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Africa
21 Apr 2017

Biodiversity hit by depletion in West Africa hotspot

Human activity in São Tomé and Príncipe is causing biodiversity loss © Mariana Cavalho
Human activity in São Tomé and Príncipe is causing biodiversity loss © Mariana Cavalho
By Jude Fuhnwi

Intensified pressure on natural resources by human beings is having a damaging effect on biodiversity in the Guinean Forests of West Africa hotspot, and could lead to a loss of countless ecosystem services to humanity and biodiversity in the region, stakeholders have warned.

During a series of stakeholder engagement meetings organised by BirdLife, the Critical Ecosystem Partnership’s (CEPF) Regional Implementation Team (RIT) in five countries of the hotspot, the close to 200 participants from local organisations, private sector, government and research institutes active in biodiversity conservation, stressed that the region’s natural resources were depleting at an alarming rate.

At the end of the meetings in Sierra Leone, Liberia, Sao Tome and Principe, Ghana and Nigeria, from 17 – 29 March 2017, the conservation actors were unanimous that the time is now to halt biodiversity depletion in their various countries.

The BirdLife/CEPF RIT’s main objective was to bring together these conservation stakeholders to share and update information about the status of biodiversity conservation in the targeted countries. After reflecting on the key problems facing biodiversity in their countries, the BirdLife/CEPF investment in the Guinean Forests of West Africa biodiversity hotspot was introduced to these civil society organisations as a funding opportunity for their conservation efforts. An investment which participants described as timely.

“I commend the BirdLife International/CEPF and stakeholders that this meeting has become very critical, especially where emphasis is on civil society and private sector organisations focused on biodiversity conservation and sustainable environmental management. It is important to transparently develop capacity and allocate grants for the conservation of this hotspot to boost our ecosystem services,” said Ntufam Barr Edet, special adviser on Forestry, Biodiversity Conservation and Marine Protection to the governor of Nigeria’s Cross River State, during one of the meetings in Calabar on 23 -24 March.

RIT project officers drilled the civil society representatives on how they can benefit from the CEPF grant portfolio and contribute to conservation efforts in the Guinean Forests of West Africa Biodiversity hotspot.

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“CEPF and BirdLife have taken an important step to minimize biodiversity and ecosystem loss because our government through the Forestry Development Authority put laws in place but which are not often implemented,” said Henra Baysal, representative of Liberia Timber Association at the meeting in Monrovia.

Participants discuss threats to biodiversity at the BirdLife CEPF RIT meeting in Calabar, Nigeria  © Ruth Akagu

The RIT is presently active in all 11 countries of the hotspot and responsible for managing the BirdLife/CEPF investment for a period of five years (2016 – 2021). The RIT also works closely with a number of donors and private sector entities operating within the hotspot, who are currently sponsoring or planning to sponsor a range of biodiversity conservation programmes. In Sierra Leone, the stakeholder engagement event was organised in collaboration with the Global Environment Facility Small Grants Programme.

“These stakeholder engagement meetings make CEPF a unique donor, in that the donor first brings potential applicants of its grant together and train them on the application process. This is a good approach, especially when working with civil society organisations,” explained Francois Kamano, RIT project officer and organiser of the event in Liberia and Sierra Leone.

On 27th March, the BirdLife/CEPF RIT project was officially launched in São Tomé and Príncipe, on the side-lines of the stakeholder engagement events. The launch was attended by circa 50 representatives of civil society organisations and top government officials.

“The audience generally welcomed the programme in the country and there was demonstrated interest from civil society organisations to further engage with CEPF and discuss proposals and ideas,” said Mariana Cavalho, the RIT project officer for São Tomé and Príncipe and host of the event.
The Guinean Forests of West Africa Biodiversity hotspot is one of eight biodiversity hotspots in Africa and Madagascar and covers 621,705 km2. It is divided into the ‘Upper Guinean Forests’ stretching from Guinea, through Sierra Leone, Liberia, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Togo and, marginally, into Benin – and the ‘Lower Guinean Forests’ covering much of southern Nigeria, extends into Cameroon, and also includes São Tomé and Príncipe and the offshore islands of Equatorial Guinea.

This hotspot is facing serious threats including the rapid loss of forest cover for agricultural and infrastructural development activities, wildlife species degradation due to excessive hunting for bush meat and poaching for trophies, insecurity, disease and conflict, climate change among others.

CEPF’s investment niche in the Guinean Forests is therefore to provide civil society organisations at grassroots, national and international levels with the capacity and resources to establish and sustain multi-stakeholder partnerships that demonstrate models for sustainable growth, target the poorest populations and achieve priority conservation outcomes.

 

The Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund is a joint initiative of l'Agence Française de Développement, Conservation International, the European Union, the Global Environment Facility, the Government of Japan, the MacArthur Foundation and the World Bank. A fundamental goal is to ensure civil society is engaged in biodiversity conservation.