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The Best Way to Protect Africa’s Biodiversity is to Integrate Conservation Measures on Working Lands

The Convention on Biological Diversity has traditionally seen agriculture as one of the biggest threats to biodiversity. It has promoted the protection of natural ecosystems by concentrating on preventing further expansion of agriculture. But evidence shows that farms that share landscapes with wild nature, such as remnant forests and trees, benefit from the ecosystem services provided. Farming systems that integrate conservation combine a diversity of crops, animals and trees – with different spatial and seasonal arrangements – and mimic natural water and nutrient processes. This creates less need for artificial inputs like fertilisers, herbicides and pesticides. These farming systems are in line with the traditional farming practices of small holders in sub-Saharan Africa and integrate well with traditional knowledge and practices. There are examples of the successful relationship between farmers, agriculture and conservation all over the continent. For instance in Ethiopia, cereal farmers use nearby forests to feed livestock. The livestock roam the forest during the day and return to farms at night, providing farmers with organic fertiliser. Another example is the 400 km2 Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya’s Laikipia County. Ol Pejeta is home to 130 black rhinos and 7,500 cattle. It has increased the black rhino population by 100% in 10 years. In 2019, it employed 700 people and generated US$1.4 million from livestock production and US$4.8 million from tourism.