Contributor's News Opinion Philip Ayuen Dot

Opinion: Why South Sudan Should Strive To Protect and Preserve her Natural Biodiversity

By Philip Ayuen Dot, Juba, South Sudan

The River Nile (File/Supplied/Nyamilepedia)
The River Nile (File/Supplied/Nyamilepedia)

August 11, 2020(Nyamilepedia) — Biodiversity is the amount of variety of life on earth or in a certain country. This includes plants, animals and microorganisms such as bacteria and fungi. These are found in the different ecosystems such as oceans, savannah grasslands and forests. South Sudan has a rich biodiversity found in the different ecosystems such as the; Lowland Forest, Montane Forest, Savannah woodland, Grassland Savannah, Floodplain, Sudd Swamps and other wetlands and the Semi-arid Region in the north.

Sudd Swamp is the largest wetland in Africa and is actually a Ramsar designated site due to its international importance. Furthermore, the country’s wide range of habitats supports a very rich diversity of both animals and plant species. Some of the endemic fauna species in the country include the Nile lechwe, Hoogstral’s Striped Grass Mouse, Nile Sitatunga and a recently discovered African climbing mouse Dendromusruppi. South Sudan is known to be the only country in Africa with both species of eland – the common eland and the Derby’s (Giant) Eland.

A particular highlight for South Sudan is the wildlife migrations across the eastern grassland savannahs and floodplains of Jonglei and Eastern Equatoria States that stretch into the neighboring Gambela region of Ethiopia. The white-eared kob, tiang, Mongalla gazelle and Bohor reedbuck represent one of the greatest animal migrations and wildlife spectacles of the world. This is an invaluable natural resource for South Sudan and the rest of the world and could in future be a major tourist attraction once stability returns to the country. 

This biodiversity is of utmost importance because of the role they play in stabilizing the environment and the economic benefits they bring to a country if well utilized. Healthy ecosystems and rich biodiversity are important as they; Increase ecosystem productivity; each species in an ecosystem has a specific niche—a role to play; Support a larger number of plant species and, therefore, a greater variety of crops; Protect freshwater resources; Promote soils formation and protection; Provide for nutrient storage and recycling; Aid in breaking down pollutants; Contribute to climate stability; Speed recovery from natural disasters; Provide more food resources; Provide more medicinal resources and pharmaceutical drugs; Offer environments for recreation and tourism among many other benefits. 

It is thus in the country’s best interest to protect its forests, its lakes and rivers, its swamps, its savannah and the floodplains from direct and indirect threats to avoid environmental catastrophes, and to aid it in climate change mitigation. 

However as of now, that is not the case. As the 5th annual report from South Sudan to the Biodiversity Convention of 1992 says, biodiversity in South Sudan is facing a myriad of threats that are destroying the various ecosystems in the country. Some of the direct threats include poaching for the wildlife. Wildlife poaching and trafficking is a serious problem and is largely attributed to the demand for products from wild animals for bush meat, cash and game trophies. 

Another direct threat facing the biodiversity in South Sudan is deforestation because of increase in charcoal production thus driving a big loss of woodlands. Illegal logging of woodlands is also a problem. Livestock and agriculture expansion is another threat that has resulted in the destruction of ecosystems and biodiversity. Road network expansion and the expansion of extractive industries has resulted in habitat fragmentation thus increasing the rate of loss of biodiversity. Climate change has also not spared the country’s biodiversity as it has increased desertification and delayed and shortened the rainy season. 

Indirect threats have also caused uncalculated damage on South Sudan’s biodiversity. Some of these indirect threats include; the continuing conflict. Past and continuing armed conflicts, and the resulting IDP crisis and proliferation of firearms, has facilitated crimes against the wildlife. Forest elephants are Critically Endangered, and have declined dramatically over the last two decades. Another indirect threat would be; Inadequate public awareness on environmental policies, laws and environmental protection and management in general and failure to recognize the value and importance of fragile ecosystems and protected areas. . Other emerging threats include oil exploration and production, spread of invasive species, and genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

All these threats have led to the loss of biodiversity and destruction of ecosystems in the country. This has been made possible because of the inadequate legal, institutional and administration capacities for biodiversity management as well as limited government budgetary allocation for biodiversity management. Coupled with inadequate coordination amongst institutions and other stakeholders with respect to biodiversity management, laws, policies and programs. 

To avoid an irredeemable and total loss of biodiversity efforts have to be made by both the government and the people to protect the country’s biodiversity. To do this the government needs to carry out a census of the number of species in the country, map out the various ecosystems correctly and have a database of the same complete with the threats facing each ecosystem. Then a sustainable management plan of how to conserve and protect the various ecosystems needs to be put in place and be well funded to ensure its success.

 This includes reforestation for the forest areas, sustainable exploitation of the fisheries resources, a waste management plan that ensures that the ecosystems are protected from pollution, a tourism plan for the wild animals so that communities earn from tourism rather than poaching and controlled agricultural expansion to avoid encroachment into rich bio diverse ecosystems. All this will require coordination from the various institutions that deal with land, fisheries, agriculture, wildlife, water and petroleum. 

The citizens can also be made aware of the importance of healthy ecosystems and thus become active participants in their protection. For examples, healthy forests uplands prevent excessive flooding in the floodplains, this can serve as an incentive for people to use alternative sources of energy rather than charcoal. Furthermore when the people on the ground are aware about the importance of healthy ecosystems, they can rally their government to do better in managing their biodiversity. Because biodiversity’s protection need collective responsibility.

Biodiversity is the backbone of a country and South Sudan should strive to protect its biodiversity. We need our beautiful biodiversity to be safeguard in South Sudan for the benefit of the current and future generations of our beloved country!! Biodiversity is life and life is biodiversity.

The Author graduated from Kenyatta University, Kenya, with BSc of Environmental Science, Founder of South Sudan Environmental Advocates (SSEA) and can be reached via his email: philipdot57@gmail.com,

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