Biodiversity conversion and national development

July 25, 2020
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Biodiversity which is a contraction of biological diversity is the number, variety and variability among living organisms on the earth, including the variability within and between species and within and between ecosystems. It originated from the conservation movement of the 1960s and 70s and finally gained widespread popularity in the late 1980s. Conservation refers to the management of human use of the biosphere so that it may yield the greatest sustainable benefits to present generations while maintaining its potential to meet the needs and aspirations of future generations (IUCN 1980). From these definitions, biodiversity conservation can be literally understood to mean the act of protecting and preserving the variety of species and ecosystems on the earth from extinction. However, the U.S. Mission to International Organisations in Geneva defines biodiversity conservation as the practice of protecting and preserving the wealth and variety of species, habitats, ecosystems, and genetic diversity on the planet. As a result of the rapid declination rate of the earth’s biodiversity due to factors such as pollution, climate change, and over-exploitation of natural resources, biodiversity conservation has become a popular subject of interest globally. Many countries have discovered different ways of conserving biodiversity, some of which have proven to be very successful especially in developed countries. However, the focus of this essay would be on the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

Nigeria is situated in the West African region and has a landmass of 923,768 sq.km with a population of about 195.9 million which increases with an annual growth rate of 2.8%. Owing to its geographical contingency, it spreads across various climatic and ecological zones. Its natural ecosystem is diverse and consists of semi-arid savannah, mountain forests, vast freshwater swamp forests, rain forests diverse coastal vegetation, etc. The Niger Delta region has the largest area of mangrove in Africa. In Nigeria, there are about 7,895 plant species identified in 338 families and 2,215 genera. There are 22,000 vertebrates and invertebrate species… About 1,489 species of microorganisms have also been identified (Nigeria First National Biodiversity Report 2001). Biodiversity conservation gives Nigerians access to biological resources for sustenance which means it makes up a major part of our life-support system.

Aside from the fact that it is important for the earth’s survival, biodiversity conservation is also an indisputable tool in the area of national development in ways such as the provision of basic essentials such as food and medicine. Food is gotten from plant, animal, microbe, and genetic resources, all of which can only be protected by conserving biological diversity. This ensures food security which will not only decrease poverty but will also ensure economic growth. Biodiversity conservation ensures health security as well as viable improvement in the health sector. Drugs are derived directly or indirectly from biological resources. About 40% of the pharmaceuticals used in the United States are manufactured from natural compounds obtained from plants and animals. Also about 80% of people in underdeveloped and developing countries depend on traditional medicine for primary health care. Still on poverty reduction, most poor people in rural areas depend directly on forests and wetlands for subsistence. Conserving biodiversity will protect lands from overexploitation while still providing for subsistence farmers. Biodiversity conservation also protects raw materials used in manufacturing commercial and industrial products which enhance economic productivity and export earnings. Subsistence and commercial agriculture also provide employment opportunities for the public. According to Nigeria Fifth National Biodiversity Report (2015), more than 65% of Nigerians are engaged in biodiversity related jobs and occupation. Finally, conserving biodiversity aids the supply of critical ecosystem services that boosts a country’s economy.

We have established that biological conservation yields positive impact not only on the earth but also on national development. However, various natural, physical and biological factors have led to biodiversity degradation characterized mainly by mass extinctions of animal, plant and microbe species. About 40% of the 40,177 species assessed using the IUCN Red List criteria are now listed as threatened with extinction – a total of 16,119 (Wikipedia). Biodiversity conservation globally faces threat like climate change, pollution, population pressure, deforestation, invasive species, soil erosion, overgrazing and habitat destruction. In Nigeria for example, forest reserves established for conservation of forest resources have been constantly neglected which has led to little or no improvement in investment and management. According to the World Rainforest Movement (1999) records, 70-80% of Nigeria’s original forest has disappeared and the area occupied by forests has been reduced to 12%. From 2000 to 2005, Nigeria lost about 2,048,000 ha of forest (FAO 2005). The USAID Report on Biodiversity and Tropical Forestry Assessment (2002) recorded that are many – too many environmental threats in Nigeria affecting biodiversity (Convention on Biological Diversity). A National Assessment (NCF2012) confirmed the fast increase of biodiversity loss in Nigeria. Pollution is another important threat to biodiversity conservation in Nigeria. Toxic chemicals released into the environment as a result of industrial activities negatively affect biodiversity conservation. An investigation and report by Essential Action and Global Exchange 2000 found that oil corporation in the Niger Delta seriously threatens the livelihood of neighboring local communities.

This piece by Shalom Toluwanimi Michael-Adekunle, a 200L student of the Faculty of Law, University of Lagos, is the winning entry in the 2020 World Environment Day essay competition by a NGO, Emeraldscape Environmental Development (EMEND).

The erosion of biological diversity can only be stopped through novel and complex mixtures of economic, social and political action based on a sound knowledge of ecosystems, including the role of people who live there (Conserving Biodiversity 1992). As there are many threats, there are also solutions to the problem of biodiversity loss in Nigeria and the world at large. First, there should be public awareness and participation in biodiversity conservation. Also, lesser known crops should be introduced into the market. This would encourage growers of these endangered species to increase its production. The government should also make policies protecting biodiversity conservation. Nigeria started the process of preparing its own Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan (BSAP) in 1995. Nigeria signed the Convention on Biological Diversity in 1992 and ratified it in 1994. It has since then participated actively in the activities of the convention and is committed to its objectives. Nigeria equally signed the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety which is intended to conserve Biological Diversity from adverse impact of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs). The country, therefore, accords very high priority to a successful implementation of all articles of the Convention as a responsible member of the global community and in pursuit of sustainable development (Federal Republic of Nigeria Fourth National Biodiversity Report, Abuja 2010). Also Nigeria is a signatory to the three Rio conventions and the intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES).

In conclusion, biodiversity provides the basis for life on earth, including human life and is the key to safeguarding the wealth of the world for future generations. By conserving biodiversity, we ensure that our surroundings are richer and more diverse and we also secure the resources that will continue to provide improvements in the quality of human life… biodiversity is the best guarantee of enhancing and protecting agriculture, health and leisure pursuits (FAO 2002). Biodiversity conservation ensures the continuity of life on earth and eradicates the hanging threat of extinction therefore it is a global responsibility and every nation has an important role to play in finding new ways to manage biological resources and new ways to sustain commitment.

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