Africa’s Conservation Challenge
Africa is the second largest land mass on Earth. It has 53 countries and nearly a billion people. It is an underdeveloped continent with a massive percentage of the population supporting itself with hunting and subsistence farming. It is a continent that has often faced poverty and disease. Africa now faces the global environmental issues that have been on the agenda for sometime in first world countries.
The problem of environmental conservation affects the continent of Africa in different ways to other continents. In developed counties the concept of conservation is often motivated by concern for the future or on possible health problems that may arise from exposure to pollution.
In a continent where survival for many is a daily struggle, concern for pollution and health are not as great. Due to the fact that the governments of third world counties are often fighting a war on poverty and disease, they have not been able to put very much attention on the subject of the environment. This situation is now itself growing into an intolerable situation.
The overpopulated cities in third world countries have become a cesspool of pollution. Some of the factors which have created this are:
- Lack of planning in the building and treating of waste. As a result, many third world countries have a great many pit latrines, which leads to untreated sewerage poisoning the underground water systems.
- Pollution by local and international industry. Some unscrupulous industries have set up shop in countries where there is cheap labour, corrupt officials and lax environmental laws. This means they can pump their waste into inadequate waste disposal systems, rivers, or the air, with no concern for the safety of the voiceless populace or the fear of government action.
- A population that is largely uneducated and has no knowledge of environmental issues and waste management.
- Continued population growth that remains unchecked. This places massive pressure on the all the natural resources. The population increased from R 819,462 in 2000 to 1.1 billion in 2009. This growth has taken place despite the spread of AIDS.
Let’s look at a few countries that face environmental challenges:
Kenya is a beautiful country known for the animal migration across the Serengeti. There are however environmental catastrophes taking place in Kenya.
The Pan African Paper Mills, on the environmentally sensitive banks of the Nzoia River, sends out smoke and sludge which pollutes the air and nearby water. The pollution is so strong that the iron sheeting in the town is rusting.
Mali is experiencing desertification and environmental problems with significant harmful impact on human health and the environment. This is due to pollution such as lack of sanitation, poor waste management, land insecurity and the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides.
While pollution from pesticides and fertilizers is a matter for concern, that arising from sewage (both urban and industrial) and from domestic wastes is also a matter of concern.
Towns in Mali lack infrastructure and basic services. Statistics of interest are:
- Between 12% and 48% (depending on the town) of households are connected to the public water supply.
- 1.5% the percentage of the population is connected to the sewerage system.
- 32% have septic tanks.
- 66.5% of the population has pit latrines.
- Less than 25% of all school and educational facilities have septic tanks.
- 50% of schools have pit latrines.
Just the tannery industry in Mali uses the following products:Sodium sulphate = 54 tonnes a year, Colouring = 330 kg a year, Metabisulphate = 5,400 kg a year, Ammonium sulphate = 54 tonnes a year, Baychron (for tanning) = 180 tonnes a year, Acid (bactericide) = 270 kg a year, Oxygenated water = 7.2 tonnes a year. All these chemicals once used, need to be disposed of. Mali just does not have the capacity to deal with that kind of waste.
On the upside:
- Many African counties have started to include environmental issues in their planning, for example The Government of Zambia is a signatory to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).Under the UNDP-GEF Project Zambia will start environmental studies which would include putting in place pollution controls.
- Many local communities have realized that they have problems with pollution as they have seen the impact on the health of their people. They have started to band together and stand up for their rights. This is demonstrated by the African Earth Organization chapters and the incredible work that they do in reforestation and pollution control, despite very limited resources. They are also not alone, there are many wonderful groups out there working on some of these issues.
- The Earth Organization has started an education campaign that will roll out over the next few years. It will start in school in South Africa and move up through the African continent.
- There are many groups that are helping to educate people on the necessity of population such as the UN Population fund.
As always, any support would be welcome. If you would like to donate to any of our projects please do. Ghana needs a new computer, Cameroon needs to buy more saplings, Zambia is working on river pollution and so is Mali. All these projects require the financial support of many. Your help would be welcome.