In May 2017, the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) passed a history-making piece of legislation known as ‘Resolution 372’, which vows to safeguard the continent’s sacred natural sites and territories. The African Biodiversity Network (ABN) was a key force in petitioning for this change in law, and as such has been awarded a 2018 Lush Spring Prize Influence Award, which includes £25,000 in funding.
“It is a unique resolution and the first of its kind in Africa,” Simon Ndonco Mitambo, ABN’s Regional Programmes Coordinator says regarding Resolution 372, which ensures the protection of sacred areas’ biodiversity, ecosystems, and Indigenous peoples. “Getting it passed was one thing; making it a reality on the ground with communities to benefit is another.”
The problems arise from the fact that Africa is at a crossroads; trying to reconcile the conservation and recuperation of its vast cultural and natural heritage, at the same time as attempting to meet the many needs of a growing population. But while external forces push for the industrialisation of land in the name of poverty alleviation, the ABN is finding innovative ways to solve the challenges facing the continent through sharing experiences, co-developing methodologies, and creating a united African voice.
“These sacred places have great ecological, socio-cultural, and spiritual importance to the communities that live adjacent to them,’ Simon explains. “Winning the Lush Spring Prize funding really means a lot. It means that the work we are doing with communities in Africa to protect these areas to regenerate our biodiversity and ecosystems, really matters globally. The funding will go a long way to support work on the ground, and lobby for appropriate policy in countries party to the African Union.”
Simon says he was drawn to the Resolution 372 campaign because he became concerned the knowledge around the governance of sacred natural areas was being lost, which he believes has led to a substantial disappearance of bio-cultural diversity. He hopes through exchange programmes, training, the media, plus legislative and policy guidance, the message will get through.
“We would like to really build understanding amongst our partners and lead them in getting their governments to integrate this resolution into the laws of their country, building capacity of custodians, and raising the profile of sacred sites,” he says. “The publicity the award comes with will also help in profiling our work at an international level.”
Established in 1996 by policy influencers from the African Group, one of five Regional Groups of the UN, ABN focuses on Indigenous knowledge, ecological agriculture and biodiversity related rights, policy and legislation, and has been responsible for numerous regional initiatives, including the Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa (AFSA). In 2010 ABN became a Trust, and today supports 36 partners in 12 African countries; Benin, Botswana, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Mozambique, South Africa, Tanzania, Togo, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
To discover more about the ABN and it’s progress in making Resolution 372 a reality, head over to africanbiodiversity.org
The Lush Spring Prize, hosted by Lush and co-operative Ethical Consumer Research Association, offers a £200,000 prize fund and other support activities, to help projects around the world that are working towards environmental and social regeneration.
Regeneration illustration by David McMillan.