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World Bank urges protection of Africa’s biodiversity

The World Bank Group, at the weekend, canvassed the protection of Africa’s biodiversity. It said the continent is home to a rich and diverse animal, plant, and marine biodiversity that provide critical ecosystem services, driving its economy and serving as buffers to climate change.

According to the global bank, the continent is however, experiencing a dramatic loss of biodiversity. The bank said it is estimated that by 2100, climate change alone could cause the loss of over half of African bird and mammal species, as well as trigger a 20% – 30% decline in lake productivity (the plant and animal life produced by a lake), and a significant loss of plant species.

“Even more immediate are ongoing threats to African biodiversity from natural habitat loss and degradation (especially from agricultural expansion), direct overexploitation of wildlife and fishery species (including from illegal hunting and trade), and the spread of certain non-native invasive species. This loss of biodiversity affects livelihoods, water supply, food security and lessens resilience to extreme events, particularly for people living in rural areas who are often the poorest,” it said in a statement on its website at the weekend.

To address the challenges this might pose, the World Bank Group said it is working with countries to better conserve and sustainably manage biodiversity. This includes investing in watershed management, integrated coastal zone management and protected areas, as countries strive to achieve their development goals and poverty reduction plans.

It said a key approach is to help countries find ways to generate revenues from biodiversity—including through tourism or payments for environmental services—that can cover the cost of managing biodiversity and improving local economies.

“At the same time, the World Bank Group also works closely with partners to improve forest governance and prevent wildlife crime as a way to protect the value of nature-based tourism which in turn affects the resilience of people living around protected areas. Recognising, measuring and managing natural capital and ecosystem services at the country level are vital to protecting biodiversity. The World Bank has been working with several countries in Africa to incorporate the physical and monetary values of natural capital in decision-making processes,” the bank said.

The World Bank, with support from the Global Environment Facility (GEF), has been among the largest financiers of biodiversity conservation in Africa. Biodiversity work, valued at about $360 million, is included in around 50 projects currently being implemented in the Africa region by the bank.

In Mozambique, the World Bank said it is supporting the government’s Mozambique Conservation Areas for Biodiversity and Development Programme (MozBio). Mozambique’s Conservation Areas were designated to protect the country’s diverse habitats —which include a coastline with spectacular coral reefs and over 6,000 plant, bird and mammal species. Its phase,  2015-2019, involved over 60,000 beneficiaries (almost half of whom are women) in 10 protected areas, including the Chimanimani, Maputo Special Reserve, Gilé and Quirimbas National Parks.

It leveraged over $500 million in private investment pledges. The second phase will go through 2023 and aims to further support rural communities while continuing conservation and biodiversity efforts.

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