to enhance sustainable regional development based on the management and use of forests as a resource and establish and employ multipurpose, cross-sectoral and transnational forest sector cooperation.

The partners expect that the Baltic forest will improve the economic, ecological and social optimization of the forest sector, ensure a broadened awareness and implementation of current knowledge and have a substantial and durable impact on management of the forest resources.

Twenty percent of the world’s mangroves lost over the last 25 years

Approximately 20 percent of the world’s mangrove forests have disappeared over the last 25 years as a result of overexploitation and conversion to other uses, according to a new FAO study. Mangroves today cover around 15 million ha worldwide, down from 18.8 million ha in 1980, according to the study. However, during the same time frame the annual rate of mangrove deforestation dropped from around 185 000 ha per year in the 1980s to 105 000 ha per year during the 2000–2005 period, it added.

Mangroves are salt-tolerant forest ecosystems commonly found along sheltered coastlines, in deltas and along riverbanks in the tropics and subtropics. Millions of fishers, farmers and others depend upon them as a source of wood, medicinal plants and food. (Source: FAO Newsroom, 9 November 2005.)

Asian nations to build biodiversity conservation corridors

The six Asian countries sharing the Lancang-Mekong River have pledged to build Asia’s first biodiversity conservation corridors for wild species movement and the maintenance of viable populations. The corridors are unprecedented in Asia and the news is a blessing to wildlife and plants struggling for survival in their highly fragmented habitats in the Mekong River Basin, the state media reported this week.

This is a timely and necessary initiative, said Jin Liqun, vice-president of the Asian Development Bank (ADB), the main sponsor of a decade-old subregional economic cooperation programme involving Cambodia, China, the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Myanmar, Thailand and Viet Nam.

Habitat fragmentation, mainly caused by rapid economic development, poses a growing threat to the rich animal and plant diversity in the greater Mekong subregion (GMS). The initiative was adopted at a recent conference of GMS environment ministers and is expected to get a nod from the heads of government of the six GMS countries, who are now in Kunming, capital of southwest China’s Yunnan Province for the second GMS summit. (Source: Financial Express [India], 5 July 2005.)

European union to give €30 million for biodiversity conservation in china

The European Commission (EC) said it will give e30 million towards a technical cooperation programme on biodiversity in China. “The programme will support China to manage its ecosystem sustainably and to contribute to the implementation of the international conventions related to biodiversity,” the EC’s China branch said in a joint statement with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and China’s State Environmental Protection Administration (SEPA).

UNDP will contribute US$500 000 to the project. SEPA, which will be responsible for achieving the programme’s overall objectives, will make an in-kind contribution of US$265 000.

“This is an unprecedented large-scale government-led initiative bringing together, for the first time, all relevant parties at national, subnational and community levels to agree on a common and innovative strategy to address China’s biodiversity conservation challenges,” said the UNDP’s senior deputy resident representative in China.

The five-year programme has a total budget of e52 million and will mainly focus on the western and southern provinces of China, according to the statement.

China has approximately 10 percent of all species within its borders. (Source: Forbes – United States, 6 November 2005.)

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