|Prof Judy Wakhungu at UNEA|
By Protus Onyango
NAIROBI, Kenya (PAMACC News) - Kenya is expected to benefit from the Sh9 billion ($90 million) Global Wildlife Programme to fight global wildlife poaching and trafficking crisis.
The World Bank in collaboration with other bodies have launched the programme, approved by the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and meant to strengthen the ability and capacity of participating countries to combat poaching and illegal wildlife trade.
Speaking during International Conference on Engaging Local Communities in Wildlife Conservation in Nairobi on Thursday, Diariétou Gaye, World Bank’s Country Director for Kenya, Africa Region, said poaching and illegal wildlife trade pose serious development, environmental and security challenges globally and particularly in Africa.
“This conference is a direct response to the rampant wildlife poaching and trafficking that are destroying countries’ natural capital, eroding the foundation of important economic sectors such as nature-based tourism, robbing poor people of their livelihood, and fueling criminal activities and conflict,” Gaye said.
She noted the problem is particularly acute in Africa where charismatic species such as the iconic African elephant, white and black rhinos, pangolins, and dozens of other species, are being poached to the brink of extinction.
“Illegal wildlife trade mirrors other crimes, for which the negative relationship with development has been conclusively established. It undermines the financial, social and economic capital of all countries impacted while bringing insecurity, corruption, and conflict. It has reached crisis levels,” Gaye said.
According to a World Bank report, globally, crime affecting natural resources and the environment inflicts damage on developing countries worth more than US$70 billion a year, the scale of illegal wildlife market globally is US$19 billion annually and the much prized rhino horn has been sold for up to US$40,000 a kilo—over five times the price of gold.
“As charismatic wildlife species disappear or get severely depleted, and as increased poaching heightens insecurity, tourism declines and economic development suffers,” Gaye said.
She called for collaborative efforts to end the menace. “No single country can singly control this vice. Curbing illegal trade of wildlife and wildlife parts is therefore a multi-country / multi-stakeholders responsibility. We must continue to strengthen collaboration to impede poaching and illegal wildlife trade,” Gaye said.
First Lady Margaret Kenyatta said that around the world, there is growing realisation that animals are worth more to human beings alive than dead and protecting natural heritages is becoming ans prominent global issue.
“The momentum must continue and conservation efforts must gain steam. I thank the World Bank Group and UNEP for convening this critical conference and for creating—in partnership with the Global Environment Facility (GEF) —the Global Wildlife Programme to invest hundreds of millions of dollars in holistic wildlife conservation interventions,” Ms Kenyatta said.
She added, “Instead what we need, is a more synergistic approach--one that harnesses the complimentary capabilities of diverse groups including policy makers, philanthropists, conservationists and local communities. In today’s age, it is imperative that we find ways of effectively engaging local communities as equal partners, and stakeholders in the conservation movement.”
She called for empowering of local communities, noting that if they are properly informed, and are deeply invested in wildlife conservation they are able to innovate creative wildlife protection solutions.
“Acknowledging these facts develops our humility, and helps us listen first, seeking to lay a foundation of comprehensive understanding, before building solutions; it ensures that we act wisely,” she said.
The First Lady noted local communities are the most important first line of defence for animals.
“Take the innovative Imbirikani Women in the Amboseli National Park Maasai in the Amboseli—they have worked towards building sustainable lives for themselves whilst securing wildlife sustainability. They are a great example of how communities effectively engaged in conservation can combat poaching,” Ms Kenyatta said.
She added, “The Maasai people too have gone to enormous lengths to protect elephants. Currently, Amboseli has the lowest elephant poaching rate in the country, and is home to the longest running elephant research project in the world. I have learned so much from spending time with amazing women from this community, including the many ways in which elephants are just like human beings. In fact, the Maasai view elephants as spiritual beings.”
Michel Balima, UNDP Resident Representative said that globally, the wildlife population continue to dwindle due to multiple threats.
“Some of the cross-cutting challenges that need urgent action include increasing human population that is encroaching in the wildlife habitat and dispersal areas, and poaching and illegal wildlife trade. There is a rapid decrease in elephants and rhinos population in Africa - due to unrelenting poaching within and outside conservation areas,” he said adding that uncontrolled poaching and illicit wildlife trade therefore bleeds the country’s economy, pushing its population to abject poverty.
He said the problem of human/wildlife space competition and illegal wildlife trade is further compounded by climate change. Wildlife populations are increasingly being undermined by the effects of climate change.
In recent years, many countries in Africa have experienced prolonged or frequent droughts that have negatively affected wildlife natural habitats. The degradation of the habitat and scarcity of food has made some animals stray from national parks and game reserves into people’s farms, further exacerbating human-wildlife conflicts.
The many challenges faced by wildlife require concerted effort at global, national and local levels.
“UNDP is grateful for the financial support provided by the Global Environmental Facility in biodiversity conservation. Kenya has just completed GEF financed $4 million biodiversity project on Strengthening the Protected area in Western Kenya Montane Forest - and is currently implementing another project $4.5 that will be focusing on wildlife conservation in the Southern rangelands of Kenya,” Balima said.
He noted it is evident that no conservation effort can be successful without the involvement of local communities living within the conservation areas.
“This is rightly so because the local communities have lived side by side with the wildlife since time in memory. Moreover, they are the most affected by wildlife attacks - which often includes loss of human lives, crops and livestock. This sometimes turn the local communities against wildlife and abets poaching and illicit wildlife trade,” he said.
He added, “Therefore, there is a need to get the required “buy-in” from the local communities in order to achieve sustainable wildlife conservation. One way of achieving this is by strengthening livelihood bases and promoting wildlife friendly enterprises including community conservancies and eco-tourism.”
This programme is led by the World Bank in collaboration with partners GEF, UNDP, UNEP, African Development Bank (AfDB), International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and World Wide Fund (WWF).