New targets to protect biodiversity must include farmers and agriculture

A herd of cattle in Oromia in Ethiopia. Ninara/Flickr

The UN Convention on Biological Diversity is a treaty that aims to develop national strategies for the conservation and sustainable use of a country’s natural resources, or biological diversity. This is a general strategy that all countries must then adopt at the local level.

The Convention – a legally-binding international treaty – is currently negotiating new targets for the next 30 years. Decisions are made by parties to the convention, made up of 196 countries, supported by a range of observers including NGOs, researchers and academics.

But the Convention is about to make a mistake: it concentrates primarily on protected areas when it should also recognise the potential of managing agricultural landscapes for biodiversity.

In its “modified zero draft“, released in October, of 20 targets only one refers to “agricultural and other managed ecosystems”. But its focus is essentially on biodiversity for food. It misses the point that agro-ecosystems can contribute to conservation through providing habitat to wild species and harbouring fragments of natural habitat, such as forests and wetlands.

Africa’s protected areas cover an area of 20.4 million km² or 15.1% of the landmass. But experts say this isn’t enough. For instance, 7% of Kenya’s land is formally protected but between 20-30% of contiguous habitat is needed to maintain populations of “umbrella” species. Protecting these species indirectly protects many other species within its habitat. Read more…

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