Musanze: Scientists, Researchers meet to find solutions to Global Ecosystem Protection Challenges
By Justin Kayiranga and Ange de la Victoire DUSABEMUNGU
From 8th-10th June, 2022, Scientists, researchers in various fields related to the environment, policy makers and Government officials have convened in the third Ecosystem Services Partnership (ESP) Africa Regional conference which took place in Musanze District in the Northern Province of Rwanda to exchange knowledge and research data that could help in finding long-term solutions to the problems facing the global ecosystem protection efforts.
The conference which was organized by the Ecosystem Services Partnership (ESP) in partnership with the Ministry of Environment of Rwanda and IUCN in Rwanda was also an opportune time to share experiences and best practices around the importance of ecosystem services for the transition to sustainable economies and natural capital accounting.
Commenting on the happening of such an important conference, Mr. Charles Karangwa, IUCN Regional Head, Land Systems and Country Representative, Kenya said that “the world economy as a whole is, as you know, based largely on the natural resources in which we depend on.”
“So this meeting aims to look at how we can take care of the nature we depend on so that it can also help us meet our needs.” He explained.
“As you know, whether it’s food, agricultural products, the economy as a whole, other services have a lot in common with how we care about nature.” He added.
Mr. Karangwa also emphasised that “The air we breathe and the addition of Disasters we encounter and how we can stop them, all have to do with the Earth itself and how we conserve the Mother Earth or the ecosystem.”
The conference, therefore, brings together African researchers, and those from major European universities, South America and others, as well as Central America, NGOs and International Organizations, representatives of African countries to really talk about the role of the world in general in the protection of natural resources that help humanity to live better.
The meeting also discussed the issue of climate change and how researchers and decision-makers are working together to find a solution to the problem of climate change.
Ms. Ingabire Diane, a representative of the Ecosystem Service Partnership whose Headquarters is in the Netherlands and also the Conference Manager, said that this is a great opportunity for people to meet and share their knowledge of research with a view to finding solutions to existing problems.
She asserted that the conference is also another time to identify together existing gaps that can hinder the maximum protection of Natural ecosystem.
She said “for example you can ask as a citizen what the role of nature is? Or what’s the role of that tree for her/him? Many may not be aware of it.”
“This is where the idea of organizing such conferences comes from so that researchers can meet with leaders, policy makers, or policymakers to share those ideas and research data that can contribute to the fullest protection of the environment and its natural ecosystem” Ms Ingabire explained.
Speaking to the Media, Dr. Beth Kaplin, the director of the Center of Excellence in Biodiversity & Natural Resource Management at the University of Rwanda said that “we really want to work hard to protect the biodiversity and the functioning healthy ecosystems we rely on.”
She added that “everything we do as humans comes from those functioning ecosystems and then overlaying that we have climate change.”
“So we know that temperatures are warming and we know that rainfall is changing. In some cases, it is heavier, it can be unpredictable, and it can be less than normal. So that is affecting species and the ecosystem functioning. So there are many things we can do to make our ecosystems stronger” said Dr. Kaplin.
She revealed that the Center of Excellence in Biodiversity & Natural Resource Management at the University of Rwanda is developing the first national Rwanda biodiversity Information System, which is holding biodiversity data that will be accessible to the public and that will help them to make informed decisions.
“For example, if you want to develop an area, certain land use planning, environmental impact assessments can use that information. Where are the certain species that are indicators of healthy functioning ecosystems? Where do we need to do some restoration interventions? And so this information system is being developed to support that kind of work and decision making” She explained.
Speaking at the opening session of the Conference, Mr. Patrick Karera, and the Permanent Secretary in Rwanda’s Ministry of Environment said that “We cannot sustain the development to which we aspire if natural ecosystem processes and functionalities are disrupted.”
He noted that “Ecosystem processes are of a very high value to human and countries economy.”, adding: “The natural ecosystem processes provide basic conditions for human existence including opportunities for agriculture, forest resources, productive land and seas, quality water, clean air, climate regulation and protection from disasters.”
However, he said, degradation of the ecosystem has a detrimental impact on the entire society, affecting its economy, the health of people, and putting the entire socio-ecological system at risk.
“We thank the Ecosystem Services Partnership to have prioritized discussion and cooperation amongst stakeholders working in the field of ecosystem services. It is a noble initiative that we wish to feed the action required to keep the world’s ecosystems safe and functional.” Mr. Karera said.
He also highlighted that “The Government of Rwanda values the importance of biological diversity for a successful sustainable growth of the economy. Policies, strategies and laws were put in place to provide guidance on appropriate management, enforcement and implementation of best practices.”
Rwanda wants to strengthen integration of natural capital accounting and valuation of ecosystem services into the national development planning framework.
“We developed for example the Natural Capital Accounts for land, water, minerals and recently, ecosystems.” He said.
“Through this ESP Africa Conference, we expect practical recommendations that trigger effective actions on conservation of nature, improvement of livelihoods and sustainable economic investment in natural capital.” Mr. Karera concluded.