African countries continue to be affected by a myriad of conservation challenges. Despite it being a continent of plenty, governments are still struggling to raise resources and reverse the damage to the environment in line with the AU Agenda 2063 and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Our contributor MATHEWS MALATA JR engages the President of the Consortium of African Funds for the Environment (Cafe) KAREN PRICE on what must be done for Malawi and other countries to salvage the situation and go back to winning ways of sustainably utilising natural resources. Excerpts:
Malawi and many other countries continue to face differentiated environmental challenges. Are we winning on conservation efforts?
Malawi continues to face numerous conservation challenges because, to a large extent, we are a country that is highly dependent on natural resources to meet our basic needs, taking into consideration the agro-based economy and the immense pressures being placed on land, forest and water resources, and the inherent biodiversity, as a result of a fast growing population.
Although the country has taken great strides in conservation, especially in the arena of illegal wildlife trade and crime, the creation of public and private partnerships in the management of protected areas, the ban on the use of thin plastics and the creation of an enabling policy environment among others, we still need to be doing more beyond short term project timeframes to support the transformative change across the social, economic, political, institutional and technological space for the country to achieve a win-win scenario in conservation.
Financing for conservation is still a problem in many African countries. What is the role of the consortium?
Conservation Trust Funds are established out of an over-reliance on donor support and the realisation that traditional ways of funding conservation on the continent are inadequate and other innovative financing models are needed to sustain the flow of finance for conservation. In the 2000’s, many Conservation Trust Funds (CTF) have been established, and continue to be established. However, there is little or no interaction, engagement, synergy or dialogue between the funds, and this provides the impetus for the creation of Cafe to provide a platform that responds to common challenges on the continent, explores collective solutions and shares experiences and best practices to build the capacity of CTF’s working in Africa.
So the Consortium of African Funds for the Environment is a network of Conservation Trust Funds that was set up in 2011 with a mission to build a learning community that shares best practices and pursues innovative conservation finance mechanisms to foster conservation, environmental management and sustainable development in Africa. Cafe comprised of 18 CTF’s from 12 countries across Africa and operates in over 90 protected areas.
What do you want to achieve as a consortium?
Cafe encourages intra-African cooperation and seeks to strengthen the competencies and capacity of environmental funds (for the institutions, staff and boards) so that they are better able to meet their mandates in their respective countries. Cafe also seeks to represent the shared perspective and interests of CTF’s in international forums and to perform an advocacy role in biodiversity conservation, environmental management and natural resource sustainability issues facing Africa.
How is Cafe helping fight climate change?
Climate change continues to affect the continent in various ways and CTF’s are cognisant of the climate change impacts in the various landscapes in which they operate. And this is taken into consideration in the annual planning at a fund level.
At the network level, Cafe identifies capacity gaps that can affect the performance of CTF’s to address climate change. Through this on-going process, funds expressed a need to have a better understanding of climate financing last year and the network was able to identify experts to facilitate a capacity building workshop to address this capacity gap. Other topics of interest have included the development of a carbon fund, payment for ecosystem services and renewable energy initiatives.
Which projects do you get better rewards from?
Cafe recently completed implementation of a joint “Knowledge for Action” project with RedLAC, which is a similar network of South American Conservation Trust Funds. The project is aimed to enhance global conservation through peer-to-peer exchanges, innovative solutions, knowledge management and on-line tools. This project was a very unique experience as it promoted South-South exchange between funds in Africa and funds in South America, and secondly it provided both networks with the opportunity to re-think what we mean by capacity building, outside of a classroom or workshop scenario.
Raising resources is not an easy task, how do you succeed and what’s your ultimate goal?
Raising resources is not an easy task and it is a very competitive space especially for network-related activities that focus on capacity building and knowledge management. In 2018, Cafe adopted a five-year strategic plan and this plan provides a roadmap for the network’s activities and strategic priorities in terms of the governance of the network, service delivery to members, networking and partnerships. This is the blueprint for resource mobilisation.
Are African governments doing enough to restore the damaged ecosystem in line with the African Union’s 2063 Agenda and UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)?
At the 17th Ordinary Session of the African Ministerial Conference on Environment [Amcen] held in Durban, South Africa about a week ago, African governments have committed to inspire and mobilise practical actions to address the environmental challenges that Africa faces.
Lastly, what do you want to accomplish before you conclude your term of office?
I would like to see Cafe membership base grow by at least 50 percent to include other funds that have not yet joined Café. I would also like to strengthen the collaboration between Cafe and RedLAC, the South American network and APNET—the newly established Asia Pacific CTF network to enrich the learning and exchange between the networks.