Tanzania making good progress in conservation but challenges abound
Q: Last year you visited Tanzania to officiate at a ceremony to award Wildlife Management Areas that had performed well in protecting wild animals, fighting poaching in their areas and promoting alternative income generating activities in a bid to reduce poverty among rural communities. What was your general opinion regarding Tanzania’s efforts in conserving the environment and ensuring that communities benefit from natural resources (water, forests, fisheries, land etc.) Are there any specific reasons which more efforts should be directed?
A: Tanzania is a wonderful country and is making good progress on efforts in conserving the environment, including some strong policies and regulations – but there are significant implementation challenges. One big success, for example, is that 40 per cent of land has protected area or game reserve status – but there is an ongoing need to resist encroachment from development and expanding population and the development of the extractives sector in high-biodiversity areas.
There are also new emerging challenges that need new policies or the revision of existing ones – for example hydrocarbon discoveries requiring new laws and regulations following the enactment of a new gas policy. A national Climate Change Strategy has been developed too – but Tanzania may need to go further and develop adaptation approaches to address major potential impacts to Tanzania’s development ambitions.
Tanzania has made good progress on national REDD+ readiness, but sustainable finance for these initiatives remains the major challenge. In general, civil sector organizations like WWF and many others still need further capacity and strengthening – especially in addressing and taking the private sector and government to account on emerging trade and investment sectors.
There are also major law enforcement challenges – and a need for relevant authorities to be made more aware of environmental crimes. But progress is being made and there are good pointers to a brighter and more sustainable future!
Q: In Tanzania, WWF is implementing projects in Freshwater, Marine and Coastal Ecosystems, Forests, Climate Change (including Energy) and Wildlife, among others. What do you think is the biggest environmental problem that the country is facing?
A:Key environmental problems in Tanzania include a decline in freshwater flows and ensuing pollution, a drop in near shore fish stocks, the physical alteration and destruction of critical habitats and ecosystems, and wildlife poaching and trade. However, the biggest challenge is forest loss and degradation, where every year Tanzania is losing about 372 hectors – this is very alarming.
Q: Recently WWF launched the Africa 2020 strategy. What ‘new’ things should development partners like Tanzania expect, that were not there previously?
A:We expect more effective and impact-driven conservation through the New Conservation Strategy for WWF-Tanzania 2015- 2020 and enhanced strategic partnerships with stakeholders. We will also be maximizing WWF-Tanzania’s impact on the conservation work of WWF’s global priorities including elephant and rhino conservation, the conservation of Miombo biome by focusing on Selous-Ruvuma landscape, and conservation of the Rift Lakes including Mara-Serengeti landscape.
Finally, we anticipate improved capacity for conservation delivery through a stronger WWF country office in Tanzania.
Q: One aspect of the environment that has been hardest hit by climate change is water. What would you suggest developing countries like Tanzania should do in order to cope with the impacts that are already taking their toll on communities?
A: WWF views it as necessary for a country like Tanzania to ensure priority catchments for sustaining environmental flows are resilient to the impacts of climate change and provide critical services to people. They need to design and implement effective climate change adaptation strategies and support climate vulnerability assessments. It is also essential to strengthen modeling capacity for research institutions to ensure quality predictions and risk assessments.
Q: Having participated in the 7th World Water Forum in Daegu as WWF International President, what messages would you have to the world regarding conservation of water and the environment in general?
A: We only have one planet home: a vibrant, living, incredibly rich and abundantly beautiful planet, but one whose resources that we all share – on which we all rely for our very survival – are finite and fragile. So the global community of governments, cities, businesses, civil society, students and everyone else must work together to find solutions that enable development in a way which is sustainable.
In the case of fresh water – the focus of our discussions these days – we need much greater global coordination to ensure security for people and nature. Only through collaboration can we manage water resources to meet the world’s growing demands for this essential resource long into the future.
I would also like to highlight that nature and wildlife do not know national borders – and some of the most crucial areas for biodiversity are linked to international rivers and lakes. We cannot achieve our conservation goals in regions where countries are not cooperating effectively on trans boundary water management. Growth requires both infrastructure and healthy ecosystems. Development—especially of infrastructure for agriculture and hydropower—must be planned and implemented in a way that is financially, socially and environmentally responsible.
The private sector too has an essential role to play. Every business is water-dependent in one way or another – from factory floors to deep within supply chains. Given that it is one of the world’s most precious resources, water quality and quantity will increasingly influence a business’s ability to grow, thrive and operate. WWF is advancing corporate water stewardship – building transformational partnerships with businesses to restore and protect healthy, resilient freshwater ecosystems.
We start at the ground-level by helping companies realize their water footprint and risks, collaborate to develop water stewardship strategies, and encourage better basin-level management. By advancing the research, tools and global dialogue around water while partnering with businesses to transform their practices, we are co-creating a water-secure future for people and nature.
Q. Would you say that a universally binding climate change agreement will be reached at the climate change conference to be held in France in December this year?
A: We won’t know for sure until the deal is agreed. But all indications are that there is enough political will to ensure a deal is concluded. The bigger issue is whether or not the deal will be binding, fair and match the demands of science to sharply reduce CO2 emissions and keep global warming to well below 20C.
Governments’ positions on these elements will only become clearer once the UN climate negotiations on the draft text (agreed in February in Geneva) begin in June in Bonn through to and including the global UN meeting of governments in Paris in December (COP21) where the final decisions will be taken
We will also have a better sense of the adequacy of actions once all countries submit their national climate plans during this year, which WWF wants to see developed in line with science – in working to build a future where people and nature thrive.