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- Biodiversity and development challenges in Africa

Biodiversity is in need of wise management, not simply to satisfy international pressures and obligations, but because it is the basis of most rural livelihoods and is the foundation of major new economic sectors that offer the prospect of better, more sustainable lives.

As New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD) has recognized, development cannot be achieved through dependence on outside resources, but must rely on the best use of local resources. Biodiversity is one of these, and represents a formidable natural asset. For example, the international trade in flowers bred from a large number of plant species originating in Africa is worth billions of dollars annually, almost all of which accrues outside Africa. For the opportunities offered by biodiversity to be realized, new strategies, which go beyond a focus on a few species and parks, will need to be adopted. New links need to be made between protecting biodiversity and human needs. There is a need for more function-oriented conservation of ecosystem services essential for human livelihood, including the peopledominated landscapes outside parks.

The coincidence of centres of biodiversity, human cultural heritage and intensive land use partly defines the necessary strategy for conservation and sustainable use policy. If viable populations are to be preserved, particularly in the light of an uncertain future climate, biodiversity conservation cannot be restricted to protected areas, but has to be incorporated as part of sustainable land use even in densely settled areas. Likewise, conservation of human culture within centres of biodiversity requires approaches different from the concept of protected areas exclusively dedicated to species conservation. Except under special circumstances, for example, where nature tourism is the best economic land use, species and park-centred strategies of biodiversity conservation are unlikely to achieve poverty reduction goals. Although biodiversity conservation objectives often overlap with other priorities for sustainable use (for example, the conservation of water catchment areas), the overall outcome of such integrated strategies will need to go beyond solely biodiversity-centred conservation targets. This principle is reflected in the “ecosystem approach” adopted by the CBD in 2000 and underlies the interlinkages approach discussed in Interlinkages: The environment and policy web in Africa. Clear and convergent objectives, verifiable targets, collaboration and coordination between conventions and between countries, focused and sustained capacity-building, and harmonized reporting requirements are needed to advance the regional development objectives.

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