Africa suffers 40% ecological decline – Report

A new report on Africa’s ecology shows that the continent has suffered a decline of nearly 40% in biodiversity in the last four decades.

The report, a joint effort by the African Development Bank (AfDB) and the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) was launched June 1, 2012 in Arusha, Tanzania during the Annual General Meetings of the AfDB.

Titled, ‘The Africa Ecological Footprint Report: Green Infrastructure for Africa’s Ecological Security’ takes stock of the health of Africa’s ecosystems, as well as trends in resources use patterns. It also lays out recommendations on implementing green development pathways for Africa, the AfDB has said in a press release.

It indicates that the report is intended to stoke up thinking on greener development in Africa and to rally action by policy-makers and investors in the lead-up to Rio+20, the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development taking place later this month in Brazil.

According to the release, the Africa Ecological Footprint Report 2012 outlines two alarming trends, which if not addressed by policy-makers and investors are likely to lead to important social and economic impacts.

The first, it says is by tracking the changes in wildlife populations as a proxy for ecosystem health, the Africa Living Planet Index shows a decline of nearly 40% in biodiversity in the last four decades. This decline reflects a degradation of the natural systems upon which Africa’s current and future prosperity depends.

Secondly, the rapid population growth and increasing prosperity are changing consumption patterns, with the result that Africa’s ecological footprint – the area needed to generate the resources consumed by the people who live here – has been growing steadily.

The report finds that while Africa’s total ecological footprint is set to double by 2040 in a business-as-usual scenario, the good news is that Africa is in an advantageous position to act.

It is endowed with tremendous natural resources, which, if managed properly, will be able to meet the needs of a growing population. And its relatively low footprint may be maintained if forward-looking and large-scale solutions can be mobilised in the areas of renewable energy, urban planning, and sound management of forests, water and marine resources.

Commenting AfDB President, Donald Kaberuka says, “Africa has choices. Embracing a more sustainable approach to development can generate benefits in terms of environmental security, human wellbeing, and increased competitiveness.”

“Our ecological infrastructure – terrestrial, freshwater and marine ecosystems – is as essential to human development as are industrial and social infrastructures such as roads, schools, hospitals and energy provision,” said WWF’s Jim Leape.

“The Africa Ecological Footprint Report showcases successful and scalable initiatives across Africa in renewable energy, integrated water resource management, ecotourism and forest conservation. The report offers concrete recommendations for maintaining Africa’s natural capital as the foundation for sustainable and inclusive development and I urge decision-makers to act on them,” he adds.

By Emmanuel K. Dogbevi

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