Biosphere reserves promote sustainable development in Sub-Saharan African countries

Government representatives, biosphere reserve managers and experts came together in Ibadan, Nigeria, to share the results of innovative projects in African biosphere reserves and expand regional cooperation. They gathered for the 5th General Assembly of the AfriMAB network, which includes 75 biosphere reserves in 28 countries and promotes efforts for better conservation and sustainable management of the ecological and socio cultural heritage in African biosphere reserves. The approach combines the conservation of biodiversity with the sustainable use of natural resources, to empower people to improve their livelihoods sustainably.

The principles of participation, solidarity and dialogue are the cornerstones of the democratic governance of biosphere reserves”, reminded UNESCO’s Assistant Director-General for the Natural Sciences, Flavia Schlegel, in her keynote presentation. “The concerted management of resources within biosphere reserves promotes dialogue between actors and thus helps to reconcile sometimes divergent interests and thus to establish a sustainable peace. As model regions for sustainable development, biosphere reserves provide local solutions to the global challenges of sustainable development, including climate change.”

The participants will share lessons learned through case studies and projects across Africa, notably the Green Economy in Biosphere Reserve project that aims to conserve biodiversity by reducing the immediate adverse effects of local reliance on forest products (such as fuel wood), reduce poverty by diversifying the economy, and promote sustainable development by building the capacity of the communities in a holistic manner to ensure sustainable biodiversity businesses. It was implemented in three sub-Saharan biosphere reserves with similar ecosystem types: tropical humid forests in Bia (Ghana) and Omo (Nigeria), and tropical submontane and evergreen forests in the East Usambara (Tanzania). Participants will visit the Omo biosphere reserve to familiarize themselves with four green economy initiatives first hand.

The meeting provides an opportunity to present a new project aiming to promote peace in the Lake Chad basin through the sustainable management of its resources. Over 30 million people depend on this critical ecosystem for water and livelihood, and it is facing environmental, social, and economic and security issues, through land and water degradation, overuse, pollution, climate change, leading to loss of job opportunities and livelihoods. The project will apply the lessons learned in biosphere reserves and World Heritage sites to strengthen the capacities of Chad, Cameroon, the Central African Republic, Niger and Nigeria to safeguard and sustainably manage their hydrological, biological and cultural resources.

The 5th General Assembly of the AfriMaB network is taking place from 12 to 15 September. It was opened by the Minister of Environment of Nigeria, Mr. Ibrahim Usman Jibril, and counted with the participation of high-level decision makers and representatives of leading environmental institutions, biosphere reserves and UNESCO. Prof. Augustine Isichei, member of the Nigerian  National Committee for the Man and Biosphere programme of UNESCO (MAB) gave a keynote presentation on African Biodiversity and Challenges of Conservation.