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Working to Save Africa’s Rich Biodiversity

The United Nations has named 2010 International Biodiversity Year, acknowledging the continued loss of plant and animal species around the world from population growth, urbanization, deteriorating habitats, invasive species, and more. Last year, the U.N. reported that 17,000 animal and plant species are at risk of extinction and some 60 percent of our planet’s ecosystems are no longer able to provide the food, clean water, and other benefits that they had in the past. Many of these species and ecosystems are found in Sub Saharan Africa, where millions of families depend on farming and home gardens for food and income. Wildlife and plant species rely on healthy ecosystems that are severely damaged.

Many Aid for Africa members are working to preserve the continent’s biodiversity. Ecoagriculture Partners works with community groups and farmers to manage farmland in ways that benefit biodiversity such as native plants and animals as well as food production. The International Livestock Research Institute is looking for ways to protect drought-tolerant Ankole cattle found in east and central Africa—a species known for rich milk and meat—which is on the brink of extinction.  At current rates of decline, the Ankole is expected to disappear in 50 years.

Veterinarians with the Mountain Gorilla Veterinary Project have been working for more than two decades to care for the endangered mountain gorilla through one of the world’s first programs to care for endangered species in their own habitat. These and other members work with their African partners to build biodiversity conservation into their programs. This work is critically important and needs support. Scientists believe there is still time and opportunity for biodiversity conservation in Africa during
2010–International Biodiversity Year–and beyond.