- An estimated US$ 300 million per year is the cost of managing and protecting Africa's more than 1,200 existing protected areas, which are a resource for mankind at large. This is the conclusion of a recent global gathering of protected area managers and experts in Nairobi, who voiced concern over a funding shortfall for the management of nature sanctuaries in Africa.
Meeting in Nairobi from 1–2 February, the discussions were organised by the two environmentalist group African Protected Areas Initiative (APAI) and BirdLife International. Participants concluded that protected areas in Africa "form part of the mosaic of land-use that must be managed for the health of the region," and argued that they are essential ingredients for achieving global goals to reduce poverty.
All of Africa was facing "a daunting challenge to reconcile the sustainable management of its natural resources with pressing development needs," the groups further found. It was widely acknowledged that "biodiversity has a direct link to poverty, human health and well-being and a wide range of biological resources provide food, medicine and alternative sources of income for rural communities."
In this complex landscape, the role of protected areas in development was said to be "insufficiently recognised" and the threats these areas face were "compounded by inadequate allocation of financial resources in national budgets and a marked imbalance in the distribution of costs and benefits."
The environmentalist groups therefore concluded that African governments would be well advised to invest more in the management of their national parks and reserves. However, Africa's unique nature is also a resources and heritage for mankind at large, and the international community thus should take its part of the responsibility to manage protected areas in Africa.
Most critically, the specialists say, the global benefits that Africa's protected areas provide, in terms of the preservation of biodiversity and the ecosystem functions they support, had "not attracted anything like adequate funding from the international community. The global community must increase the level of sustainable long term funds it provides in support of biodiversity conservation to ensure it meets its fair share of the costs," the Nairobi conference concluded.
There was ample evidence to suggest, BirdLife said in a statement, that "in addition to helping guaranteeing the survival of global biodiversity, the long-term benefits derived from these areas exceeds the costs." In Madagascar, for example, experts at the workshop pointed out that studies have shown that for every one US$ invested in conserving that country's extraordinarily rich biodiversity, two US$ had been generated for sustainable development.
Dr Hazell Shokellu Thompson of BirdLife's Africa Secretariat commented: "Although on paper many of our region's best wildlife areas appear to be protected, the reality is that they are severely underfunded. And even though US$ 300 million per year seems like a lot of money, the benefits to people and wildlife are worth much, much more."
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