The African Wildlife Foundation (AWF)has just rolled out their new strategy that will guide the organization’s operations for the next 10 years. The launch coincided with the 50th Anniversary of Earth Day in a symbolic gesture to demonstrate AWF’s support for concerted efforts to create a healthier planet for all.
AWF’s new strategy is aimed at achieving three goals: to support and promote African-led policy, planning, and finance that leverage wildlife and wildlands as essential to development; to conserve, protect, and restore Africa’s ecosystems and the services that they provide; and to conserve Africa’s wildlife, reduce poaching, and other forms of illegal wildlife trade.
Building on their 60 years of experience in conservation and development across the continent, AWF will ensure African leadership is integrated into all aspects of their holistic approach, and in doing so, ensure that conservation is mainstreamed into decision making related to economy building and sustainable development.
In the first three years, this new vision will be launched in four African countries: Cameroon, Kenya, Uganda, and Zimbabwe, chosen for their vast natural resources, prevailing political goodwill towards conservation, and level of impact on wildlife and wildlands. These countries will be supported with more robust in-country staffing, infrastructure, and operations that include work developed in close partnership with national, regional, and local governments. AWF seeks to be intentional about developing a model that can take hold in other countries as well.
The need to rethink AWF’s strategy is informed by rapid changes characterizing modern Africa and their impact on wildlife and wildlands, including investments in infrastructure, rapid urbanization, climate change, population growth, and shifting demographics. In addition, global shocks such as shifting economic priorities and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic have threatened the traditional reliance on external agendas for Africa’s wildlife and wildlands, making it a priority to build African capacity and support African leadership in the management of the continent’s natural resources.
“The time has come for Africans to step up and reclaim their rightful place in the management of their own natural resources. This is why AWF is committed to building African conservation leadership from grassroots levels to the highest office, because their experience shows that conservation cannot succeed without the participation of the people who live near wildlife and benefit from it,” said AWF CEO Kaddu Sebunya in a statement.
Sebunya also emphasized the role of youth in bringing AWF’s new vision to life, pointing out that a prosperous Africa depends on young people disrupting the existing systems that harm the environment.
“Young people are radical change makers. We have identified them as a key constituent towards achieving our goals in the next ten years, because they form the largest percentage of Africa’s population and the future of the continent must rest in their hands” continued Sebunya. “With the right support, which AWF is prepared to give, they can redefine development and negotiate space for wildlife and wildlands in modern Africa.”
The new strategy comes at a time when the world is reeling from the effects of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic that has been linked to the consumption of wildlife, serving as a wake-up call to the fact that conserving biodiversity is integral to the survival of humanity. In order to contain the risk of future pandemics such as COVID-19 and other deadly zoonotic diseases such as: Ebola, HIV, H1N1, and SARS, the world must protect the integrity of biodiversity and stop the illegal wildlife trade.
AWF is present in 15 African countries with programs focusing on wildlife conservation, land and habitat protection, community empowerment, and policy.
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