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By Lamfu Fabrice Yengong and Sylvie Djacbou Deugoue
Biodiversity loss is a global crisis. In May last year, the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) warned that over 1,000,000 species are threatened with extinction worldwide. On May 22, the International Day of Biodiversity, it is important to recall the silent victims of our country's obsession for industrial growth at the expense of our forests.
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The glaring lack of adequate medical resources is becoming increasingly pronounced as developing nations try to prepare for a COVID-19 outbreak.
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EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Eddie Ndopu
- South Africa is ground zero for the coronavirus pandemic in Africa.
- Its townships are typical of high-density neighbourhoods across the continent where self-isolation will be extremely challenging.
- The failure to eradicate extreme poverty is a threat beyond the countries in question.
Self-Isolation in the Townships<p>While I worry about the risk of exposure to myself as a young disabled man, I worry more about the risk of exposure to a continent that is completely ill-equipped to deal with this approaching tsunami. I shudder to think what would happen if South Africa – or the continent at large – became the epicentre of the pandemic.</p><p>For public health officials around the world, density control is proving to be the most effective tool in their arsenal to slow down the rate of transmission. But in townships across South Africa where millions of people live in crammed, makeshift houses perched on top of burst sewage pipes, telling people to stay at home and hunker down seems like a callous and potentially counter-intuitive prescription from a public health standpoint. In these densely populated communities, where there's no access to running water and where a single family must share one mobile toilet with at least 10 other families, how on earth do we expect this segment of society to diligently practice hand-washing with soap and water?</p><p>In addition to the concerns linked to containment and mitigation, I worry about the state's capacity to accord its citizens the economic safety net to weather the storm. South Africa – like the rest of the continent – is deeply indebted. In this context, the state is not in a position to craft the kind of economic rescue packages required to soften the blow from the havoc wrecked by the novel coronavirus.</p>
Entrenched Inequalities<p>To grapple with these challenges, we must accept that in many ways the chickens have come home to roost in terms of persistent global inequalities and the monstrous neglect of the most marginalized segments of society. Because of our continued failure to invest in the eradication of extreme poverty and in the creation of economic and social safety nets for the most vulnerable among us – actions that underpin the SDGs – we have arrived at a historical moment in which entire populations face the very real possibility of being killed because of their own vulnerability.</p><p>The novel coronavirus is certainly a crisis, but alongside this crisis, we face a deeper crisis of solidarity and international cooperation. In the context of doing everything we can to flatten the curve, the case for self-isolation is clear. But when it comes to the broader context of global health and sustainable development, countries operating in isolation from one another threatens progress and prosperity for humanity as a whole.</p><p>It was Dr. Martin Luther King Jr who said that a threat to justice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. Now more than ever, what happens to Iran affects Italy and what happens to Spain affects the United States. What I fear might happen to Africa will most certainly affect the world.</p><p>May this moment serve as a reminder that not only are we in this together, we are in actual fact bound by a shared trajectory. What happens over the next 21 days in South Africa might very well affect the trajectory of humanity moving forward, so we better pay attention.</p>
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There's a welcome bit of good news coming out of Africa. After immense conservation efforts, the numbers of critically endangered black rhinoceroses is slowly ticking up, according to the latest figures released by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), as the BBC's Science Focus reported.
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At the 56th Munich Security Conference in Germany, world powers turned to international defense issues with a focus on "Westlessness" — the idea that Western countries are uncertain of their values and their strategic orientation. Officials also discussed the implications of the coronavirus outbreak, the Middle East and the Libya crisis.
Germany Makes a Case for the Sahel<p>In the absence of African leaders, to bring the matter to the table, German Defense Minister <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/merkels-party-struggles-with-identity-crisis-in-wake-of-cdu-leaders-departure/a-52355906" target="_blank">Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer</a> called for an increased effort in the fight against Islamists in Africa. </p><p>"The Sahel is a key region for Europe, for example, when it comes to migration or the threat of terrorism," she said, adding: "That is why it is so important that Germany remains committed there, militarily as well."</p><p>Kramp-Karrenbauer's statement was encouraging to the Central African Republic's defense minister, Marie-Noelle Koyara. "I take this opportunity to thank the German government for making such a wise decision,"<em> </em>the CAR defense minister told DW<em>.</em></p>
World Bank Beefs up Support<p>A climate change panel discussion preceded the Munich Security Conference. It reminded the security and political heavyweights in Munich that the war in Darfur 17 years ago was triggered by the effects of climate change and claimed the lives of 300,000 people.</p><p>The conflict has since exacerbated environmental degradation in Sudan, forcing more than 2 million people into refugee camps.</p><p>Today, climate change-related conflicts are spreading rapidly in the Sahel region. </p>
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By Jessica Corbett
The Fridays for Future movement held a press conference Friday focused on the need for the world to better recognize the amazing climate activism taking place in Africa — a continent that is already enduring severe impacts of global heating in spite of its limited contributions to creating the crisis.
East Africa is facing its worst locust infestation in decades, and the climate crisis is partly to blame.
By Fred Kockott
Wildlife ACT response team with the bodies of 13 white-backed vultures, poisoned for the traditional medicine trade. Wildlife ACT / Mongabay<p>Nearby was the body of an impala — snared, killed, and laced with poison. The rangers burned all the contaminated carcasses to ash to remove the poison from the ecosystem.</p><p>It is the fourth vulture poisoning incident in northern Zululand this year, bringing the total recorded number of vultures harvested for body parts in this region alone to 53. The actual number of birds killed is believed to be much higher as many incidents are never detected.</p><p>The <a href="https://www.ewt.org.za/what-we-do/what-we-do-species/vultures-for-africa/" target="_blank">Endangered WildLife Trust's (EWT) Vultures for Africa Programme</a> manager, Andre Botha, said it was difficult to quantify how many vultures are deliberately poisoned for body parts.</p><p>According to records kept by EWT, more than 1,200 vultures have been deliberately poisoned in Southern and Eastern Africa this year. Culprits include poachers who poison the carcasses of elephant and other game in an apparent effort to conceal illegal activities from rangers. These poisonings are referred to as "sentinel poisonings", as vultures circling over poached animals alert rangers to the killings.</p>
Poisoned vulture: more than 1,200 vultures have been deliberately poisoned in Southern and Eastern Africa in 2019. Wildlife ACT / Mongabay<p>"Vultures provide critically important ecosystem services by cleaning up carcasses thus reducing the spread of dangerous diseases such as anthrax and rabies and resulting in highly significant economic and human health benefits," said Brent Coverdale, an animal scientist for Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife at the symposium. "We really can't afford to lose them."</p><p>As vultures are protected by law, it is illegal to possess or kill any of the six vulture species found in South Africa. Nevertheless, deliberate killings continue.</p><p>Roberts said the latest poisoning incident had been reported to local police.</p><p>"We are hoping this leads to an arrest," said Roberts. "If the illegal harvest of these birds is not halted, then extinction may be just around the corner and the services that they provide within the ecosystem will be lost forever."</p><p>As part of a bid to save vulture populations, managers of conservation areas and private game reserves in South Africa are collaborating to <a href="https://news.mongabay.com/2019/11/lift-off-for-first-african-vulture-safe-zones/" target="_blank">create safe havens for existing vulture populations</a>.</p><p><em><em>Fred Kockott is the founding director of <a href="https://rovingreporters.co.za/" target="_blank">Roving Reporters</a>, a journalism training agency that focuses on environmental, social and justice issues.</em></em></p><p><em>Additional reporting by Mlu Mdletshe, Roving Reporters.</em></p><p><em>Reposted with permission from <a href="https://news.mongabay.com/2019/12/alarm-over-mass-vulture-poisoning-in-south-africa/" target="_blank">Mongabay</a>.</em></p>
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Methane emissions are a far more powerful greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide – about 28 times more powerful. And they have been rising steadily since 2007. Now, a new study has pinpointed the African tropics as a hot spot responsible for one-third of the global methane surge, as Newsweek reported.
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'Grand African Savannah Green Up': Major $85 Million Project Announced to Scale up Agroforestry in Africa
By Erik Hoffner
Amid a deluge of news during the U.N. Climate Summit last month, one major announcement went largely uncovered, yet is among the most important initiatives aimed at reducing the effects of climate change revealed during the events in New York City.
FMNR in action: a farmer removes side stems from resprouted Guiera senegalensis, the first step in encouraging a strong trunk. Image courtesy of P. Savadogo / World Agroforestry
Millet in Maradi, Niger, benefiting from proximity to Combretum glutinosum shrubs that a farmer is assisting to resprout from stumps. Combretum glutinosum is a fast-growing, drought-resistant woody plant common in the dry Sahel. Image courtesy of P. Savadogo / World Agroforestry