The African Ecological Futures (AEF) Initiative launched in 2015 by WWF and the African Development Bank (AfDB) engages key decision-makers across Africa in a process that identifies and interrogates how Africa can ensure that economic development does not negatively impact its critical ecological infrastructure, and how ecological infrastructure can ensure prosperity and resilience for people and the planet. The first phase of AEF highlighted, in a landmark report, the impact that economic development could have on nature in the absence of careful planning.
The second phase of the AEF is building on this foundational work and focuses on policy influencing and mobilizing stakeholders for change. If we look 50 years into the future when Africa has become a prosperous and dynamic force internationally, what ecological infrastructure would African societies want to see left. How much of Africa’s forests, watersheds, wildlife, and traditional lifestyles should be protected and fostered in the drive for economic development. For Africa, finding ways to develop while maintaining the integrity of its diverse environment is fundamental to the continent’s prosperity and resilience. Its development goals, underpinned by the African Union’s Agenda 2063, should be driven by the vision of the future desired by Africans.
Building on a strategic partnership with the African Development Bank and the Luc Hoffman Institute, AEF has secured subsidiary partnerships with UNEP, UN-Habitat and the Regional Center for Mapping and Resource Development (RCMRD); African Conservation Centre, The Miji Bora Project, YMCA- Youth Engagement Strategy, Stand Up Shout Out Youth Group.
We are pleased to share the first edition of the AEF Quarterly newsletter highlighting the AEF Phase II activities.
AEF ON THE MAP
To influence infrastructure development through ecological futures thinking and access to information, AEF II needed a platform to visualize ecological and built infrastructure in Africa. WWF-Tanzania and WWF-Kenya GIS technical teams developed an AEF II platform using the existing WWF-SIGHT Africa platform. The AEF II platform is now operational and is updated regularly in coordination with WWF-Kenya, WWF-SIGHT, and the AEF team. To find the infrastructure layout in Africa under AEF II visit: https://wwfkegiscoe.wwfkenya.org/aefII. For the infrastructure web-map as a standalone, click the following link: https://arcg.is/1KTu11.
The AEF II Platform allows users to visualize key datasets on ecological infrastructure including the World Data Base on Protected areas, Key Biodiversity Areas (KBAs), UNESCO Natural World Heritage Sites, RAMSAR sites, and more; built infrastructure including roads, railways, and extractive concessions; and other relevant datasets such as shipping, fires, and population density, etc. The next phase of platform development will support enhanced access and use for policy development and decision-making (through capacity building, upgrades, etc).
LANDSCAPE LEVEL CASE STUDIES
During the inception phase, AEF is piloting the landscape approach with specific case studies i) the impacts on the SGR on wildlife and invasive plants in Kenya, ii) the contribution of nature to economic development in Gabon.
Tracks in the Park: SGR Kenya
The Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) is the flagship infrastructure project under Kenya’s Vision 2030 development agenda. The SGR runs through remote and fragile ecosystems including the world-famous Tsavo and Nairobi National Parks. In partnership with the African Conservation Centre (ACC), the AEF team has initiated research on the impacts of the SGR development corridor on wildlife and invasive plants in the Tsavo National Parks to support mitigation measures and inform the design and implementation of eco-friendly linear infrastructure in Africa. Following the reconnaissance trip in December 2019 and the emerging recommendations, ACC and KWS agreed to jointly conduct additional and more focused studies in Tsavo and Nairobi National Parks. The two areas of focus being:
1) Monitoring and reporting SGR-Wildlife interactions in Tsavo
The team was conducting systematic monitoring of vehicle-wildlife mortality and wildlife utilization of underpasses along the standard gauge railway in the Tsavo conservation area between January and June 2020. Preliminary analysis of the results would determine among others the nature of roadkills, including types of animals killed, the magnitude, and spatial-temporal characteristics. Based on the results, we have identified some immediate research-based and mitigation actions to address the loss of wildlife due to roadkills. A full report will be shared on the website.
2.) Rapid assessment of invasive plant species along the SGR
Invasive plant species have recently emerged as a key concern for protected and community areas, particularly along the SGR and other infrastructure. However, as a starting point, the ACC agreed with the KWS teams in Nairobi and Tsavo national parks to undertake a rapid field identification of invasive plant species along the standard gauge railway to ;
(I.) establish a baseline of invasive plant status along the entire length of the SGR within the NNP and Tsavo National Park that would allow for assessment of future changes in the status of invasions and the effectiveness of management interventions;
(II) improve understanding of the spatial distribution of invasive plants (including previously unrecorded species) within the parks to inform priority areas for management and future risks;
(III.) identify sleeper weeds. The assessment has not been affected due to COVID-19 and the subsequent suspension of field activities.
Gabon's Ecological Future
WWF-Gabon launched the “Securing Gabon’s Ecological Future” (SGEF) program aimed at ensuring that Gabon’s natural capital is sustainably managed so that its rich natural capital continues to bring well-being to communities and healthy and equitable growth. AEF was requested by WWF Gabon to undertake a pilot study on the contribution of nature to economic development at the Gamba landscape level. Specific components of this support will involve:
i.) Demonstrating the socio-economic importance of Gabon’s natural capital.
ii.) Identifying opportunities for upscaling the existing nature-based green economy activities and for attracting investments with links to economic and industrial development.
iii.) Identifying the type of infrastructure needed to capitalize on the above opportunities.
iv.) Developing recommendations on how to improve the enabling environment to realize the full economic potential of the Gamba landscape.
v.) Developing a more comprehensive green economy strategy for the Gamba landscape AEF organized and held a workshop on February 27 and 28 2020 in Gabon, to introduce the scope and structure of the program to various stakeholders. The objectives of the workshop were to create a common understanding of the program objectives, aims, and activities; to work with the government, experts, and other key stakeholders to co-design studies that would strengthen the program; and to build partnerships for the success of the program. The project is on track and consultants have been engaged to execute the desktop research which is anticipated to be completed by the end of November 2020.
To address the challenges emerging from COVID-19 and other logistical constraints, the following adjustments to some activities have been proposed:
I.) In lieu of camera traps, scouts that are currently monitoring wildlife mortality and utilization of the underpasses will record additional data on wildlife behaviors and responses to vehicles and other infrastructure-related activities.
II.) Expand the monitoring to include adjoining locations utilised by wildlife with re-allocation of funds initially meant for camera traps.
III.) Undertake a detailed literature review of invasive plant species studies associated with infrastructure in Kenya and elsewhere.
AEF has developed a funding concept note to demonstrate the economic value and the importance of sustainable management of KAZA and ensure this issue is on the political agenda of the five countries and the region. We are currently looking for funding.
LIGHTS, CAMERA, ACTION
In an effort to strengthen its youth engagement, AEF collaborated with Stand Up, Shout Out Youth Group in producing a conservation centered play. By December 2019, the script had been produced, cast identified and rehearsals were underway. The first of the two acts was reviewed on February 8th, 2020 in the presence of WWF representatives. For the premiere, the team was hoping to have the First Lady of Kenya open the show on Thursday 26th March 2020, but the shows had to be postponed due to COVID-19. Efforts are underway to have the play shared virtually on the AEF website. Do visit the site for more information.
"The plays story-line revolves around the fact that when love ends the world ends, it’s about creating a sense of global community that our global goals (SDGs) embodies, this is to mean that when as individuals we love each other we will always work to keep the environment and wildlife for those around us and also future generations, but when love ends and we no longer care for each other, but are driven by greed and selfish ambition we destroy our environment and wildlife, and as a race deem ourselves to ending world” - (Peter Moll, Founder & CEO/President at SUSO)
AEF said goodbye to the project co-leads, Dr.Yemi Katerere and Saliem Fakir. We appreciate their immense contribution to the initiative. We would also like to take this moment to appreciate Louise Scholtz, who took over temporarily to oversee the completion of all the contracted AEF deliverables. We are in the process of recruiting a new Program Coordinator. In the meantime, for any AEF inquiries please contact Regional Office for Africa -Tendai Chinho (firstname.lastname@example.org).
AEF WEBSITE NOW LIVE....
The website is live on (www.aef2.org) and a suitable website host has now been contracted. Design and content development is complete with edits being made where needed. The development of the website is to increase visibility and hopefully improve prospects for funding.
OTHER NEWSLETTERS THAT MIGHT BE OF INTEREST ...
The WWF Africa Weekly Digest is a roundup of captivating African stories with a global twist. Subscribe here: Africa Weekly Digest.
PUBLICATIONS, REPORTS & ARTICLES ...
• Strengthening platforms for delivering impacts of African Ecological Futures. – Laura Pereira
• “The case for investment in urban green infrastructure in Africa” – Louise Scholtz and Manisha Gulati An article on futures thinking for the Daily Maverick. This was posted on LinkedIn and received 800 hits. Read here
• Rethinking our approach to “built” infrastructure and disaster risk management: Lessons from Cyclone Idai – Published by Rights and Resources. Read here
• African Ecological Futures profiled at NEPAD African Environment Partnerships Platform. Read here
• Infrastructure Development: How Green is Africa’s Future in Reality. Cape Times – 20 August 2018.
• Quality Infrastructure for 21st Century Africa; 2021 - 2030. A report by OECD and Africa Center for Economic Transformation.
Preferences and Pathways: Strengthening Futures Capacity in Africa. Luc Hofmann Institute
• The Flagship 3 plan devised at the Expert Group meeting should have been launched at the World Urban Forum (WUF) in February 2020. Postponed due to COVID-19.
• African Protected Areas Congress (2021) - AEF is leading the cross-cutting theme on linear infrastructure and futures thinking.