By Savanna Henderson, Humanitas Global
Biodiversity, the variation of life in all forms ranging from genes, to species, to communities, to whole ecosystems, is the backbone of human existence, so it is easy to recognize the significance of the Decade of Biodiversity. Biodiversity is responsible for clean air and water, healthy soils, sources of fiber, food, and fuel. Since biodiversity is a source of genetic goods and ecosystem services it’s integral to human health, survival and economic development. Millennium Development Goal seven included a target of reducing biodiversity loss and even acknowledged the significance forest resources hold for the poor. The Sustainable Development Goals also focus on the importance of sustainable use and development of aquatic and terrestrial resources to end extreme poverty, inequality and hunger. Deployed correctly, biodiversity conservation can provide a vehicle out of poverty. Rather than view biodiversity conservation and poverty alleviation as conflicting goals, it is necessary that the two become convergent goals.
Biodiversity is a profound collection of life in all its forms. Genetic diversity in the natural world is increasingly important as climate change prompts alterations in environments and weather patterns. Genetic diversity in food crops allows for varying resistances, nutritional properties and characteristics like flavor and texture. Similarly, species diversity can provide an ecosystem resiliency to climate change and natural disasters. Species diversity provides humans a full range of services, foods and products that we rely on. Bioversity International, for example, focuses solely on agricultural biodiversity, think plants, animals and micro-organisms, for its crucial role in providing people with food and nutrition and sustaining the planet. Bioversity International connects this focus with partners in low-income countries to “improve nutrition, resilience, productivity and climate change adaptation.”
The convergence of biodiversity conservation and poverty alleviation became a global focus in the early 1990’s when the United Nation’s Environment Programme (UNEP) prioritized biodiversity conservation. By 1992 the Convention on Biological Diversity, the first global agreement on the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity, was released with a mission of pursuing sustainable development. It recognizes that conservation of biodiversity is “a common concern of humankind” and fundamental to development. Per the Convention, governments are required to develop national biodiversity strategies and action plans to be integrated into broad national plans for environment and development.
As time progressed, problems of biodiversity loss, environmental degradation, hunger, and extreme poverty remained untouched and even heightened in some areas. In response, the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020, including 20 Aichi Biodiversity Targets, was implemented in 2010 at the tenth meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the CBD in Nagoya, Japan. Similar to the Millennium Development Goals, the Aichi Biodiversity Targets are time-bound and quantified goals that address biodiversity and development. There are five Strategic Goals with a total of 20 targets to be achieved by 2020. The Strategic Goals are:
- Address the underlying causes of biodiversity loss by mainstreaming biodiversity across government and society
- Reduce the direct pressures on biodiversity and promote sustainable use
- To improve the status of biodiversity by safeguarding ecosystems, species and genetic diversity
- Enhance the benefits to all from biodiversity and ecosystem services
- Enhance implementation through participatory planning, knowledge management and capacity building
Meeting these and the Aichi Biodiversity Targets will “contribute to reducing hunger, poverty, improving human health and ensuring a sustainable supply of energy, food and clean water”. There are a number of examples of interventions that benefit the poor and the environment being implemented across the globe.
Pro-Poor and Pro-Environment Interventions
For instance, the Integrated Production and Pest Management Programme implemented by the FAO aims at educating farmers on the health and environmental risks associated with pesticides. Farmers are taught skills that will increase their productivity and capacity, enhance the soil health, and reduce the toll on environmental resources. More information on the program can be found here.
In the Xinyang Municipal of China, tea production and biodiversity conservation have become convergent intentions. Located in the mountainous region around Dongzhai National Nature Reserve, part of an eco-corridor, are green tea plantations that once relied on chemical fertilizers and pesticides, threatening the land and water quality. UNDP and the Xinyang Municipal Government of Henan Province launched the Conservation and Sustainable Use of Biodiversity in The Headwaters of Huaihe River Basin project to address national environmental management, coupling conservation and economic goals. Agriculture and forestry policies were amended to support sustainability and reduce detrimental environmental impacts and the Plan for the Development of the Tea Industry (2013-2020) was introduced, providing demonstrations and skill-building for farmers to adopt organic tea production, which will improve the price tea plantations can make. Additionally, the farmers received training on tree cropping to diversify their plantations, improving the local ecosystem and economy.
Numerous examples of poverty alleviation and biodiversity conservation coming together successfully exist, reinforcing the rationale of the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity. There are 1,954 days left to meet the Aichi Targets and the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity, which is of the upmost importance for the globe. As Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said, “Conserving the planet’s species and habitats and the goods and services they provide are central to sustainable development….Success will significantly contribute to the broader global priorities of eliminating poverty, improving human health and providing energy, food and clean water for all.”