AU postgraduate student Christopher Namilonga participates in inaugural Africa Protected Area Congress, Nairobi, Kenya
18 February 2019
The first ever Africa Protected Areas Congress (APAC) was held on Thursday the 14th February 2019 at Nairobi National Park’s historic ivory burning site. This is one the most important landmarks in the annals of conservation as it was here, that then Kenyan president Daniel Arap Moi made a dramatic statement to poachers by setting fire to 11 tonnes of seized ivory in 1989. The event improved Kenya’s conservation image at a time when East African wildlife was being decimated by relentless poaching, and it is widely credited as playing a role in turning the tide against poaching (source: LonelyPlanet.com).
The theme for the congress was, “For the Love of Nature”, and it seeks to position Africa’s protected areas within the goals of economic and community well-being as well as to seek commitment from African governments to integrate protected areas in the African Union’s agenda 2063 strategic framework for the socio-economic transformation of the entire continent.
We sat down to interview Mr. Christopher Namilonga on the amazing opportunity to represent Africa’s youth and deliver a presentation on the topical issue of the threat to wildlife from the perspective of the youth, and how they can become advocates and custodians of the continent’s natural resources.
Christopher Namilonga (Left)
Below are excerpts from the interview:
JD: What was the main thrust of your presentation?
CN: Representing the voice of the African youth, I gave a presentation looking at ‘The Future of Protected Areas – What nature means to us (African Youth). Some of the issues raised in my presentation were the need to seriously involve young people in matters of conservation and also communities where these resources are located in order to instill a sense of ownership. Local communities should be put at the center of the conservation agenda with clear socio-economic benefit as an incentive to conserve.
JD: What other challenges do you think pose a threat to conservation in Africa?
CN: I think climate change, unsustainable consumption patterns, land use conversion, increasing human population, inadequate legislation and policies, poor governance, weak institutions, escalating conflicts, unrealistic conservation and economic models, unplanned development and lack of political support among others really hamper our efforts as a continent and more should be done to address these issues as a matter of urgency.
JD: What do you think the way forward is in light of the issues that you highlighted?
CN: Counter to these challenges, practical, home grown solutions that are economically sensitive, socially and politically acceptable must be sought and decisive action taken.
I strongly believe that when we take care of nature, it will also take care of us and as such, our commitment to ensure that nature is protected and used sustainably can never be doubted. I hope to advocate for such change among other youth and use my voice to protect our most precious resource.
Mr. Namilonga has long held a passion for conservation and the responsible use of natural resources combining the two disciplines to continue with further studies with Africa University in the Masters of Peace, Leadership and Governance programme hosted in the College of Bunsiness, Peace Leadership and Governance from which he is set to graduate in June 2019.