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This page was updated on: 01/13/10




Biodiversity and Wildlife Media Reports Archives: 2010; 2009; 2008; 2007; 2006; 2005; 2004; 2003




The United Nations has launched a multi-million dollar project to help nomads and communities in three African countries conserve and boost the prospects for native flowers, shrubs and trees. The project is targeting dry and semi-arid lands in Kenya, Botswana and Mali. It aims to educate local people, students and scientists up to post-graduate level in the issues of land management and indigenous species conservation.

The UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and the UN Development Programme (UNDP) are implementing the project, with $9 million in funding from the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and over $1 million from the Norwegian Agency for Development and Cooperation (NORAD). It is envisioned that the project will evolve into an African Centre for Arid Land Studies and Development where the knowledge gained can be communicated to other students, researchers and local people living in similar, often degraded, environments. The University of Oslo's Department of Biology has played a key role in developing the project and will be providing scientific and technical supervision to help underpin its aims.


Links to further information

UNEP information note, 26 November 2002



The Rainforest Foundation has reported flaws in the certification system used by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), which is responsible for auditing timber companies worldwide and for certifying that wood and paper is produced in an environmentally and socially acceptable way. According to the Rainforest Foundation's recently released report, "Trading in Credibility: The Myth and Reality of the Forest Stewardship Council," FSC's authorized auditors have a vested commercial interest in certifying timber companies, regardless of whether or not they comply with the body's strict requirements. It charges that the FSC has allowed the certification of timber companies that have been implicated in human rights abuses and logging in tropical rainforests that contain endangered species, as well as companies that have falsely claimed to comply with FSC's audit requirements. The report found "inherent weaknesses" in the FSC's operational model, where certification bodies function as intermediaries between the FSC and forest managers. As these parties have direct economic relations, the mechanism is flawed, the report found, and consumers of FSC labeled products have been misled about the state of their forests of origin.


The Forest Stewardship Council rejected the claim that its actions have allowed certification of parties that have engaged in human right abuses or that its audit process is rife with conflicts of interest and expressed confidence in its model of operation. "While we welcome the Rainforest Foundation report for its extensive research, we find that it cites many cases that have long been solved and in some cases major rule changes in FSC have resulted," said FSC spokesperson Carolina Hoyas. "FSC takes these issues extremely seriously, will immediately follow up on any such allegation and take all steps necessary to ensure that entities involved in human rights abuses have no possibility of participating directly or indirectly in FSC's systems." Certification bodies, Hoyas explained, are "reimbursed for the effort whether a certificate is awarded or denied…The FSC is currently funded through donations from private and public donors and independent of the number of certifications it issues."


The Rainforest Foundation report calls for fundamental reforms to re-establish credibility and reassure the public, including the elimination of conflicts of interest in the audit process, as well as the cancellation of contracts with all its authorized auditors.


Links to further information

Environment News Service, 20 November 2002

Forest Stewardship Council website

Rainforest Foundation website





The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) launched a new phase of the five year-old Desert Margins Programme on 11 November 2002. Key dryland areas and sites have been pinpointed in each of the nine sub-Saharan African countries involved, namely Botswana, Burkina Faso, Kenya, Mali, Namibia, Niger, Senegal, South Africa and Zimbabwe. Crucial to the success of this $50 million scheme, which is backed by governments and the Global Environment Facility (GEF), will be the gathering and sharing of traditional, indigenous knowledge and the marrying of this knowledge with modern, land management techniques.


The project aims to conserve the rich and unique plant life that has evolved to survive in the dry and arid lands of these countries. Experts believe that genetic diversity remaining in these desert margins could be a veritable treasure trove harboring potentially promising drugs and products for 21st century agriculture and industry. Rising populations, witnessed across Africa in the past few decades, associated with the gradual erosion of traditional values and cultivation methods in favor of western or northern-style agricultural systems, have intensified pressure on these desert-fringed lands and their biodiversity. Some experts also point to the impacts of globalization, which has led to unstable and often rock bottom prices for commodity crops, such as coffee and tea. Poor farmers have been forced into increasingly fragile lands, such as Africa's desert margin areas, to cultivate higher and higher volumes in an attempt to compensate for the price falls.


Developing alternative livelihoods will be a key part of the project. A pilot study in Bamako, Mali, has shown that planting banks of trees for fodder, close to the city, has cut pressure on nearby forests while boosting incomes. The fodder "banks" are producing 4.5 tonnes per hectare giving an income of $630 a year in a country where the average annual wage is $270. UNEP Executive Director, Klaus Töpfer said, "This new phase of the Desert Margins Programme, with crucial support from the GEF, is in line with the poverty reduction aims of the Plan of Implementation agreed at the World Summit on Sustainable Development just over two months ago. Land degradation, desertification and drought has also been identified as a first priority for the environment component of the New Partnership for Africa's Development."


Links to further information

Eric Falt, Spokesperson/Director of UNEP's Division of Communications and Public Information, e-mail:; or

Nick Nuttall, UNEP Head of Media, e-mail:





The second Assembly of the Global Environment Facility (GEF), which met in Beijing, China from 16-18 October 2002, adopted a recommendation to designate land degradation as one of its focal areas. Hama Arba Diallo, Executive Secretary of the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (CCD), commended the decision, noting that the World Summit on Sustainable Development had hailed it as an important step.

The decision has been under discussion for several years and followed the recommendation the GEF Council on 15 October 2002. The GEF Council is expected to finally endorse this decision in May 2003, following a report by the GEF Secretariat on the operational modalities for the new focal area. The sixth Conference of the Parties to the Convention to Combat Desertification is also expected to endorse this recommendation in September 2003, after which country Parties may apply directly for GEF funding. The GEF Assembly decision also declares the GEF's availability to serve as a financial mechanism for the Convention, should the Parties so decide. Negotiations for the third replenishment of the GEF trust fund concluded in August 2002 with commitments for US$2.97 billion to cover GEF operations and activities from 2003-2006, including the land degradation focal area.

Links to further information

GEF website


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