Restoring Biodiversity through Economic Opportunities: Cheetah Conservation Fund’s Work in Namibia

  • by Cheetah Conservation Fund Canada May 22, 2017

To address the root causes of poverty and environmental degradation, the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) must move towards active industry participation.  Goal SDG15, entitled “Life on Land”, calls for the protection, restoration, and promotion of sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, and thus stopping biodiversity loss: successfully addressing the biosphere goals is critical to all humankind. 

Illustration: Azote Images for Stockholm Resilience Centre, Stockholm University

Sustainable Development Goals

People depend on terrestrial ecosystems for food, water, shelter, medicine, income, and their livelihoods. Promoting practices to preserve and enhance natural resources is a challenge that must be addressed by government, industry, and society working together. How can sustainable development be combined with alleviating poverty and increasing economic output?

From zero impact to positive impact

While many companies attempt to have zero environmental impact, a greater contribution to SDG15 targets would be if they undertake efforts to have a net positive impact through mechanisms thatengage the rural poor as custodians of natural resources. The Cheetah Conservation Fund (CCF), established over 25 years ago in Namibia, has been a leading researcher in the area of thorn bush harvest methods in Namibia for over a decade, and has established operations to use the thorn bush as a biomass source and serving as pilot for multi-stakeholder market force driven approach to sustainability.

Namibia faces severe issues with invasive thorn bush that is exacerbated by the government’s efforts towards fire suppression, the cattle farmers’ overstocking of land, and weather patterns. Bush encroachment affects about 26 million hectares in Namibia‛s prime agricultural land. The dense thickets prevent farmers from using the land and disrupt the natural ecosystem, as game animals are unable to graze, while predators that depend on that prey cannot feed themselves. It is estimated that the bush encroachment causes losses of over N$700 million every year to the national economy.

Increasing biodiversity to build sustainable systems

CCF has developed a sustainable thorn-bush harvesting methodology certified by the Forestry Stewardship Council.  Studies have demonstrated the methodology’s strong positive impact on increasing bio-diversity and restoring the wildlife habitats. The program now includes a manufacturing process to convert the thorn bush into high energy logs called the Bushblok.

The project currently employs 30 Namibians and has restored hundreds of acres of habitat land for cheetahs and their prey species. Working with communal persons, CCF is creating off-take opportunities for harvested thorn bush that represent annual revenue above the Namibian poverty line. CCF also offers training in its sustainable harvesting methodology and the operation of hauling machinery and semi-automated harvesting tools, which are transferrable skills. Through its Future Farmers of Africa program, CCF also promotes sustainable land management practices.

Cheetah Conservation Fund Canada has been working to raise awareness about CCF’s work on habitat restoration and biomass opportunities to Canadian companies operating in Africa. The market demand makes the economic cycle of thorn bush harvesting sustainable.

From a local – to a global solution

This solution makes a significant contribution towards land reclamation and increasing biodiversity while creating economic opportunities for the local community and small enterprises. The program involves the private sector, engages society, and applies market forces towards long-term sustainable management of resources.

Namibia is an ideal location to demonstrate the technical and economic viability of biomass energy solutions that meet industrial needs. This demonstration can then be readily spread to many other locations.

Founded in 1990, Cheetah Conservation Fund (CCF) is the global leader in research and conservation of cheetahs, with a mission to save the wild cheetah from extinction and protect its ecosystems. Cheetah Conservation Fund Canada is a registered charity in Canada and raises awareness and funding in support of CCF’s key programs being implemented in Namibia. 

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