FAO Regional Office for Africa

Africa calls for urgent action to conserve its rich biodiversity

Resilient livelihoods, food security and nutrition hinge on biodiversity conservation and sustainable use

Photo: @FAO

5 November 2019, Kigali – Africa has a rich array of biological diversity, which is a foundation for the continent’s food, nutrition, and health; and if not conserved and sustainably used, could pose a serious risk to food security and public health.

Biodiversity includes the diversity of life at genetic, species and ecosystem levels. It plays a vital role at a global scale, from pollination to nutrient cycling, carbon sequestration and the maintenance of soil health and fertility, which are essential prerequisites for sustainable agriculture production.

To promote biodiversity integration in agricultural sectors, including crops and livestock production systems, forestry, fisheries and aquaculture in the African region, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) Regional Office for Africa, in collaboration with the Government of Rwanda and the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), organized the African Regional Multi-Stakeholder Dialogue on Biodiversity Mainstreaming in Agricultural Sectors in Kigali, Rwanda.

The event brought together over 80 participants from 27 countries including the Ministers in charge of agriculture from Rwanda and South Sudan, Representatives from the African Union Commission (AUC), United Nations (UN) agencies, international and regional organizations, research institutes, farmers associations, youth groups and civil society organizations. 

Gérardine Mukeshimana, the Minister of Agriculture and Animal Resources of Rwanda said, “This regional dialogue presents an opportunity for participants to learn from each other and commit to integrate actions for the sustainable management and use of biological diversity across the agriculture sectors at national and regional levels.” 

Almami Dampha on behalf of Josefa Sacko, the African Union Commissioner for Rural Economy and Agriculture, highlighted the importance and challenges of biodiversity, and the need for paradigm shift, where African countries need to seriously engage in the activities of CBD and other forestry, fisheries and wildlife related agreements and forums. Dampha added, “We remain ever committed to work with you all in ensuring that agriculture takes into account the broad spectrum of biodiversity conservation for the benefit of our people.” 

National level action and commitment

The meeting concluded that further action at national level is needed for the implementation of biodiversity related commitments, and requested FAO to facilitate the exchange of knowledge and tools through a regional platform and support the convening of national multi-stakeholder dialogues. Participants highlighted the need to work across the different sectors of agriculture, environment, planning, finance, education, employment, youth, women, culture and health using both traditional knowledge, science, technologies and innovation.  Secured land tenure and enabling policies, financial incentives and capacity development at all levels are required to ensure that biodiversity contributes to food systems in the future, in particular within the context of climate change. 

“We are at an exciting moment of time. We have two major UN Decades to build up the momentum and raise the profile of biodiversity, including biodiversity for food and agriculture and bring transformative change to food systems without hampering future generations,” said Nora Berrahmouni, Senior Forestry Officer at FAO Regional Office for Africa. Berrahmouni added, “FAO will continue to support member countries in their efforts to conserve and promote healthy eco-systems and biodiversity and at the same time aim to improve people’s livelihoods at the ground level.”

About mainstreaming biodiversity in Africa
Participants shared experiences and lessons learned through country projects and policies as well as regional initiatives, such as the African Forest Landscape Restoration Initiative (AFR100) and the Great Green Wall Initiative (GGW). 

FAO has been actively advocating for the mainstreaming of biological diversity across agricultural sectors in Africa. Earlier this year in 2019, FAO launched The State of the World’s Biodiversity for Food and Agriculture. Irene Hoffmann, Secretary of FAO’s Commission on Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture, pointed out the ongoing development of a policy follow-up to this important global assessment, which will result in a global plan of action for biodiversity for food and agriculture. 

Moreover, FAO, in collaboration with different agencies, is spearheading two UN Decades, the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration 2021-2030 and the UN Decade for Family Farming 2019-2028, that will provide opportunities for advancing the biodiversity agenda from national to global levels.