Zimbabwe to host the Africa’s Protected and Conserved Areas (APAD) conference in March

Eileen Kairu – AWF

Zimbabwe through the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority (ZimParks) will this year in March, host the second in-person APAD(Africa Protected Areas Director) conference.

The first-ever Africa Protected Areas Congress was held in July 2022, in Kigali, Rwanda.

The Africa Protected Areas Director (APAD) forum is a platform and network open to the representatives of national authorities of Protected Areas operating throughout Africa. APAD aims to foster information sharing, develop a common agenda for Africa’s protected areas, facilitate collaboration and collective responsibility among the Africa Protected Areas Directors. The platform is underpinned by an Africa-led agenda for protected and conserved areas as the backbone of natural infrastructure.

Three main objectives of APAD is to ensure sustainable financing for all of Africa’s protected and conserved areas; to strengthen the resilience and emergency preparedness of Africa’s protected and conserved areas to disasters and pandemics and to establish cooperation mechanisms among APADs and their networks.

APAD is facilitated by the African Wildlife Foundation (AWF), its current secretariat, and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN)

The conference in Zimbabwe is set to bring together APADs from all African regions alongside key stakeholders and partners that are expected to discuss collective goals as a continent.

Since its inception in 2020, APAD has been dedicated to fostering information sharing, developing a common agenda, and promoting collaboration among Africa’s Protected Areas Directors.

Frederick Kwame Kumah, African Wildlife Foundation (AWF)’s Global Leadership Vice President, took time recently to explain more regarding motivations behind AWF’s commitments, the milestones achieved through APAD, and what the future holds for this instrumental network.

Why did AWF invest in the Africa Protected Areas Director (APAD) network?

Frederick Kwame Kumah – The initial idea was triggered by the need for a greater voice and representation at the Africa Protected Area Congress (APAC).

However, once the APADs met, it quickly became clear there was a need for the network, at the very least, as a space to share and learn from each other and, at best, to tackle intractable challenges members mutually faced.

Investing in APAD as a network aligns with AWF’s commitment to elevating African conservation leadership. We are giving agency to African conservation leaders to set the agenda for conservation on the continent and beyond.

By supporting APADs, AWF aims to contribute to the sustainable management of Protected and Conserved Areas (PCAs) in Africa, reinforcing the backbone of natural infrastructure while ensuring people are at the center of these innovative solutions.

As the secretariat for APADs, AWF has facilitated and supported the engagement of APADs in conferences, workshops, and meetings with stakeholders.

AWF’s involvement extends to securing endorsements from African Institutions and leaders, creating linkages with other biodiversity agencies outside the continent, aligning with critical African constituencies such as communities, youth, and women, and supporting the development of transformational initiatives with benefits to APADs such as GIS technology integration.

How did the Nairobi Declaration influence APAD’s direction and activities?

Frederick Kwame Kumah – The Nairobi Declaration of the APADs marked a turning point in the network, as it outlined the rationale for the collaboration and formally provided an opportunity for all members to commit to the network’s goal. By signing on to the declaration, APADs brought along their government endorsements of the network; the declaration called for the establishment of a sustainable financing mechanism for Africa’s protected and conserved areas, a guiding framework for climate resilience and disaster risk reduction, and enhanced cooperation amongst Protected and Conserved Areas.

What milestones has APAD achieved since its formation?

Frederick Kwame Kumah – APAD has made significant strides since its inception in 2020. The 2021 Nairobi Conference resulted in the Nairobi Declaration of Africa Protected Area Directors, providing a shared vision for strengthening Africa’s networks of protected and conserved areas.

This saw the leaders champion and work towards actualizing the first-ever Africa Protected Areas Congress held last year in Kigali, Rwanda. The Kigali Call to Action, which came from the congress, encapsulated what the directors had been championing even during the virtual sessions amid the pandemic.

I vividly remember the words of the Late Honourable Benjamin Mkapa, Former President of Tanzania and AWF Board Trustee, who spoke at the very first virtual session with the directors, “The lesson from the pandemic is that there are significant costs associated with undervaluing our biodiversity and ecosystems, and that separating economic development from nature is a false choice. We need to strive for greater harmony between our economic models of growth and nature. We are on a pathway to a sustainable and resilient future where nature is centre stage. However, we can only rise if we do it right. If we set our priorities right, have the resolve to rise, and present a united front.”

And indeed, we are seeing the rallying call from APADs to include other key stakeholders, as success in conservation is only possible in partnership with others.

APAD has convened quarterly since its inception, holding one in-person conference and nine virtual meetings since 2020. Engaging representatives from 39 African countries across all sub-regions, APAD has conducted surveys on the Impact of COVID-19 and financing for Africa’s Protected and Conserved Areas. These surveys have shaped APAD’s structure and objectives, providing insights from 22 countries representing over 700 protected areas.

Further, the APADs have actively engaged in different forums such as the Africa Climate Summit, the Alliance for Indigenous People and Local Communities for Conservation in Africa, and global conferences such as the just ended, UN Climate Conference (COP28) emphasizing the inherent value of Protected and Conserved Areas delivering practical and sustainable solutions for Africa and the world.

Could you share insights into APAD’s inaugural project launched in June 2023?

Frederick Kwame Kumah -In June 2023, APAD initiated its first project with funding from the German Federal Ministry for Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMUV). The project focuses on recognizing the vital role of Protected and Conserved Areas in Africa’s commitment to global conservation targets.

This project aims to enhance cooperation mechanisms, promote collaboration with Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities, and engage youth as co-implementers of global biodiversity goals.

In conclusion, AWF’s investment in the Africa Protected Areas Director network signifies a strategic commitment to shaping the future of conservation in Africa.

APAD’s milestones, from the Nairobi Declaration to its inaugural “Advancing Pan-African Collaboration for Improved Protected and Conserved Area Governance” project, reflect the network’s growing influence and impact.

As APAD continues prioritizing self-sustainability and collaboration, AWF remains a dedicated partner, contributing to realizing the network’s shared objectives.

About the Author

Eileen Kairu is African Wildlife Foundation’s Strategic Communications Manager. She leads in the development of creative and engaging policy and advocacy resources and campaigns that contribute to sustainable homegrown conservation solutions. Passionate to advance youth initiatives across the continent, she actively participates and organizes global thought leadership dialogues that seek to enact meaningful change.

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