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Coronavirus In Africa Could Reverse 30 Years Of Wildlife Conservation Gains, Harming Interconnected Communities And Livelihoods

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For wild animals in Africa on the verge of extinction and the tight knit communities who protect them, COVID-19 is a specter, disrupting a delicate balancing act of survival for both humans and endangered species. African officials and conservation experts from Kenya, Uganda and Gabon briefed members of Congress on May 12 about the growing impact of Coronavirus on protected wildlife areas.

Their overarching message: new policies must take into account both national security concerns, and sustaining livelihood in communities hardest hit by the lockdown measures.

Unless African governments can maintain strong networks of community conservation areas, supporting thousands of jobs dedicated to wildlife conservation, protected wildlife areas face a difficult road to recovery.

The fear is that Coronavirus in Africa could reverse 30 years of conservation gains, including communal conservancy programs in multiple countries.

Traditional funding and economic development in these areas will not bounce back into place overnight. We don’t yet know the lasting impact of COVID-19 on Africa’s tourism industry.

Early data show the fractures in the system, but the full effect of travel bans, border closures and vacation cancelations on protected areas and the local communities co-existing with wild lands is just starting to sink in across the African continent.

The large revenue streams that supported livelihood and a stable economy were abruptly cut off in late March. No job in these areas was left unscathed.

In Namibia, 86 conservancies stand to lose nearly $11M in income from tourism operations and salaries to tourism staff living in conservancies.

This means that 700 community game guards and rhino rangers, 300 conservancy support staff, and 1,175 locally-hired tourism staff members are at high risk of losing their jobs.

In larger countries, the stakes are higher. In Kenya, for example, conservancies are poised to lose $120M in annual income with unfathomable consequences.

On top of losses from the tourism sector, well-intended lockdown measures in densely populated cities are exacerbating the situation in smaller rural communities.

An estimated 350 million people in Africa work in what’s known as informal employment. Social distancing and unemployment across this large segment has influenced many city-dwellers to move back to their home towns.

But with rural communities also experiencing high unemployment and severe wage cuts, people returning home will have few options available for subsistence, which raises the possibility of being lured into illegal activities such as poaching and wildlife trafficking.

Growing strains on local economies have led to concerns about food security. According to the World Economic Forum, lockdown measures have disrupted internal supply chains, halting food production.

To make matters worse, huge swarms of desert locust are devastating crops in Eastern Africa, and parts of Southern Africa recovering from recent severe drought and floods – all of which makes the continent more dependent on food that is externally sourced.

The comparatively smaller number of cases in African countries is no reason to discount the abrupt economic reversals in community conservation areas. The spread of COVID-19 is still on the rise and will continue to have broad-based impact on protected areas.

There are reported outbreaks in every African country. At the time of this writing, there were 184,333 officially infected with 5,071 deaths, according to Africa CDC.

South Africa has reported 48,285 confirmed cases – an increase of more than 20 percent over the past week. Africa’s most populous nation, Nigeria, is struggling to respond to both the spread of COVID-19 and to the dramatic drop in oil prices, which has crippled its economy.

The World Health Organization has warned that hot spots in Africa could experience a second wave of Covid-19 as lockdown orders are lifted in June, and that appears to already be occurring in the Western Cape.

South Africa has its largest daily increase in reported infections on June 4, with 3,267 new cases. The World Bank has estimated that as many as 60 million people could be pushed into extreme poverty by the end of 2020.

If the situation continues to deteriorate, more vulnerable communities will turn to wildlife as a source of food. Such a scenario of unrestrained consumption of bush meat raises the risk of pathogen transfer from wildlife to humans.

As the US and other countries pivot to help Africa, stimulus packages must be designed to include support for communities on the frontlines of wildlife conservation.

If we don’t act to channel aid and investment for job creation to African communities most in need, we run the risk of reversing 30 years of gains in changing behaviors toward wildlife.

African Wildlife Foundation and organizations working on the front lines and monitoring developments, have flagged sustaining land leases and providing opportunities for livelihood as critical stop gaps during and in the immediate aftermath of lockdowns.

Emergency support throughout the apex of the disease event will ensure conservation is secure for Africa’s people, economy and environment.

The US Government is no stranger to community-based conservation in Africa. It has been supporting these efforts for decades, helping to ensure that local communities benefit from wildlife conservation, which in turn incentivizes conservation efforts and helps combat threats to wildlife. This model needs a lifeline now more than ever.

COVID-19 shines a light on the fragility of wildlife conservation in Africa. With limited funding for most state-run nature agencies, there has been an over-reliance on tourism to support efforts.

In the wake of the pandemic – after immediate needs are addressed – Africa has a chance to show the world how to develop a regenerative economy.

We must strive to strengthen and mainstream wildlife conservation into all sectors of the African economy in response to the pandemic to prevent future outbreaks

Countries facing limitations and resource constraints during lockdowns will be reopening economies soon, and rethinking development pathways as they do.

The community development agenda in Africa agenda stands to benefit if nature is front and center, and whatever we put into these efforts now will lessen the risk of another global pandemic happening in the future.

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East-Africa

Uganda Forests Risk Depletion Due To Rapid Population Growth

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Ugandan experts have revealed that the country’s population is expected to rise to 75million in the next decade warning this could directly and negatively impact on forests.

The revelations come at a time the world is celebrating World Wildlife Day observed on 3 March in order to celebrate the flora and fauna of the world and also raise awareness about them.

The theme for World Wildlife Day 2021 is ‘Forests and Livelihoods: Sustaining People and Planet’. The United Nations aims to highlight the significance of how forests give a livelihood to many communities, especially indigenous and local communities.

Robert Bitariho, Director of Uganda’s Institute of Tropical Forest Conservation said on Wednesday that use of forests is by large unsustainable in Uganda because of high population density. If in 2031 the Ugandan population is at 75 million how much forests are we going to lose?

“On average 75% of forest produce is consumed at the household level with only 25% being traded. This indicates how much forests mean to the survival of the local community,” he said.

Tom Obong Okello, Executive Director National Forestry Authority submitted that “whatever effort we are doing to address sustainable forest management we must manage forests outside gazetted forest protection areas.”

According to Obong, Forestry in Uganda is being recognized as a primary growth sector and a contributor to the goal of sustainable industrialization for growth, employment and wealth creation.

Meanwhile, Sam Mwandah, Executive Director of Uganda Wildlife Authority says “Forest loss greatly derails Uganda’s efforts to mitigate the effects of climate change and without forests, our survival is in jeopardy.”

David Duli, Country Director WWF said that the population is overwhelming as we have seen in Bwindi natural forest area. There is the demarcation of boundaries but the gardens are going up to the edge of the forest.

Uganda’s forest cover includes tropical forests, woodlands and plantation forests.

According to Matthias Schauer the EU representative in Uganda,”The damage done to forests and woodlands in Uganda in the past 25 years has been dramatic. We destroy unique biodiversity and intruding natural habitats hence fueling future wildlife conflicts.”

The UN plans to introduce forest wildlife management models and practices on World Wildlife Day 2021. Celebrating the livelihoods that are based in forest, the UN aims to promote practices that can help in sustainable development, including traditional practices and knowledge.

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Business

French Firm Acquires 100 MW Solar Power Plant In South Africa

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 A South African-French multinational electric utility company, ENGIE, has signed a deal to acquire from a Spanish counterpart, Abengoa, a 40% equity stake in Xina Solar One, a 100 MW Concentrated Solar plant, as well as 46% of the Operations & Maintenance Company.

The plant is equipped with parabolic trough technology and a molten salt storage system that allows for 5.5 hours of energy storage to provide reliable electricity during peak demand.

Power is contracted through a 20 years Power Purchase Agreement with Eskom (South African Electricity Public Utility). 

Xina Solar One is supplying clean energy to more than 95,000 South African households and prevents the emission into the atmosphere of approximately 348,000 tons of CO2 each year.

The plant is located in the Northern Cape of South Africa, which is also the location of ENGIE’s 100 MW Kathu CSP plant.

Xina Solar One increases ENGIE’s renewable footprint and is a further step to cementing its position as the leading Independent Power Producer in the country.

Synergies between Xina and Kathu will be developed to further enhance the operational efficiency of both plants.

“With the acquisition of this project, ENGIE is pursuing its low carbon strategy. Xina augments the country’s installed peaking power and reduces its dependence on coal-fired electricity. The 100 MW CSP plant also contributes to ENGIE’s geographic rationalization by expanding its footprint in South Africa, where it is the leading Independent Power Producer with 1,320 MW of installed capacity.”  says Sébastien Arbola, CEO of ENGIE MESCATA.

Mohamed Hoosen, CEO of ENGIE Southern Africa said: “ENGIE is valued as a highly-skilled IPP and a long-term player in the South African power industry. We are adding an innovative high-performing plant and are increasing our CSP capacity. This investment will create value over the lon- term while accelerating impact on the energy transition of our customers.”

Co-shareholders on Xina Solar One include Public Investment Corporation, a pension fund manager and a shareholder on ENGIE’s Kathu project (20%); Industrial Development Corporation, a development finance institution wholly- owned by the South African Government (20%); and Xina Community Trust, funded by the IDC (20%).

Xina Solar One, which started commercial operation in August 2017, was built by Abengoa.

Completion of the transaction is subject to the fulfillment of certain conditions including merger control clearance from relevant competition authorities.

In South Africa, ENGIE has interests in a CSP plant (100 MW Kathu), a wind farm (94 MW Aurora), 2 solar photovoltaic plants (21 MW), and 2 thermal power peaking plants (670 MW Avon and 335 MW Dedisa).

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Environment

Poisoned Fish Spotted Floating On Lake Victoria

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Tanzania has warned its lake shore population against eating fish that is reportedly floating on the vast lake Victoria.

Authorities in Kagera Region have warned residents to avoid eating dead fish found floating on the lake.

Kagera Regional Fisheries officer, Efrazi Mkama said on Saturday that his team was closely following up reports from a neighbouring country, showing that some dead fish had been washed up ashore on lake Victoria as well as lake Kyoga and the Nile.

Lake Victoria is shared by Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania.

“We have taken necessary precautions. Preliminary investigations show fish poisoning. So, people are warned to avoid eating dead fish if they see them floating, instead they have to burry,” he said.

Mkama said last month dead fish stocks were spotted floating on Bugabo and Nyabesigwa sites, adding that the cause might be a drop in oxygen levels.

Nile Perch fish species is believed to be very sensitive to oxygen levels below 2mg/litre of water.

 

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