Academic journal article Journal of Sustainable Development

Divided We Fall: Rethinking Biodiversity Planning in the Context of Development in Sub-Saharan Africa©

Academic journal article Journal of Sustainable Development

Divided We Fall: Rethinking Biodiversity Planning in the Context of Development in Sub-Saharan Africa©

Article excerpt


The signatory countries of the Convention on Biological Diversity set the objective of halting the decline of biodiversity by 2010, but as the target date arrived and passed, the status of biodiversity on the planet remained dismal. With the dawn of the UN Decade for Biodiversity at the Rio+20 Earth Summit in June 2012 and as the UN Biodiversity Strategic Plan moves forward, this article contextualizes biodiversity prospects in sub-Saharan Africa by examining the history of interactions between African communities and the environment, from the pre-colonial period to today. It provides a critical analysis of the current biodiversity conservation planning methodologies and pinpoints several inherent obstacles, including the neo-Malthusianism that dominates the thinking of certain wildlife experts.

Setting out an argument with far-reaching implications for the success of future conservation efforts all over the world, the author examines the basis of emerging conservation approaches in sub-Saharan Africa, focusing on the need to forge a more inclusive conservation practice and open up to the perceptions, representations and cultural universe of the Other.

Keywords: Sub-Saharan Africa, biodiversity conservation, planning methodologies, development, epistemology, neo-Malthusianism, representations, traditional ecological knowledge (TEK)

List of abbreviations

CAR: Central African Republic

ICA: Infrastructure Consortium for Africa

IEPF: Institut de l'Energie et de l'Environnement de la Francophonie

IUCN: International Union for Conservation of Nature

IUCN-CMP: IUCN Conservation Measures Partnership

UNEP: United Nations Environment Programme

UNESCO: United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation

WCMC: World Conservation Monitoring Centre

WRI: World Resources Institute

1. Introduction

In 2002, at the Johannesburg Summit on Sustainable Development, the 196 governments that ratified the Convention on Biological Diversity set the laudable goal of halting the decline of biodiversity by 2010, which the United Nations declared to be the International Year of Biodiversity. The purpose of this forceful gesture was to raise international awareness of the critical importance of diversity, communicate the cost of its loss to humans and engage the world population, especially young people, in the movement to protect all life on Earth. When the projected deadline came and went, a number of scientific articles were published outlining the marked increase in the pace of biodiversity loss since the 2002 announcement of the Conference of the Parties objective. These include Focus Biodiversité (2010), Nègre et al. (2010), Mauz and Granjou (2010), République française (2010), and Le Pestre (2011) to name just a few.

A preliminary analysis of the reports published in 2010 reveals a unanimous acknowledgement of failure. The UN (2010) bluntly states that we have fallen short of the objective, set in 2002 by the governments of the entire world, "to achieve by 2010 a significant reduction of the current rate of biodiversity loss at the global, regional and national level as a contribution to poverty alleviation and to the benefit of all life on Earth." Innumerable signs indicate that the three major components of biological diversity continue to decline: genes, species and ecosystems. In a press release dated May 10, 2010, the United Nations asserted that "Governments have, on the whole, failed to achieve the objectives set by the Convention on Biological Diversity that aim to reduce the percentage loss of biodiversity." International organizations and, indeed, most countries on the planet confirm this finding. UICN-France (2010), for example, not only agrees that the objective has not been achieved but confirms that despite efforts made, the overall status of biodiversity has not improved in French territory and that pressure on biodiversity is as relentless as ever. …

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