Have you seen natural resource impacts? In particular, have you seen changes in hunting, commercial bushmeat trade, and consumption of other resources? (1 answer)

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-- Updated Mar 30, 2011 --

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    Nov 11, 2008
    RE: HIV/AIDS and Conservation - Day 1 - impacts of AIDS on natural resources and conservation capacity by Edem Eniang on 03-12-2007 
    Edem Eniang
    Posts: 2 
    The HIV/ AIDS pandemic are a massive and staggering reality in the biodiversity rich areas of sub-Saharan Africa. Its direct and indirect impacts on biodiversity conservation are equally staggering and as diverse as the biodiversity itself.
    Considering the adverse impacts disease, in this region, it will be safer to say that the impacts are akin to a double edged sword.
    In terms of bio-resources extraction; it has worked in a dual manner similar to a ‘dual carriage Highway’. It actually then depends on which lane/s or direction one was heading, but whichever direction one follows will certainly lead to a destination.
    For example, in 1993, the discovery of the tropical moist forest vine Ancistrocladus korupensis whose leaves are said to have certain alkaloid michellamine B which demonstrated invitro activity against the AIDS viruses HIV-1 and HIV-2 has received so much adverse publicity and popularity in terms of conservation. It has virtually disappeared from many forest areas following unwholesome and excessive un-regulated exploitation for traditional medicines and native concoctions which local producers claim are capable of curing HIV/AIDS or as an antidote for contracting the disease.
    This is one very difficult and probably a very dangerous aspect of information mismanagement or unplanned and uncoordinated HIV/AIDS propaganda and awareness creation. The unfortunate outcome of these situations on such a plant species or animal of similar predicament is that it might be driven into local or global extinction while scientist were still yet to discover fully, its potentials for human health and welfare.
    The tribal communities living around some internationally reputed national parks within the gulf of guinea tropical moist forest areas ( mainly within west and central Africa) where this vine was first reported, have one interest or the other about this somewhat mystery plant. The problem does not end there, but has engulfed many other plant species as well as wild animals.
    On the aspects of human resources or manpower, the scenario is not quite different. In the first instance, HIV/AIDS despite increasing awareness among urban and rural people; the larger portion of people still look at the disease as an ‘evil plague’ that is not of biological origin , but a phenomena capable of bearing a mystical and magical origins as well as a “terrorist invention of the developed west” to under-develop Africa.
    This situation is made worse by undependable HIV/AIDS testing and screening services in many sub-Saharan African countries.
    Furthermore, religious leaders and very recently, a first citizen of an independent African nation have not helped matters by their increasing spurious claims to having spiritual powers to heal or cure HIV/AIDS.
    The widespread problem of stigmatization, inadequate and irregular supply of anti- retroviral drugs, as well as the huge sense of doubts in the minds of many local people about HIV/AIDS Medicare, leaves a yawning gap in resources use, exploitation and conservation.
    For example, a resource manager or worker and /or a member of his immediate family who is affected either for real or diagnosed in error of testing and screening to be HIV positive will be so stigmatized and marginalized to the extent that his work will come to abrupt end without any opportunity for redress. Unfortunately, even the governments at different levels have still yet to develop structures to protect such individuals or group.
    But such a trend only leads to unimaginable desperation and disillusionment.
    At the grass root level, (the direct resources extractors) at the local community level, with very limited access to healthcare, information and awareness, they are almost left at the mercy of traditional healers and a times ‘scampers’.
    In such a situation, they become so desperate and confused to the extent of expending all their hard earned income in search of a non existing solution. In a further effort to survive, they turn to the forest desperately to extract more and more tangible forest products especially bushmeat, timber, and many other non timber forest products (NTFPs). The situation has lead to widespread unwholesome forest resources exploitation and increasing threats of extinction facing many species.
    I have observed on several occasions in the mid 1990s  when local people struggling to meet up with monetary requirements for purchasing anti-retroviral medications which were then very costly for either them or their loved one, had reason to go beyond community forest boundaries and buffer zones into Protected Areas (PAs) and extracted in excess such revenue yielding resources like; Cattle sticks (Carpolobia lutea), Chewing sticks (Garcinia mannii), Gnetum leaves (Gnetum africanum), etc, but were unable to convey such forest products from the PAs to would be markets and potential buyers due to failing health, cost of labour, transportation, or risk of being arrested by protection staff of PAs or a combination of reasons.
    A particular incident that was extremely mind bugging is the case of a Timber concessionaire who was so desperate to the extent of going beyond his concession boundary deep into a National Park, and logged well over 100 stands of choice tropical timber species. But after sawing the logs into lumber, became too ill and died before a quarter of the lumber were taken out from the forest.
    Today, those piles of lumber can still be found littered over a wide area in the forest.
    The Pandemic has indirectly eaten deep into the lean financial resources of many people in the region. For example when a loved one dies of HIV/AIDS or complications arising from it, the bereaved family in an effort to present a pathetic story to the life and times of the deceased and avoid stigmatization, will go out of their way to organize a very elaborate and ostentatious funeral rites lasting for days, a times weeks.
    They may take loans, sell off landed property, and borrow from money lenders at neck breaking interest rates, just to meet the funeral expenses. They become so desperate and extremely indebted at the end of the funeral and end up with financial crises and embarrassment.
    To survive such a situation, they desperately turn to biodiversity both aquatic and terrestrial, poisoning streams lakes and rivers to catch the maximum possible fisheries; others resort to hunting and poaching for bushmeat, and also collect NTFPs. Many others go out of their way to clear lager areas of virgin forests in an effort to expand their farm holdings, thereby disrupting the traditional land tenure system of the people as well as cause habitat fragmentation but most times end up not being able to put such lands to positive use. The ultimate result is continuous shrinking of the tropical moist forest leading to the current spate of accelerated disappearance of many floral and faunal species of conservation importance in the region.
    The problem does not end there as in many instances, such families pass the blame of the person’s death on witches and wizards and in many localities; any elderly person in the immediate or extended family may be falsely accused. This accusation apart from breeding enmity, rancor, animosity and frustrations, it breaks down the family unity and cohesion. Sometimes, man slaughter or outright murder has been committed and members of such broken families will never find life easy in their communities and are then constrained to relocate to the forest as refuges. Those facing such situations, having lost their sources of livelihoods will seek succour from the forest. Their school age children will abandon school and end up as resource exploiters and forest refuges.
    They open new homesteads; farmlands hunt for bushmeat as well as collect NTFPs for sales and income generation. With this situation, the threat on the bio-resources is growing just as the number of HIV/AIDS victims expand.

    Emergence of contract hunters
    The Emergence of contract hunters within some rainforest areas of west and central Africa for example have brought about a new dimension to illegal hunting actitvity. In these practice middlemen who deal on bushmeat purchase and equip the local hunters with varied hunting inputs. At the end, the hunters have to pay back by supply large amounts of bushmeat. In the contract cycle women are also involved at different stages.

    Possible Solutions
    There is need to for a well coordinated HIV/AIDS education and awareness creation. In this direction, local people, Traditional healers, Opinion leaders and Political leaders as well as teachers and religious leaders should be targeted in a renewed campaign to sensitize, reoriented and enrich their attitudes towards the HIV/AIDS problem, so that they will see reason, understand, accept the truth, and disseminate the new knowledge they have gained about HIV/AIDS as a viral disease capable of being transmitted to any human being by various means other than by sexual relationship. They will also be able to inform the people that HIV/AIDS is not mystical, magical or a western terrorist invention for biological warfare. They will equally see reason to stop telling the local people that HIV/ AIDS was given to Africans by international AID agencies in the same manner that Food AIDS, Financial AIDS, etc were given. Such a forum will enable these categories of people who are well respected by their followers to discuss HIV/AIDS without bias and be able to paint the “true picture of the disease”.
    It is only in such a situation that the generality of the people will begin to see HIV/AIDS as a disease which any matured person can make a personal effort to avoid, through abstinence, safer sex, safer cultural and social behaviours/ practices, as well as dependable, improved, secured and affordable medical services which will not expose recipients to preventable risks and ridicule especially in government hospitals.
    Political / religious leaders should be further enlightened and if necessary be encouraged to laying spurious claims to having cures or solutions to HIV/AIDS when they can not substantiate such claims medically, scientifically and holistically. It is this kind of people that create a “mysterious monster” out of HIV/AIDS and jeopardize the well intended efforts of international agencies as well as the health and survival prospects of their people and followers rather than the disease.
    People should be given sound and professional Pre and Post test counseling before and after screening or testing is carried out or conducted on any individual. The current reality around this region is not helping as many of the HIV/AIDS workers have led the society down by their grossly unprofessional attitude to health work.
    This is why brisk business men in search of quick wealth, quack medical practitioners and some medical laboratory operators should never be given a chance to dabble into HIV/AIDS screening as their activities have sent many people to their untimely graves due to psychological breakdown following a false HIV/AIDS screening result.
    International NGOs and other capable multi-national agencies / organizations working on HIV/AIDS, including the World health organization (WHO), UNICEF, etcetera, should work together to at least set up one testing and screening center with professionals (expatriate and local ) working there in each of the internationally recognized biodiversity hotspots within sub-Saharan Africa.
    This will be a huge positive intervention that will have far reaching and sustainable benefits to both biodiversity and people. It is the lack of access to responsible and reliable medical services and care, information, and support services that is rapidly killing the people more than the HIV/AIDS.
    This is why people in the northern hemisphere and a few places in the south can live a happy and satisfactory life in spite of HIV/AIDS, while the majority of people in sub-Saharan Africa and their biodiversity are running in the opposite direction.
    -- Updated Mar 30, 2011 --

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Date CreatedTuesday, November 11, 2008 3:02 PM
Date ModifiedWednesday, March 30, 2011 9:25 AM
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