According to the leaders, the loss has impacted the people’s livelihoods—and ended simple, but food-sustaining activities—such as picking fruits or traditional vegetables in forests and fields or fishing in small rivers, ponds, and swamps. Plants and animals also face extinction.
“The loss of biodiversity (in Africa) is quite high and alarming. This is largely due to human activity. The churches are greatly concerned,” said Rev. Nicta Lubaale, a Ugandan who is the general secretary of the Organization of African Instituted Churches.
Lubaale explained that when growing up there was a lot of food and people went to pick, for example, traditional vegetables and other kinds, from the fields.
“Much of it was not planted, but how come in the changing ecosystem, people are not finding those,” he posed while highlighting the disappearance of fish from small rivers and swamps.
Rev. Dr Joseph Mutei, dean at St Paul’s University who speaks frequently in faith meetings on climate change and the environment, raised concern over Africa’s loss of nature. He described this as a real concern in the continent initially considered “virgin” as many things in remained in their natural state.
“In the meetings on climate change, this has been reported from every corner, whether it is the extinction of plants, extinction of animals, or whether it is global warming effect or drought. So there is definitely a need and in Africa, we see that this is a real issue,” said Mutei.
But as they raise the alarm, the leaders hope some of these concerns will find space at the 15th Conference of Parties to the Convention on Biodiversity (COP15) in the city of Montreal in Canada. From 7-19 December, nearly 200 governments from across the world at the conference will attempt to agree on new goals to stop and reverse the loss biodiversity by 2030.
“We cannot afford to continue thrashing a path through the fragile web of nature and biodiversity to clear the way for human development,” said Inger Andersen, executive director of UNEP in a statement at the opening press conference on 6 December.
“Species, ecosystems, and the benefits that they provide, upon which we all depend, are degrading and slowly dying,” said Andersen.
The director said the loss and degradation of biodiversity came with a cost measured in not just dollars but in livelihoods, hunger, disease, vulnerability, wellbeing, and deaths.
“We did this to ourselves. But this COP is our chance to start protecting and repairing the web of life,” said Andersen.
On 12 July 2021, the UN Convention on Biological Diversity released a draft of a new Global Biodiversity Framework to guide actions worldwide through to 2030. The framework which is being considered at COP15 aims at preserving and protecting nature and its essential services to people.
“As custodians of ethical principles, the faith communities cannot be left behind or left out of the table when some of these discussions are taking place, whether they are being held by governments, scientists, or economic blocks,” said Mutei.
At the same time, Lubaale said as part of the action, African faiths can engage in practical eco-theology, where they take responsibility as stewards of God’s creation.
“We can take responsibility in our daily actions—in farming, in doing business, in consumption, in production, and mobilizing others to take responsibility,” he said, among others.
According to the leader, it is useful to make the people aware that there are benefits in the conservation of biodiversity and its sustainable use.