62 per cent of rural Africa depends on natural resources for its livelihood
The sixth session of Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), which was held at Medellin, Colombia, last week saw the launch of five major regional biodiversity assessment reports and a global land degradation report. This meeting was attended by 750 world experts and policy makers. The five major assessments were done in Americas, Asia-Pacific region, Africa, Europe and central Asia. Over three years, 550 scientists have studied the biodiversity in these regions to lay out the current status of biodiversity and land quality at a global scale. Here's what the land degradation report says:
- The world has lost 87 per cent of its wetlands in the past 300 years, says the global study on land degradation.
The report highlights rapid urban expansion and unsustainable management of croplands and grazing lands as the main reasons for this. “Avoiding, reducing and reversing this problem, and restoring degraded land, is an urgent priority to protect the biodiversity and ecosystem services vital to all life on Earth,” says Luca Montanarella, a co-chair from Italy at the event. “Wetlands have been particularly hard hit. We have seen losses of 87 per cent wetland areas since the start of the modern era,” she adds.
The estimated economic cost of biodiversity and ecosystem services lost because of land degradation is more than 10 per cent of annual global gross product. “The negative impacts are affecting at least 3.2 billion people,” says Robert Scholes, co-chair from South Africa.
The report adds that consumers benefiting from the overexploitation of natural resources are the ones least affected by land degradation, and therefore, have no reason to take action. For example, take the case of mining metal. It is extracted from one region and the end user is in another region. It’s the people in the mining area who are affected and the end user is least affected.
If necessary steps are not taken, the study projects that by 2050, land degradation and climate change are likely to force 50 to 700 million people to migrate. Montanarella adds: “By 2050, land degradation and climate change will together reduce global crop yields by an average of 10% and in some regions by up to 50%. In the future, most degradation will occur in Central and South America, sub-Saharan Africa and Asia — areas that still have a lot of land suitable for agriculture.”
The report adds that the capacity of grazing lands to support livestock will continue to diminish, and thus, impact livestock diversity.
Measures suggested by experts:
- Further agricultural expansion could be avoided by intensifying crop yields in existing farmlands. This can be achieved by switching to sustainable agriculture practices
- Indigenous and local communities should have key roles to play in decision making to conserve local lands
- Urban planning needs to be structured better and more native species of plants need to be planted
Climate change may destroy sources of income for rural Africa: Report
Africa, which has 62 per cent of the rural population relying on natural resources for livelihood, is extremely vulnerable to climate change, says a report released at the sixth plenary session of Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) at Medellin, Colombia.
“Africa is the only place on Earth that has a huge number of mammals,” says Luthando Dziba, co-chair, Africa, at the session. “Yet today, African biodiversity is more threatened than ever before.”
By 2100, climate change would lead to loss of more than half of bird and mammal population in Africa, cause significant reduction in plant species and lake productivity will go down by 20-30 per cent, says the report.
Managing and conserving rich and diverse biodiversity is extremely important for the development of Africa. “The assessment has shown that the natural capital is most important for African development as 62 per cent of the African rural population depends on natural resources for livelihoods. This dependence on natural resources means it is important that African government and communities ensure the biodiversity is well managed and conserved,” he adds.
If Africa continues its current resource usage pattern, 500,000 sq km of its land may get degraded, says the report. “The population in Africa is expected to double by 2050 and the rapid unplanned urbanisation will put immense pressure on land and affect biodiversity,” adds Dziba.
Climate change and pollution also have far-reaching implications on fisheries, food security, tourism and overall marine biodiversity, which make significant economic, social and cultural contributions. “One of the key measures the African government has taken is increasing the number of protected areas. Steps like integrating development planning with necessary policy changes can prove helpful in managing the biodiversity in a sustainable way,” the African co-chair adds.