Africa > Southern Africa > Botswana > Cape Gannet (Morus capensis), Birds Island, Lamberts Bay, Western Cape, South Africa

Botswana: Cape Gannet (Morus capensis), Birds Island, Lamberts Bay, Western Cape, South Africa


One lesson that has been well and truly learned in nature conservation is that for policies to be really effective nations have to collaborate to address common problems.

Within the UN system it is as well recognized that this applies to the different Programmes, Conventions and Agreements set up over the years. That each of these bodies has a distinct niche and a clear role does not justify a bunker mentality. By synergizing, cooperating and collaborating they can find common cause with natural allies and seek compromises with those whose agendas do not necessarily match their own.

AEWA, the Agreement on the Conservation of African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbirds, is a prime example of an organization that embodies this approach.

It is a daughter agreement of the Convention on Migratory Species and specializes in waterbirds that use similar habitats and face similar threats along the African-Eurasian flyway. It was negotiated by nations from different continents, rich and poor, developed and developing, with territories in the frozen north through the temperate zones and the Tropics and across the Equator.

The coalition backing the Agreement includes governments and some NGOs with diametrically opposed perspectives – conservationists from BirdLife International and hunters from the International Council for Game and Wildlife Conservation (CIC). It is a constituency united around sustainable use, recognizing that the survival of species is paramount and that for those threatened by extinction, hunting has to be restricted or even banned.

AEWA contributes to broader environmental objectives such as the Aichi Targets adopted under the Convention on Biodiversity and to sustainable development. One example is a community initiative in Uganda, which is helping to protect the shoebill from poachers – while the birds benefit from the conservation efforts, the local community benefits from the gain generated by ecotourism.

AEWA can help through capacity-building, transferring financial resources, expertise and skills available in Europe to facilitate training and conservation work on the ground in Africa.

AEWA’s African Initiative aims to improve nations’ self-sufficiency, part of the flyway approach that recognizes that the chances of the species surviving are much better at the same time as they and the habitats upon which they depend are protected the whole length of their migration routes. These can stretch from the Arctic through Europe, across the Mediterranean and the Sahara to southern Africa.

Benefiting from the cooperation between Denmark, Germany and the Netherlands, the Wadden Sea is inscribed in UNESCO’s World Heritage Inventory. But all the efforts to develop the area’s ecotourism and maintain the habitat of the 10 million and additional waterbirds using it as a staging post on their annual migrations will be in vain, if other key sites along the flyway such as the Bijagos Archipelago are lost.

With migratory species, the disappearance or degradation of just one site or inadequate protection or law enforcement in one Range National can have devastating results if the integrity of the chain is comprised and the birds cannot complete their journeys.

But birds are as well threatened by problems that affect the whole planet – climate change and overfishing for instance. Some birds can adapt – warmer northern winters mean that some birds leave for Africa later and return sooner – but disruptions to the natural order lead to new competition between species and whether one species will win out at the expense of an extra or some new equilibrium will be established is unknown.

Climate change is likely to be the major driver for biodiversity loss and AEWA wants to see mitigation measures in place. Renewable energy is a potential solution as it should reduce the all of both fossil fuel being burnt and greenhouse gases emitted.

But renewable energy is not without risks – an example being birds colliding with the rotor blades of wind turbines, and whether energy is generated by wind, solar, nuclear, coal, gas or oil is irrelevant if birds are being electrocuted on badly designed, poorly insulated and inappropriately located powerlines.

Simple and often inexpensive modifications to power infrastructure and enacting and enforcing environmental impact assessments that take account of the needs of wildlife can contribute to reducing if not eliminating the death toll of migratory birds and other animals.

Next month, the eyes of the world’s media will be on Paris as thousands gather to reach a transaction on measures to combat climate change. But right presently hundreds of ornithologists and decision-makers from Eurasia and Africa are attending the 6th session of the Conference of the Parties (MOP6) to AEWA, twenty years next the treaty was concluded.

It will be a time for reflection to assess the achievements of the last two decades, and Parties the length and breadth of the flyway will identify their priorities for regional cooperation to conserve migratory waterbirds. It is as well the initial biodiversity forum to meet since the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals and will determine how AEWA will contribute to achieving them and the Aichi Targets. Synergizing at its best – conservation and sustainable development hand in hand.

Related Articles
  • Why a proper record of birds in Africa is so important – for Europe

    2018/01/13 Most of Europe’s birds chief south each year around September to escape the northern winter. Some species only migrate as far south as southern Europe. But most cross the Mediterranean Sea to Africa. And a lot of species cross the Sahara Desert to destinations in West Africa such as Nigeria and in East Africa, such as Kenya. Some travel as far south as South Africa. These European birds are diligently monitored. Each April, during the breeding season in the early part of the northern summer, teams of citizen scientists in most European nations gather vast amounts of data on the distribution and densities of breeding – for almost each bird species. Thousands of citizen scientists are involved. They diligently generate the data in their leisure time.
  • Toothless Pan-African Parliament could have meaningful powers

    2018/01/13 The Pan-African Parliament was established by the African Union in 2004. Since again it has not passed a single law. That’s because it’s based on a Protocol that gives it only an advisory role. The parliament can gather data and discuss it, but can’t make binding regulations to change anything. Its limited “consultative and advisory powers” hamper the African Union’s ability to achieve a prosperous and peaceful Africa as envisioned in its Schedule 2063. Is there any point, again, in having this parliament? The 2001 Protocol envisaged that a conference would be organised to “review the operation and effectiveness” of the protocol five years next the establishment of the Parliament, which was 2009. This provision gave rise to the view that such a conference would explore the possibility of granting the Parliament meaningful legislative powers. But no such review has been carried out so far.
  • The EU-Africa summit is now the AU-EU summit. Why the upgrade matters

    2018/01/13 African and European heads of government gathered last week in Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire, for their 5th summit since 2000. For the initial time, the African Union (AU) rather than “Africa”, officially appears as the European Union’s partner. While plenty has been discussed about youth, migration, security and governance less is being said about the shift from an EU-Africa to an AU-EU summit. Is this just a case of semantics? Next all, the AU has been the key organiser of these triennial summits since they started in 2000. Or are there larger implications? We think there are. The AU-EU summit coincided with the January 2017 statement on the reform of the African Union prepared by Rwandan President Paul Kagame. The statement recommends rationalising “Africa’s” a lot of international partnerships by having the continental body take the lead. This means that the previous, current and next AU chairpersons, plus the AU Commission chairperson and the chairperson of the Regional Economic Communities, would represent the AU, rather than all its member states.
  • World food prices up 8.2% in 2017

    2018/01/13 World food prices rose by 8.2 % in 2017 compared to 2016, the UN's food agency said on Friday (Jan 12). The Food and Agriculture Organisation said that its FAO Food Price Index averaged 174.6 points in 2017, the highest annual average since 2014. In December alone, however, the index - a measure of the monthly change in international prices of a basket of food commodities - stood at 169.8 points, down 3.3 % from November, the FAO said in a statement.
  • Ethiopia: Praising Record Feat, Lagarde Emphatic Calling for Reforms

    2018/01/06 The Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Christine Lagarde, is to arrive in Addis Abeba today, to start what is a historic visit by the Fund’s most senior official since its founding next the Second World War. She will be talking to Ethiopian authorities, inclunding Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn, on issues of macroeconomic stability and monetary policy matters. In her exclusive interview with (Addis) Fortune, Lagarde praised Ethiopia’s economic performance of the completed few years as “strong” with “positive Prospects”. However, she would like to see Ethiopian authorities exercise restraints in “public spending” while urged them – rather emphatically – to control borrowing from overseas to finance public projects and strengthen export competitiveness.