Will you make 2014 your year?


It is my first instalment for 2014, the centenary of the beginning of World War I. From politics to science to religion, 2014 is a significant year, and hence, the world will begin four years of 100th anniversary observances.

Viewpoint by Wisdom Mdzungairi

It was in 1914 when World War I began as Austria declared war on Serbia; Germany on Russia and France; Britain on Germany; Austrian Archduke Francis Ferdinand and wife Sophie were assassinated in Sarajevo by Serbian nationalist Gavrilo Princip and Jesus Christ was anointed King of the Heavenly Kingdom.

In the field of science, although many Africans had done experiments and inventions, George Washington Carver is thought to have first experimented with peanuts as a new cash crop. On the local front, Zimbabwe will see the growing of religious tourism as Harare hosts an international pilgrimage to be attended by over
60 000 visitors this year.

Enough of that, but will 2014 also be remembered as the year the world will finally get serious about climate change and illegal trade in elephant?
That from certain standpoints appear like a proposal from a supreme idealist, but there have been some steps to halt illegal elephant ivory trade and poaching — at least from a regional perspective.

The first was when key African states along the illegal ivory value chain last December committed to urgent measures to halt the illegal trade and secure elephant populations across Africa.

The agreement was reached at the African Elephant Summit convened by Botswana and IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature).

The summit was the first-ever meeting focusing on the dynamics of the entire ivory value chain. The measures were agreed on by key African Elephant range states including Gabon, Kenya, Niger and Zambia, ivory transit states Viet Nam, Philippines and Malaysia and ivory destination states, including China and Thailand.

Botswana’s Ian Khama added: “Our window of opportunity to tackle the growing illegal ivory trade is closing and if we do not stem the tide, future generations will condemn our unwillingness to act. Now is the time for Africa and Asia to join forces to protect this universally valued and much needed species.”

The second, of course, was the report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) which established, without a shadow of reasonable doubt, that people have to change their ways, fast, to avoid catastrophic global warming.

There is no longer any scientific debate about the fact of anthropogenic global warming. The only debate now is what policies should be adopted to deal with it.
Climate change is the biggest threat to nature and humanity in this century. It is nearly impossible to overstate its threat. Greenhouse gas emissions are rising more rapidly than predicted and the world is warming more quickly in response.

According to IPCC, global warming will have catastrophic effects such as accelerating sea level rise, droughts, floods, storms and heat waves. These will impact everyone, including some of the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people, disrupting food production, and threatening vitally important species, habitats and ecosystems.

Despite compelling scientific evidence, governments and businesses have responded with painful slowness. Even if countries fulfil all current mitigation pledges, the world will still face between 2 and 4°C of warming.

As we work to reduce emissions, we must simultaneously begin to adapt to the increasing impacts of climate change.

In our quest to deal with global warming issues and illegal wildlife trade, it is important for our countries to classify wildlife trafficking as a serious threat.
This could unlock international law enforcement co-operation provided under the United Nations Convention Against Transnational Organised Crime, including mutual legal assistance, asset seizure and forfeiture, extradition and other tools to hold criminals accountable for wildlife crime.

The latest analysis of poaching data estimates that in 2012 some 15 000 elephants were illegally killed across 27 African countries participating in Monitoring the Illegal Killing of Elephants (Mike), a programme of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (Cites), with funding from the European Union.

According to Mike analysis, this amounts to an estimated 22 000 elephants illegally killed continent-wide in 2012, a slight reduction on the estimated 25 000 elephants poached in 2011.

Preliminary indicators suggest that even higher levels of illicit trade were reached in 2013 proving critical for conservation efforts everywhere, with 115 elephants having been poisoned by cyanide in Hwange National Park.

Because most communities living alongside elephant range areas do not have meaningful agriculture activities, it is important for our countries to engage communities living with elephants in their conservation, strengthening national laws to secure maximum wildlife crime sentences, mobilising financial and technical resources to combat wildlife crime and reduce demand for illegal ivory.

Climate change will also have a significant impact on food availability, food accessibility and food system’s stability especially in these areas resulting in situations like the Hwange ecological disaster where villagers eked a living through poaching their wildlife heritage.

In some parts of the country drier and warmer conditions are predicted, elsewhere wetter conditions are expected and will affect agricultural practices.
Our country relies on rain-fed agriculture.

So any amount of warming will result in increased water stress. Whether one is a pessimist or not, agricultural production is projected to be severely compromised by climate variability and change areas suited for agriculture.

So we need to protect forests. Can you make 2014 your year?


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