From CSRWire, news of a four-day conference this week in Kampala, Uganda, to discuss “…long-term cooperative effort to develop ecosystem services markets aimed at combating environmental degradation and poverty in Africa.” The conference, co-sponsored by The Environmental Conservation Trust of Uganda (ECOTRUST), the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) Uganda, Forest Trends (U.S.) and the Katoomba Group, is entitled “Building Foundations for Pro-Poor Ecosystem Services in Africa,” and “…brought together more than 70 experts from Eastern and Southern Africa, Europe, North America and Australia to assess the current and potential capacity for these countries to develop systems that reward landowners, local communities and private enterprises for conserving valuable ecosystem services like protecting watersheds and wildlife habitat.”
“This initiative supplements efforts of African governments in creating a new source of conservation finance and is in line with the goals of NEPAD, and sub regional initiatives such as the East African community and SADC”, said Major General Kahinda Otafiire, the Ugandan Minister of Water, Lands and the Environment.
“Paying landowners, communities and companies to protect ecosystem services could have a great impact on conservation and provide important new income opportunities for Ugandans,” stated Dr. J.R. Sonko Kaboggoza, Chairman of the Board, ECOTRUST, Uganda. “Many countries have had successful experience in mobilizing private companies, municipalities and others who benefit directly from ecosystem services to pay for conservation. We are eager to explore how to adapt these programs to work well in Uganda and other regions of Africa.”
“Payments for ecosystem services offer an exciting possible solution to some of Africa’s biggest economic and ecological challenges,” added Dr. Aryamanya-Mugisha, Henry, Executive Director of the National Environment Management Authority, Uganda. “We need to thoroughly examine projects currently underway throughout Africa, learn from them and develop policy frameworks to support practical and realistic PES programs that will produce tangible results on the ground. This workshop provides the first forum for discussing strategies specifically designed for Africa.”
The press release goes on to detail efforts by groups involved in the conference to address environmental degradation and poverty through private and market-based action. Perhaps the biggest thing about this gathering, though, is the vision that inspired it:
“There are many unrecognized opportunities for expanding [payments for ecosystem services] in Africa to have a significant impact on conservation and poverty reduction,” stated Michael Jenkins, President of Forest Trends. Jenkins continued, “We envision local landowners being paid by cities and industries such as water bottling companies and hydro-electric power plants to preserve watersheds that can supply fresh water. Carbon emission offsets, purchased by utilities and other businesses throughout Africa, offer an opportunity for communities and landowners to be rewarded for sustainable land management. However, these markets will not materialize if we don’t focus energy and resources in these African settings.”