NAIROBI, Nov. 21 (Xinhua) -- Prudent utilization of Africa's abundant natural resources from forests, watersheds to wildlife will be central to realizing the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) on the continent, experts said on Monday.
Speaking at the 2016 Africa Ecosystem Services Partnership Conference in Nairobi, experts said prosper harnessing of natural wealth is key to tackling poverty, disease, hunger and energy deficit on the world's second largest continent.
Kenya's Cabinet Secretary for Environment and Natural Resources Judi Wakhungu said in her opening remarks that Africa's future prosperity hinges on sustainable management and utilization of vital ecosystems.
"We need to identify sound ways to utilize Africa's natural capital and strive toward economies that are based on resilient ecosystems," Wakhungu said.
Senior policymakers, experts and campaigners attended the Nairobi conference to discuss the role of ecosystem services to catalyze Africa's sustainability agenda.
Wakhungu said monetizing Africa's vast natural assets is at the heart of policy discourse to achieve the continent's agenda 2063 on inclusive development, peace and stability.
"Top decision makers in Africa are now aware of the huge economic value of ecosystems. There is no doubt natural capital is directly linked to poverty eradication, human health and gender parity," said Wakhungu.
She added that African environment ministers have been tasked by the continental bloc to develop policies that integrate ecosystem services in national development programs.
"As environment ministers, we have a mandate to ensure future development plans do not compromise ecological health. We will ensure that Africa's needs like food, water, energy and medicine are met without destroying vital ecosystems," Wakhungu said.
Kenya has led continental efforts to place ecosystem services at the heart of sustainable development, as Wakhungu noted the establishment of a fund to save key watersheds, which she said has unleashed huge economic and social benefits.
Director General of Nairobi-based World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) Tony Simons noted that motivating local communities to protect natural resources will also hasten attainment of UN agenda 2030.
"African countries should incentivize local communities to own and nurture biodiversity that has a direct bearing on their survival," Simons said. Enditem
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