Goal 15 of the UN SDGs is to sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss. These have been goals at JGI ever since the fateful conference Dr. Jane Goodall attended in 1986 where she learned that chimpanzees, great apes and many other vital species in African rainforests would be lost in only a few generations if we did not begin to halt deforestation and land degradation. As keystone species, chimpanzees and great apes serve vital roles in maintaining the balance of forest ecosystems. By protecting apes, JGI protect forests indirectly, and by conserving ape habitat, we protect forests directly.
JGI works with communities living around key habitats to create land use plans and reforestation projects that improve the communities’ sustainability and people’s livelihoods. Through TACARE, JGI has facilitated the creation of land use plans in 49 villages in Tanzania’s Gombe Masitto Ugalla ecosystem in the past few years. These land use plans set aside land for different purposes including housing, farming, grazing, planting fast-growing tree seedlings in nurseries and establishing forest reserves. The increased availability of new geospatial technologies help us measure the success of these land use plans, which in less than a decade have brought trees and wildlife back to massive new forest reserves.
These tree nurseries and woodlots component of the land use plans provide timber for fuel and building purposes so that villagers do not need to clearcut forest, and some also incorporate agroforestry practices by providing fruit-producing trees to improve villagers’ livelihoods. And by planting successful seedlings on deforested land, villagers can help rebuild Africa’s vital forest reserves, providing species with pristine wildlife corridors between protected public lands. JGI’s integration of land use planning with community leaders, agroforestry and reforestation in Tanzania’s richly biodiverse ecosystems supports the UN’s efforts within Goal 15 to, “promote the implementation of sustainable management of all types of forests, halt deforestation, restore degraded forests and substantially increase afforestation and reforestation globally” by 2020. And with our eyes set on protecting 66,000,000 acres of habitat in DRC, we plan to play a key role in achieving this goal across central Africa.
Another component of Goal 15 in line with JGI’s mission is the mission to “enhance global support for efforts to combat poaching and trafficking of protected species, including by increasing the capacity of local communities to pursue sustainable livelihood opportunities.” Through agroforestry, microfinance, improving tree nurseries and woodlots, improving crop production through agricultural education, and providing livestock, JGI works tirelessly to support communities in sustainable money-making practices. Combining these alternative livelihoods with wildlife education helps bring an end to the need for illegal forest activities including wildlife poaching.
In 2014 alone, JGI protected 512,000 hectares of forest in Tanzania through newly established forest reserves and trained 115 new forest patrols to monitor and protect these reserves from illegal activities. JGI also distributed nearly 250,000 different trees and plants that provide food, building materials or income to communities that would otherwise turn to the forest for these resources. With the difference that a year can make, we are confident that coalitions of conservation groups around the world can support the UN’s goals by 2020.
JGI’s community-centered conservation approach can serve as an ideal model for efforts to support life on land around the world as we all collaborate to save the world’s forests and biodiversity. JGI is thrilled that the UN is raising a call to action for the world to build upon the work that we and fellow conservation organizations have been carrying on for decades. We are proud to be one of the dedicated nonprofits financing these sustainable practices in central Africa.