NAIROBI, June 23 (Xinhua) -- Sub-Saharan African countries should harness knowledge and expertise possessed by indigenous communities to strengthen the conservation of the continent's abundant biodiversity hotspots, campaigners said on Thursday.
Speaking on the sidelines of the fourth meeting of the open-ended working group on the post-2020 global biodiversity framework underway in Nairobi, the Kenyan capital, the campaigners stressed that greater involvement of indigenous people will be key to curbing habitat loss and revitalizing Africa's green agenda.
Lucy Mulenkei, the Executive Director of Nairobi-based Indigenous Information Network, a conservation lobby, noted that indigenous communities including pastoralists and hunter-gatherers have proved effective in protecting natural resources.
According to Mulenkei, Africa's biodiversity hotspots, once placed in the custody of indigenous people, will thrive besides unleashing economic, health, and social benefits to the continent.
She added indigenous people have for centuries protected Africa's tropical forests and savannah grasslands given the cultural and spiritual significance of these habitats that also act as the source of food, fiber, and fuel.
Negotiators at the UN biodiversity talks taking place in Nairobi from June 21-26 are expected to come up with a text that recognizes the enormous contribution of indigenous people in protecting endangered species.
Joseph Itongwa, a representative of indigenous communities from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) said they have leveraged traditional knowledge to conserve tropical forests and wetlands.
Itongwa said that impacts of a new global biodiversity framework will be felt in Africa subject to mainstreaming proposals from the indigenous people, variously regarded as custodians of nature.
In addition, the indigenous communities in Africa have been at the forefront of sustainable utilization of natural products, to help regenerate ecosystems and promote climate resilience at the grassroots, noted Itongwa.
Ndiaga Sall, a representative of the International Indigenous Forum on Biodiversity from Senegal said there is a need to empower African nomads, hunter-gatherers, and small-holder farmers to protect natural habitats, to stem the loss of species that has escalated poverty and climatic shocks in the continent.
He called for the enactment of legislation, capacity development, and awareness to ensure that indigenous people accrue economic benefits from conserving biodiversity.
Ramson Karmushu, an indigenous peoples' rights advocate from Kenya said they required financial incentives and land tenure to enhance their contribution to the conservation of rare species. ■