Life, Africa

Kigali Call to Action raises fresh hope for Africa’s indigenous peoples

Recognition of indigenous peoples and communities in conservation is milestone, but there is still work to be done, says director of NASCO

John Cassim   | 30.07.2022
Kigali Call to Action raises fresh hope for Africa’s indigenous peoples

HARARE, Zimbabwe

Plans by conservationists to set up a Pan-African conservation trust fund have raised hopes for local communities and indigenous peoples across the continent as there is a goal of dedicating funds to compensating them for their conservation work in protected or conserved areas, thereby recognizing their contributions.

The financing mechanism designed at the just concluded inaugural International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) African Protected Areas Congress (APAC), which was held this month in the Rwandan capital Kigali, could also end longstanding constraints that inhibit access to funding and compensation for victims of human-wildlife conflict cases.

“The message is clear now that conservation is done by the indigenous peoples and communities near protected areas, yet they barely receive incentives for their work.

"The Kigali Call for Action is now a pillar of hope for us indigenous peoples, and I just wish at the government level no time is wasted," said John Kamanga, executive director of the South Rift Association of Land Owners based in Kenya.

Kamanga was responding to one of the resolutions, which recognizes Africa’s rich and unique biodiversity heritage and the diversity of its peoples.

“We the participants at the inaugural IUCN Africa Protected Areas Congress commit to the following actions:

“Investment through direct grant-funding that focuses on those activities that enhance governance and management effectiveness and that can catalyze the direct involvement of Indigenous peoples, local communities, women, and youth,” the resolution says in part.

Maxi Pia Louis, director of the Namibian Association of Community Based Natural Resource Management Support Organizations (NASCO), told Anadolu Agency that the recognition of indigenous peoples and communities in conservation was a milestone, although there is still work to be done to operationalize all the ideas.

“I am happy we went to Kigali with our concerns. They were discussed and they have been adopted in the Kigali Call for Action,” she said.

“At least we have a starting point to demand certain rights for indigenous peoples and communities, unlike in the past.”

Some 2,400 delegates attended the congress and agreed to increase investment using appropriate and diverse financing mechanisms such as the A-PACT trust fund.

The A-PACT trust fund is an investment model that requires $2 billion to kickstart and help Africa break away from the donor syndrome.

All African countries will be contributing money on a regular basis so that they can be able to meet the routine costs of preserving conserved areas run by public and private entities and indigenous communities.

“If APAC resolutions on the establishment of a trust fund are implemented, that will strengthen priority actions to Africa’s protected and conserved areas in a manner that is just, equitable and fair,” the African Wildlife Foundation's Vice President, Global Leadership, Frederick Kwame Kumah, told Anadolu Agency.

“This will strengthen the rights of indigenous peoples in ways that would see financial investments in conservation trickling down to them.”

Need to have a voice

“Where I come from in southern Africa, the issue of land is a big one, and using conservation is a way of establishing that dialogue around land use and issues of human-wildlife conflict. The most important aspect is about indigenous peoples having a voice,” Pia Louis told Anadolu Agency.

According to Pia Louis, indigenous peoples are the custodians of the land where conservation is taking place and they want to be recognized as people that live on this land.

She was responding to a report by Maliasili, an organization based in Kenya that is working with various communities in East, Central, and Southern Africa to strengthen their leadership capacity and get more conservation money.

The 400-page report is titled “Greening the grassroots: Re-thinking African Conservation Funding.”

Kamanga also expressed hope that APAC was becoming a panacea for the financing challenges Africa is facing.

“They are hamstrung by the way global conservation finance is set up, with complex requirements, a focus on short-term projects, not long-term running costs, and a preference to fund a few larger international organizations over many smaller ones," he said.

Globally, indigenous peoples and local community organizations receive less than 1% of all climate funding, and those organizations working with indigenous peoples receive only 5%-10% of private philanthropic funding invested in all of Africa, Kamanga noted.

A-PACT fund launched

“The conference is asking Africa to create this vehicle to financially support protected areas sustainably. Moving forward, there is a standing committee that has been doing work, creating what this can look like. But the most work is going to be the conversations we are going to have with Africa,” African Wildlife Forum Chief Executive Officer Kaddu Kiwe Sebunya said at the close of the Kigali conference.

“We have to get our leaders to understand what the purpose for it is and why it is important, and then a structure will be created.

“We will then talk to our friends of Africa who always pour money into conservation work, that are already bearing the cost of conservation, as 70% of the conservation funds on the continent are donor-driven,” he added.

Already Rwanda has endorsed the A-PACT trust fund idea ahead of other African nations.

“The message is that President Paul Kagame has already committed to contributing to that trust fund. You will hear how Rwanda is contributing as soon as possible,” said Rwandan Environment Minister Jeanne D’Arc Mujawamariya.

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