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Stakeholders urge reversal of biodiversity losses in West Africa

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Irked by the catastrophic biodiversity loss in the African continent, experts have called for the reversal of human-induced threats and unsustainable management practices across Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) region.

The Minister of Environment, Dr. Mohammad Abubakar who spoke at ECOWAS Consultation Forum on Post 2020 Global Biodiversity Framework in Abuja, regretted the uncontrolled farmland expansion and illegal wildlife trade.

Abubakar also said the livelihood of West Africans is being threatened daily due to strong biodiversity policy and laws as well as weak enforcement, lack of environmental awareness, political will for sustaining biodiversity conservation gains.

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He noted that these challenges are being exacerbated by climate change impacts and regional, trans-boundary insurgency, and crisis associated with these losses and must be agreed by all parties to the Biodiversity Convention.

“It remains a singular framework that will put the world back on track of biodiversity restoration, recovery, and replenishment, if we all agree and build on the strength of our political will to implement the targets and action.”

Similarly, the Minister emphasised, there is need for a sub-regional coordination that will prioritize the African goals and aspiration of a sustainable development and economic growth towards 2030.

While recognizing biodiversity conservation as a key benefit to the continent, he argued that if not handled properly, it would jeopardise the future of children’s generation. This is the main reason for this consultation.

“In addressing these multifaceted issues of biodiversity loss, the Federal Government has reviewed its National Forest Policy as a national framework to improve forest cover and support livelihood of people in the country.”

He therefore, added this policy is a working tool for National Biodiversity Strategic Action Plans targeted at delivering biodiversity conservation goals. Forest and other ecosystems such as wetlands remains a significant pillar of support.

Abubakar however, urged ECOWAS to develop appropriate mechanisms to strengthen enforcement of biodiversity law and mobilize means of implementation towards the developed biodiversity action plans.

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Also, the Minister of State Environment, Sharon Ikeazor said the current negative trends in biodiversity and ecosystems will undermine our progress towards 80 per cent of SDGs targets related to water, cities, health, climate, oceans, land and hunger.

Her words: “The World’s ecosystems and biodiversity are deteriorating at an alarming rate, thereby undermining humanity’s well-being and its future existence. It is sad to note that the Aichi Targets have failed to realize its objectives.”

She further maintained “all must connect to nature as our ancestors did and pass on this connection to our children and generations to come. She called on ECOWAS family to come together and take a swift and unified as one.

“Transformation and Sustainable use of our biodiversity (For indeed, our solutions are really in nature). If we do not act, we soon may reach tipping points that may cause irreversible destruction to nature and ultimately humankind.”

The minister however, said: “Our work is just the beginning of a greater sub-regional collaboration and cohesion on biodiversity, commending Senegalese for their efforts in mangrove restoration and we hope to replicate the same in Nigeria.”

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The Executive Secretary of the Convention on Biological Diversity, Ms. Elizabeth Mrema said despite the global Covid-19 pandemic,   “we were able to discuss and share our views on the emerging post-2020 Global Biodiversity.”

She also called for an inclusive and cooperative spirit at all levels, “as we seek to forge a new ambitious global framework to combat biodiversity loss and stop the destruction of ecosystems underpinning our very survival and the wellbeing of all life on earth.”

The Executive Secretary, equally, added biodiversity loss can disrupt community traditions and livelihoods, the source of other medical treatments and medicines, including by and for many of the world’s poor, indigenous peoples and local communities Explaining further, she stressed that the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change, poverty alleviation, food and water security, adding, these may seem like separate challenges, but they are interconnected and so too must be our response.

“The world is presently reeling under a severe biodiversity crisis. Extinction rates are estimated to be 1,000 times the background rate, and future rates could even be 10,000 times higher. Addressing these problems will require all,” she added.

Mrema said: “On average, population sizes of wild vertebrate species have declined precipitously over the last 50 years on land, in freshwater and in the sea, and approximately 25 percent of species in assessed animal and plant groups are threatened.”

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