April 15, 2024

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Rwanda’s Remarkable Leap: Harnessing IUCN Scientific Tools for a Sustainable Future in Biodiversity Conservation

By Ange de la Victoire DUSABEMUNGU

Rwanda has made significant strides in restoring its degraded wetlands and deforested landscapes. It is crucial to maintain this momentum. Additionally, Rwanda has recently renewed its commitment to increasing investment in conservation, which will result in the establishment of a biodiversity funding facility in the near future.

During the International Congress for Conservation Biology taking place from 23 – 27 July 2023 in Kigali, Rwanda has pledged to utilize IUCN Scientific Tools and Resources to continue the efficient implementation and monitoring of the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework.

The supportive remarks were made on Monday during the ICCB 2023 Plenary Session organized by IUCN on Scientific Tools and Resources to support the effective implementation and monitoring of the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework in Africa.

Among the officials attended the IUCN Plenary Session include, Beatrice Cyiza Director General of Environment and Climate Change at the Ministry of Environment; Kaori Yasuda, IUCN Rwanda Country Representative; Shadrack Ngene from the Ministry of Tourism, Wildlife and Heritage, Kenya; Louise Mair from Newcastle University; Frank Hawkins from IUCN; Wendy Elliott from WWF-International; Antonin Vergez from IUCN and NISKANEN Leo from IUCN among many others.

The Global Biodiversity Framework is an ambitious framework that sets targets to effectively conserve and manage at least 30% of terrestrial and inland water areas, marine and coastal areas, and particularly areas of significant importance to biodiversity and ecosystem functions and services.

According to Luther Anukur, Regional Director, IUCN Eastern and Southern Africa “IUCN has the knowledge products that address various Global Biodiversity Framework targets, such as the IUCN Red List of Species, the Green List, the Red List of Ecosystems, the IUCN Nature-Based Solutions Standards, the STAR, among others.”

“Despite the availability of these tools, access and usage are still limited due to Financial resources and monitoring and capacity to use these tools.”

Luther Anukur,

He added that last year, the IUCN organized the inaugural Africa Protected Area Congress during which the matter of insufficient financial resources became prominent, as did the issue of capacity, particularly the capacity of global communities.”

For the sake of saving the Biodiversity, Mr. Anukur noted that “With the growth trajectory in Africa, there is need to identify opportunities to create linkages between science, policy and practice by drawing on existing and new knowledge to influence policy and practice for appropriate measures to avoid the adverse effects of development activities on biodiversity.”

No conservation without Science

Speaking at the session, Beatrice Cyiza, the Director General, Environment and Climate Change at the Ministry of Environment in Rwanda reminded that before the establishment of the Global Biodiversity Framework, there has been about 20 important 20 Aichi Biodiversity Targets and none of them were fully achieved by various partners and countries.

She explained that one of the main factors contributing to this lack of success was the significant gaps between national plans and targets.

“The national plans were not sufficiently ambitious to effectively meet all 20 targets.” She said.

“And that is how, from 2010 to 2020, we found ourselves as countries and nations falling short of reaching the targets.” Ms. Cyiza said.

“Science has also demonstrated that despite the efforts made through policies and plans, we still experienced significant biodiversity loss during that time.” She added.

“So talking about the global biodiversity framework, the overall objective as the nations, the global objective that we are seeking is to halt the biodiversity loss, or reverse at least the biodiversity loss from now to 2030.” She explained.

She noted that from the policy level, it is crucial that countries establish policies that are truly aligned with the goals of the Global Biodiversity Framework.

“It’s a big deal to us when it comes to halting the loss of biodiversity, and planning also to use biodiversity in science, but also for finance with the private sector. So it’s really something that we are looking forward to implementing as a country.” She said,

Ms. Cyiza observed that sometimes countries put in place policies forgetting that all the policies that are put in place need to embrace science with it.

“Whoever says science, whoever talks about data, it talks about scientists who are in the field. And I think that is the work of most of us in the ICCB today.” She said,

“We can have good policies, we can have good plans, but we really need finance to also implement those plans and policies that we put in place. Most importantly, we need finance for science, especially for the government side, I must admit that sometimes we do not give due finance and resources to the science, to generation of data. So, this is very key. We really need finance to get critical data that we can use to put in place our policies. And that also goes together with capacity building and technology transfer.”

Beatrice Cyiza, said

“If we have tools that can work in one country and in another, I think we can always be sharing the data and also the tools and technologies that we are using from one side to another so that we can all implement as a global community. So as a science community you are very important for the implementation of the Global Biodiversity Framework, but you are also very key to push the government, to push politicians to really be willing to put in place all the targets into their plans.” She explained.

Rwanda’s Success Story and Optimism

During the panel discussion, Ms. Beatrice Cyiza shared Rwanda’s success story where she told the participants about the Gishwati Mukura National Park which was severely degraded both before and after the1994 genocide against the Tutsi.

She said “It was necessary for us to take action and assess the extent of the forest degradation, the decline in species, and the overall impact of these events.”

She noted that various tools were employed in this process, with the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) being a key partner, alongside other NGOs and the government.

“Through collaborative efforts, we developed different methodologies to monitor and analyze the decline in species and overall ecological changes. Subsequently, we initiated restoration efforts to rehabilitate the forest, ultimately achieving the status of a UNESCO biosphere reserve.”

“It is crucial to note that when the global biodiversity framework is implemented, all countries are actively pursuing conservation efforts. This is because they recognize the importance and benefits of biodiversity and are committed to preventing its loss.”

Ms. Cyiza stated that Rwanda is eager to partner with IUCN in utilizing global tools, possibly developing additional ones, and exploring the potential of existing tools that can be adapted to Rwanda’s context.

Incredible time for Rwanda to host ICCB meetings.

According to Thomas Brooks, IUCN Chief Scientist itis an incredibly exciting time for Rwanda to host the International Congress on Conservation Biology.

He said “This is the first ICCB meeting to be convened in a new era of conservation, the era of the Kunming to Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework, which was finally signed by the world’s governments in Montreal, in Canada, last December after two delayed years from the terrible COVID-19 pandemic.”

Speaking at the opening of ICCB2023 on Sunday, 23rd July 2023, Rwanda’s Minister of Environment, Dr Jeanne d’Arc Mujawamariya emphasized that biodiversity is not a luxury.

She said that “it is the essence of life itself.”, adding that “It is about time that the humans connect nature and climate together.”

“Let us join hands to safeguard our planet’s natural heritage and forge a sustainable and resilient future where harmony with nature prevails. Together, we can make a lasting difference”,

Jeanne d’Arc Mujawamariya

More than 1,000 people from 93 countries attended the International Conference on Conservation Biology to share knowledge, discuss challenges, and explore innovative solutions to address pressing conservation issues.

Attendees gather for lively discussions and scientific presentations on the nexus between biodiversity conservation and genetics, ecology, biogeography, anthropology, history, psychology, economics, conservation marketing, religion, and more.

ICCB is the premier global meeting for conservation scientists and professionals, including researchers, students, agency personnel, environmental educators, practitioners, and other conservation stakeholders.

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