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October 19, 2020  

 Dear Colleagues, 

Welcome to the Sixteenth Edition of our Africa Weekly Digest - a round-up of the news and stories that captivated our hearts and minds this past week. This digest is “made in Africa and globally curious”.   

Happy reading and we look forward to your feedback.  

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1. World Food Day 2020 -  "Grow, Nourish, Sustain. Together..”: This year’s World Food Day was celebrated at a time when millions of small-scale farmers across Africa have had to change the way they grow and harvest food as a result of COVID-19. The pandemic has exacerbated food security in a continent that was already battling multiple threats, including climate change and locusts. The UN estimates that this could lead to  130 million more people living with chronic hunger by the end of 2020 than had been expected, according to the — a 19% increase on its pre-pandemic estimate. But researchers also believe COVID-19 has also provided a real-life innovation lab, a testing ground for big ideas  such as  medium scale tenant farming; urban farms, food labs; digital technologies matching farmers to consumers; gig economies; and many others. (Nature) As we emerge from this pandemic, the need for food that ensures healthy people and a healthy planet will be more important than ever.  In our latest photo story, we celebrate  Africa’s indigenous and local foods and highlight how they can provide the solution to a planet- based diets important for people and nature(WWF).

2. Groundbreaking Legal Agreement on Tackling Wildlife Crime Could Help Avoid Future wildlife-related pandemics: The proposed, “Protocol against the Illicit Trafficking in Specimens of Wild Fauna and Flora”  would criminalize the intentional illicit trafficking of specimens of wild fauna and flora. The World Bank has estimated the value of illegal logging, fishing and wildlife trade at USD$1 trillion or more per year when taking into account the impacts of such crimes on ecosystems and the services they provide, the loss of government revenue, and the value of the contraband. The negotiation and adoption of any new Protocol is a matter for States (countries), and whether these proposed reforms move ahead will be determined by the States Parties to UNTOC. Scientists estimate that 6 out of 10 known infectious diseases in people are zoonotic, and 3 out of 4 emerging infectious diseases originate from wildlife. (EndWildlifeCrime).

3. New Campaign to Secure a Future for Great Apes: The African CSOs Biodiversity Alliance is set to launch the ‘Securing a #Future4GreatApes Campaign’ on Friday 16 October 2020.  This two-week campaign is aimed at highlighting the conservation status of Great Apes in Africa, the important roles they play, the growing threats to their survival, and the recommended actions that need to be taken to protect this iconic species. The coalition, with over 50 organizations signed on, has been developing a series of policy briefs and case studies that will inform Africa’s biodiversity priorities for the next 10 years. This campaign is guided by a recently developed policy brief on ‘Great Ape Tourism in Africa’, written by the International Gorilla Conservation Programme (IGCP) and Conservation through Public Health. (AWF)

4. Gorongosa National Park Embarks on Restoration Agriculture via Coffee and Agroforestry. The success of Gorongosa National Park, once a battleground for the Mozambique civil war, continues with a new, restorative agriculture venture which also serves to reforest the slopes of Mount Gorongosa,   through three value chains: shade coffee growing, cashew in the communities around the park, and honey. Both coffee and cashew are perennial trees that contribute to the reforestation of the areas devastated due to tree cutting for unsustainable farming. Gorongosa coffee is now being marketed in Mozambique, the U.S., and Europe. (Mongabay)

5. High Water Levels in Kenya’s Rift Valley Lakes Raise Concerns. Recent high water levels of Kenya’s Rift Valley lakes have flooded properties and displaced communities, most notably around Lakes Baringo and Naivasha. These alkaline lakes provide unique feeding habitats for various species including East Africa’s famous lesser flamingos. The freshwater lakes support important fisheries and agriculture, and Lake Turkana’s unique semi-saline hydrobiology sustains indigenous fisheries, including some endemic species. The lake level rises are worrying because of the destruction to homes, livelihoods, industry and infrastructure, and loss of terrestrial wildlife habitat. So far this year, the rising waters of Lake Baringo alone have displaced more than 5,000 people and destroyed schools, hospitals, hotels, and roads. (The Conversation).  

6.  No Plastic in Nature - "Ghost Gear" campaign Spike. On 20 Oct, WWF will launch a global campaign spike focused on the crisis caused by lost and abandoned fishing gear (ghost gear), the most deadly form of marine plastic debris. The spike will be an important milestone for the global campaign for No Plastic in Nature, which is now approaching a record 2 million supporters. The campaign is also galvanizing the participation of young people such as the Africa Youth4Nature Network. In similar news,  400 Young African youth have were celebrated for turning the tide on plastic pollution at a high-level event where political leaders, senior UN officials and Grammy-nominated Ghanaian musician Rocky Dawuni lauded the leadership shown by young people in global efforts to fight plastic pollution. Over the past two years, Tide Turners Plastic Challenge has been completed by more than 225,000 young people in over 25 countries, including 50,000 in Africa. The challenge takes the participants on a learning journey consisting of three different levels: entry, leader, and champion. (UN Environment).

7. Mount Kilimanjaro Fires Threaten a Diverse Ecosystem. As fires swept up the slopes of Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa’s tallest mountain, for the fifth day on Thursday last week, hundreds of volunteers from local villages joined firefighters racing to stop a blaze threatening to ravage one of the world’s richest and most diverse ecosystems. The mountain is a major tourist attraction and the fire might threaten this huge source of foreign exchange. Meanwhile, climate change has also pushed the mountain’s glaciers and icecaps to thaw. (New York Times). 

8. COVID-19, Security, and Development take center stage in the Ministerial meeting of the African Union.  The recent African Union 37th Ordinary Session of the Executive Council of the African Union (AU) kicked off on 13 October 2020 with great optimism that Africa has an opportunity to reimagine an Africa post-COVID-19 and derive new ways of addressing the challenges of peace and security, socio-economic under-development, and poverty. The COVID-19 context prompted the holding of a virtual ministerial conference. In related news, The African Union (AU) Covid-19 Response Fund will on the 24th October 2020, launch $300m fundraising to help tackle the effects of COVID-19 in Africa. In related news,  a new publication by WWF and ILO, '' Nature Hires: How nature-based solutions can power a green job recovery'' urges policymakers to integrates nature-based solutions in their responses to COVID-19(WWF, ILO ). 

9. International Day of the Girl Child - Uniting in Support of African Girl Leaders: The Adolescent girls in Africa are normally forced to enter the informal job market or shoulder unpaid care work at home, leading to increased experiences of violence and spikes in adolescent pregnancies and harmful practices like child marriage and female genital mutilation. The sad news is that over 600 adolescent girls in sub-Saharan Africa get infected with HIV every day, and COVID-19 threatens to worsen the situation.  Girls and women also face the double burden of climate change, with school drop-outs rates being higher in drought-affected areas of AfricaHowever, it is Africa’s adolescent girls’ and young women’s own activism and organizing that will drive progress. The UN Women in partnership with other UN agencies flagged off “Education Plus”- an initiative to confront injustices faced by adolescent girls in Africa. (UN Women).  When it comes to strategies to “drawdown” carbon emissions, investing in the education of girls — coupled with family planning — has been identified as one of the most powerful climate solutions.

10. New Publications that Caught Our Attention This Past Week

  •  World Energy Outlook 2020: Renewables Set to Become the World’s favorite source of electricity this Imagedecade.  Solar photovoltaics are now cheaper than plants fired by coal and natural gas in most nations. Those cheaper costs along with government efforts to slash climate-damaging emissions will increasingly push coal off the grid and give renewables 80% of the market for new power generation by 2030 (IEA). By 2040, wind and solar will have more capacity than fossil fuel plants This is good news for Africa where 600 million people remain without access to electricity while those who are connected are not necessarily guaranteed access to reliable and affordable electricity. However, this would require energy retrofits and a massive investment in power grids, estimated at $460 billion in 2030, two thirds more than the cost last year.  (International Energy Agency ).
  • Nature Hires: How nature-based solutions can power a green jobs recovery: The Great Green Wall Initiative; the Africa Forest Landscape Restoration Initiative; South Africa’s Working for Water Program are just a few of the examples cited in this publication about how nature-based solutions can power jobs and a post-pandemic recovery. (WWF, ILO ). 

  • Global Priority Areas for Restoration: A new study published in Nature this past week  Wetlands and forests are of the highest relative importance for biodiversity conservation and the mitigation of climate change while grasslands are important for minimizing costs.. Converted areas within relatively intact forests are priorities for the mitigation of climate change, and tropical South American and African shrublands are additional priorities for biodiversity ( Nature ).
  • African Agriculture Trade Monitor 2020: This report presents an overview of trade in agriculture products in Africa and highlights the main impediments that affect intra- and extra-African trade including the role of non-tariff measures, and on the competitiveness of African value chains that are crucial for food security (cereals, sugar, vegetable oils); and the importance and measurement of informal cross-border trade. The report offers policy recommendations for improving agricultural exports performance, especially in the context of the unprecedented uncertainty the world is facing with the COVID-19 pandemic. ( IFPRI)
  • Swiss Renew Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (BES) Index: Said to be the first index that pulls together indicators of biodiversity and ecosystems to cross-compare around the world, the Swiss Re Institute BES Index enables businesses and governments to factor in biodiversity and ecosystem issues into economic decision-making. The index found over half (55%) of global GDP, equal to USD 41.7 trillion, is dependent on high-functioning biodiversity and ecosystem services. However, a staggering fifth of countries globally (20%) are at risk of their ecosystems collapsing due to a decline in biodiversity and related beneficial services, For  Africa, South Africa is said to be most at risk due to high dependence on biodiversity but also countries that have a heavy dependence on agricultural sectors, such as Kenya or Nigeria, are susceptible to BES shocks from a range of biodiversity and ecosystem issues
  • What is the Risk of Doing Business in Africa?  This interactive map from the  World Economic Forum shows the risks of doing business in every country around the world. All five environmental risks included in the survey rose in the rankings and were among the top 10 rising global concerns for businesses. “Biodiversity loss” and “natural catastrophes” were the second and third risks to increase in salience through the current crisis, by eight and seven places respectively – unsurprisingly, “Infectious diseases” was the top mover
 

 GRAPHIC OF THE WEEK

This week's map shows the deadliest and most costly weather, water, and climate-related hazards for each country. (Source: WMO State of Climate Services 2020 Report). While the average number of deaths recorded for each disaster has fallen by a third during the period (2010-2019), the number of recorded disasters has increased five times and the economic losses have increased by a factor of seven. The report reveals that over the last 10 years, the percentage of disasters associated with weather, climate, and water-related events increased by 9% compared to the previous decade – and by almost 14% with respect to the decade 1991-2000. This trend is a combination of increased exposure to hazards, an increase in population in exposed areas, changes in hazard frequency and intensity, and improved documentation of the occurrence of hazard events and associated losses. You can: download the report from here 

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