21 Dec 2016

Stakeholders call to end unsustainable land use in West Africa

Sustainable food production in Nigeria © WFP
Sustainable food production in Nigeria © WFP
By Alex Ngari

Participatory planning and environmental-friendly land use practices, supported by and effective land governance regime are the key ingredients to sustainable land use in West Africa. This is according to The Abuja Declaration on Sustainable Land Use for People and Biodiversity in West Africa which was adopted on 25th November 2016. The Declaration is as a result of a two-day workshop held in Abuja, Nigeria, hosted by the Government of Nigeria and sponsored by the Government of Switzerland. Participants were unanimous in calling for land use practices that guarantee continued ecosystem service provision to the people and biodiversity preservation in West Africa.

In her opening speech, the Honourable Minister of the Federal Ministry of Environment of Nigeria, Ms. Amina J. Mohammed, said,

“My ministry is ready to work across the stakeholders to develop solutions that will create sustainable land use benefits to people and birds, including working with civil society, support programmes for birds monitoring as means of understanding the effect of land use change as well as the health of those bird populations and the drive implementation of policies around integrated land use planning, strong and participative environmental governance. “

The unsustainable land use issue has been identified as key threat to biodiversity conservation in the West African Region. Population growth, economic growth driven by both local and international market demand for commodities and poor land governance have been cited as the key drivers of unsustainable land use. These underlying factors have led to land degradation and destruction of habitat for species, changes which may directly be contributing declines of populations of migratory landbirds including those that overwinter in the West African region. The Declaration recommends a participatory approach to land use planning and supports agro-ecological farming practices such as agroforestry, conservation agriculture, climate smart agriculture, integrated pest management and invasive species control. Together, these issues are central to the delivery of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the Aichi Targets under the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and the CMS Strategic Plan.

The workshop was in line with the CMS Resolution on African-Eurasian Migratory Landbirds Action Plan (AEMLAP) which was adopted by Resolution 11.17 at the CMS Conference of Parties in Quito in 2014 and which identifies land use changes as one of the most important threats for the conservation of migratory birds in Africa. BirdLife International has identified AEMLAP as one of the policy tools whose implementation will be important in turning the tide on declining populations of migratory landbirds.

Welcoming the Abuja Declaration on land use, the BirdLife Regional Director for Africa, Dr. Julius Arinaitwe, said,

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“the workshop has laid an excellent foundation for concerted actions to address land use problems in West Africa. Implementing the recommendations in the declaration will benefit the whole of Africa where land use issues are a challenge to birds and biodiversity conservation.”

A draft Resolution on the conservation of African-Eurasian Migratory Landbirds, was also agreed upon and will be submitted for adoption at the CMS Conference of Parties in October 2017 in the Philippines.

The workshop brought together government representatives of Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Nigeria and Senegal; UN organizations such as FAO, UNCCD and UNEP/CMS; the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF); universities, research organizations and civil society including BirdLife International partners.