More than fifty participants including IUCN staff and Members, civil society representatives, conservation actors and businesses got together in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso from 18 to 20 March, 2019 for the first regional meeting on Business and Biodiversity in West and Central Africa.
The purpose of the meeting was to build and strengthen regional cooperation with businesses for biodiversity conservation and sustainable management.
Businesses have a major impact on biodiversity through their operation and supply chain. Yet, biodiversity provides ecosystem services that are prone to deterioration as a result of such impacts. According to Mr. Gerard Bos, Director of the Global Business and Biodiversity Programme, "businesses are part of the issue and should therefore be part of the solution. It is imperative to work in partnership in order to achieve better results ". Conservation and profit are not mutually exclusive, trade-off is therefore possible. The participants worked on the design of a global strategy for mobilizing businesses at the regional scale, building on the three priority sectors that were identified during the deliberations, namely: agribusiness, extractive industries and infrastructure.
A variety of aspects were addressed during the deliberations: the IUCN global strategy for business engagement, and the regional approach to identifying impacts and business dependency on biodiversity, including business cases for biodiversity mainstreaming into actions. Avenues for collaboration between businesses and the conservation world and eight collaborative areas of work were identified, and joint action plans further developed.
On the need for working in partnership
The participants enhanced their knowledge on biodiversity and its linkages with business, working in a friendly and dynamic atmosphere. Mrs. Baliaba Beyene Ateba, Chairperson of the African women’s network of fish processors and trade (Awfishnet) made the following statement: "now I have better knowledge of what biodiversity is all about and I will convey what I have learned to my colleagues and partners as soon as I get back home ".
At the end of the deliberations, the participants identified eight collaborative areas of work to be implemented together with the companies in the region: (1)involving businesses in the conservation and valuing of the Volta Basin; (2) mobilizing businesses in the Shared Resources, Joint Solutions (SRJS)Programme ; (3) engaging businesses in the Great Green Wall for the Sahel and Sahara Initiative; (4)setting up a regional “Business and Biodiversity network" ; (5)engaging the Senegalese Parliamentarians in the monitoring of environmental policies; (6)strengthening BESNet (Business and Environmental Stewardship) which is a network of businesses in Ghana engaged in the promotion of and support for the mainstreaming of the natural capital in business value chains and production; (7) fostering ecotourism in Guinea-Bissau ; and (8)raising the required funding for the implementation of solutions aimed at reversing farmland degradation and agricultural production depletion (ECO Restore).
The post- 2020 period in relation to biodiversity and business in the region
Businesses should get involved in the preparatory and attendance phases of major regional and world events such as the regional Forum of Members, the World Conservation Congress, and the Convention on Biological Diversity. The Congress scheduled to take place in Marseille, France from 11th to 19th June, 2020 provides an opportunity for businesses for sharing their experiences in biodiversity conservation. Mr. Aliou Faye, IUCN – PACO Regional Director so rightly said that: "IUCN definitely wishes to further engage with businesses and speak the same language with them in view of achieving enhanced biodiversity conservation ".
The regional meeting on "Business and Biodiversity» culminated with commitments that require effective follow-up and support. "The work that we have just started should be continued. And to do so, we all need each other to achieve the desired change in the region in the area of biodiversity” highlighted Sareme Gebre, Regional Coordinator, Business & Biodiversity.
The meeting was organized by the IUCN Secretariat through its Central and West Africa Programme (PACO), in collaboration with the Dutch Committee for IUCN and financial support from the French Development Agency.
About fifty participants were present, of whom 23 IUCN staff members (Headquarters, PACO and Netherlands), 6 IUCN Members (BEES, ECO BENIN, NATURAMA, AGEREF/CL, A ROCHA Ghana) and 8 businesses (B2Gold, CIMBENIN, BIOPROTECT, OLVEA, SIFCA, Green Project Africa, Savannah & Sahel Commodities Ltd, Eco Restore, African women network of fish processors and trade - Awfishnet). They were from 11 countries (Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Guinea - Bissau, Mali, Democratic Republic of Congo, Senegal, Switzerland and Netherlands).