Reflections from the ESPA 2016 Annual Science Conference in Nairobi

Doreen Ruth Amule, Member of Parliament, Uganda
November 21, 2016
The presentations and lessons that were presented at the ESPA Annual science Conference were very good but it excluded the thinking and views of ordinary African people.
There are questions that have to be addressed in an African context or rather the “local man” context. These questions could be:
  • Does the local man understand that he ecologically exists and benefits more from environment than the environment does from them?
  • Do local people understand that their effect on the environment has a negative effect on their lives both now and in the future?
  • Are they ready to accept positive environmental change?
  • What is the mind-set of the leaders at the National, Regional, Sub-regional, District level and community level? Can they support a change of attitude that would protect the environment and support conservation?
Having these questions in mind would help in answering the social, economic, cultural and political behaviours that affect local people. The mind-set of local people whether young, old, woman or man is not easy to change nor is it a one day or even a 5 year task. It is not true that there are no government policies but rather that implementation is a challenge. 
Community, government, civil society organisations need to be brought on board, especially the informal structures that are generally accepted by communities such as delegated leaders, clan leaders and village associations, as they can spread information that would help conservation projects become accepted and sustainable.
Government should be urged to invest in alternative livelihoods for citizens. Research organisations should be enabled to quickly and appropriately disseminate research results/information to grass-roots organisations and citizens. This calls for a huge investment in the environment and conservation by all change organisations. 
Environmental preservation needs to be integrated into the daily life of government, civil society, businesses, community and individuals. It should not be looked at as short-term advocacy but rather a continuous process of instilling new attitudes. Sustainable environmental-human existence has to be acceptable to all, with in-depth understanding of the issues through research, decision-making, policy frame-works and social change that target environmental preservation. 
Featured image courtesy of World Bank/Stephan Gladieu ©