Biodiversity, Climate Change, Community, Conservation, General, Partnerships, TFCAs, Water security

Earth Day 2023: How to invest in our Planet, Peace Parks style

This year marks our global community’s 53rd Earth Day. For us at Peace Parks, it is a special day because our work captures global attention, and we feel deeply encouraged by seeing so many people care, and share awareness, for our precious planet. Since its inception, it has shone a light on the value and urgency of caring for the environment amidst the growing threat of climate change.

The theme for 2023 is ‘Invest in our Planet’. At Peace Parks, we wanted a sense of what the theme signifies to our staff; after all, working in nature conservation offers plenty of privileged insight and chances to work towards the wellbeing of the place we call home. There was widespread agreement: investing in our planet must inherently embrace both nature and people, at scale, through partnerships, and with a truly innovative approach to how we fund conservation now and in the future.

Earth Day 2023: what's your pledge?

To invest in our planet means that we understand that we are part and parcel of ecosystems. They nourish us with clean air and water, and fertile soils and we must nurture them in equal measure, in order to create a habitable system alongside all other animals. Our priceless but dwindling bank of biodiversity shares with us vital supplies, from medicinal plants to rich protein sources – but all of these are finite

The other ‘P’ in planet

The heated reality is that, as climate change marches on, the planet is inheriting more and more people with ever-increasing needs. Looking forward, Africa is forecasted to be the continent with the highest human population growth projections by 2100; already, “particularly the many people living in rural areas are at the mercy of what the climate is doing to them,” adds Werner Myburgh, CEO of Peace Parks Foundation. “In terms of what Peace Parks is doing with communities we work together to conserve and sustain landscapes in harmony with people. Restoring and preserving protected areas must be an empowering process for people, one which respects needs and traditional practices. Without this there is no success.

Creating impact in this way has inspired Peace Parks to build local relationships and infrastructure, to share knowledge and to ensure that both humans and nature can prosper in the long-term. How we invest financially in conservation in a sustainable way determines the returns – healthy landscapes and livelihoods – not only now but, crucially, in the future.

Open for conservation business

For Colin Porteous, Chief Investment Officer at Peace Parks, this is his home territory.

Nature is the house we live in, and just like every house, it needs ongoing maintenance. For the planet to continue to support us, we need to invest in its repairs and we need to invest in its maintenance. With the right investments, and the right repair teams, people will continue to benefit from nature.

How to finance conservation innovatively, and in a way accessible to every stakeholder in the landscape, can be hard to envisage – but the vision is a very engaging and exciting one. There are unique approaches, and agreements, already in action in some of the protected areas co-managed by Peace Parks.

We need to focus on being very efficient, innovative, flexible – on bringing business ethics and principles into conservation whilst maintaining government oversight. It’s a blended approach to protected areas and I believe that it’s the future of conservation, one which will expand through many parts of Africa.

Werner Myburgh, CEO of Peace Parks Foundation

As Chief Development Officer, Lilian Spijkerman’s position at Peace Parks aligns perfectly with her own personal pledge for investing in our planet.

I cannot think of a better way than spending all the time I have on saving nature. I do that by mobilising funding for excellent projects that make a huge difference for people and nature in the direst of circumstances. It takes a village, and in this case a global village, but I am convinced that it can be done because it has been done before.

Going big, across the board

When it comes to nature, bigger really is better. It is vital to apply on an ambitious geographical scale, across transboundary landscapes which bring disproportional benefits to people and nature.

With the visible success of this approach across southern Africa comes the conviction that, by 2050, Peace Parks will be able to secure 100 million hectares of functioning ecosystems. This is the concept of conservation at scale in practice, essential if we’re serious about halting, and reversing, our planet’s devastating decline in biodiversity. For biodiversity to continue providing value, large-scale ecosystems need to be in balance to ensure the protection and restoration of connected landscapes. We’re proud to be driving our work towards global 30X30 targets – to be contributing to the protection of at least 30% of the world’s land, coastal areas and oceans by 2030, as we invest in nature beyond borders for the people who depend on it for their survival.

Staying positive

Within the context of the crises we are facing, we also need to recognise the immense opportunities we are offered. Our science and access to solutions have reached a whole new and exciting level; conservation has become really inclusive, technology responds astonishingly fast to challenges and finance for nature is starting to flow at scale. Conservation begins with each of us, and today’s young people have an amazing grasp of this; everyone has the role and responsibility to look first and foremost at their own lifestyle. And if you want to support and invest in conservation in Africa do so through credible, local organisations that are fully operational on the ground. We want Peace Parks’ impacts on the ground to be a glimmer of hope and inspiration to many who want to leave a better world for future generations.

Werner Myburgh


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