Covid-19: A call to look into our African Biodiversity for solutions

Mother Nature provides us with a treasure-trove of resources with enormous potential for our general wellbeing. In fact, 80% of the population in Africa has recourse to their traditional medicine found in their natural environments for their health and medicinal purposes. Therefore, biological diversity greatly influences the socio-economic, cultural, health, and environmental life of many Africans. 

Sadly, the biome and inherent biodiversity are disappearing at an exponential rate due to the impact of human actions that have played a prominent role as the root cause of this loss. There is an urgent need therefore to preserve and enhance biodiversity in a sustainable way in tandem with nature. 

The loss in biodiversity has resulted in environmental disasters that have been instrumental in the increased concentrations of greenhouse gases, and the emergence of new diseases. As scientists have opined, the degradation of our environment is linked to the increase in the rates of, transmission of infectious diseases and the emergence of pandemics. 

Because of this, there is a need to harness and take advantage of the traditional African information and knowledge and translate it into actionable items of research interest for a better understanding of biodiversity, its protection, and management. It should be noted that there is potential for the discovery of new species with useful medicinal and environmental needs hence the urgent need for nature conservation and not the drastic destruction of our environment.  We need to reduce the risk of future epidemics and pandemic by investing in the conservation and restoration of biodiversity.  

The new deadly coronavirus pandemic has brought innumerable losses to human survival and, presents a unique opportunity to review all the sectors of life and to develop strategies to forestall future catastrophes. The coronavirus presented us with the opportunity to better prepare ourselves for future pandemics when it comes to health care systems, emergency response, disaster management plans, environmental, economic, and social protection.  Research has and continues to play an important role in the fight against this pandemic. Hence, the urgent need for African countries to contribute to funding research, putting in at least 1% of their GDP as agreed by African states at the African Union summit in 2007.  

It is time that Africans take value in the continent's biodiversity by tapping into the local knowledge to develop solutions for future disasters. It is therefore important to be proactive to prevent future disasters and provide biodiversity education at all educational levels including civil society.