With its tropical forests, vast rangelands, marine resources and iconic wildlife, Africa is rich in natural wealth. This “natural capital” provides invaluable local and global benefits, including food, energy and water — while also helping to regulate our rapidly heating climate.
Yet, unsustainable economic development, deforestation, poaching, overfishing and other pressures are eroding Africa’s vital assets at alarming rates. Short-term profits are often favored over the long-term benefits of conservation, leading to patterns of poverty and scarcity for communities directly dependent on nature.
Across Africa, Conservation International works to strengthen the conservation and sustainable management of natural resources to alleviate poverty, tackle climate change and reduce biodiversity loss. We support science, policy and investment that protects the ecosystems that are essential to the well-being of all Africans.
Where we work
Africa had the largest annual rate of net forest loss of any region between 2010 and 2020, with nearly 4 million hectares (9.8 million acres) deforested mainly due to unsustainable agriculture, fuelwood harvesting and logging.
Seven of the 10 countries most vulnerable to climate change are in Africa. Drought and soil erosion have degraded 65% of Africa's rangelands, threatening the livelihoods of 100 million herders and farmers.
Two-thirds of the global population living in extreme poverty is in Africa — a figure that could climb to 88% by 2030. Poverty and population growth are fueling the exploitation of nature for survival, including slash and burn farming, harvesting wood for fuel and charcoal, and bushmeat poaching.
Conservation International has worked in Africa since 1990, contributing to the protection of approximately 7 million hectares (17 million acres) of crucial natural ecosystems. We work in regions where securing nature is critical to human well-being, climate stability and biodiversity conservation. From Madagascar to Liberia — home to half of the remaining Upper Guinean forest that once covered much of west Africa — our impact on nature and people extends across at least 40 countries, directly or through our partners.
From field offices in Liberia, Kenya, Madagascar, Botswana and South Africa, we are creating self-sustaining, scalable conservation models that balance the protection of natural ecosystems with other important land use priorities such as agriculture, housing and roads — helping to build resilient communities where jobs and economic development are sustained by nature. We also amplify viable models from our field sites to the rest of Africa through and with partners.
Conservation International is scaling up the protection, restoration and sustainable management of forests, rangelands and marine ecosystems as an essential solution to the continent’s climate and socioeconomic challenges. Leveraging on decades of experience in Africa and our local and global expertise in science, policy, finance and field demonstration, we work with communities, governments, civil society and private sector partners to transform the development paradigm and empower Africans to become effective stewards of nature.
We help conserve carbon and biodiversity-rich forests in Liberia, Madagascar and Kenya to ensure their climate and socioeconomic benefits are sustained long into the future. We support the creation, improved management and financial sustainability of protected areas — enhancing forest monitoring and unlocking funding for forest protection via carbon markets and trust funds. We support improved agricultural practices and clean energies that minimize forest encroachments — and help provide incentives for communities to protect their forests.
With 38 coastal and island states, Africa depends on the ocean for goods, services, livelihoods and incomes. But overfishing, the destruction of mangroves and pollution threaten its economic potential, biodiversity and climate regulating roles.
In Liberia, Mozambique and Madagascar, we work with communities and governments to better monitor ocean resources, establish marine protected areas, support sustainable fisheries and tackle plastic pollution.
Africa’s rangelands offer a powerful natural climate solution — storing vast quantities of carbon in their soils while also supporting the livelihoods of communities.
Across Southern and Eastern Africa, we are helping to restore degraded rangelands by partnering with rural communities to secure commitments for improved livestock, land and wildlife management in exchange for benefits, such as jobs and market access for livestock. We support rural businesses that help restore rangelands and improve local lives.
On the ground
Conservation International helped shape the Gaborone Declaration for Sustainability in Africa (GDSA), an African-led initiative committed to putting nature at the heart of development across the continent. Conservation International is secretariat to the GDSA on behalf of the government of Botswana. A partnership between Conservation International and the US space agency NASA is helping GDSA member countries map their natural resources to more accurately measure the economic value of nature and inform sustainable development efforts. Learn more »
With support from Apple, Conservation International is working to restore tens of thousands of hectares of grasslands in the Chyulu Hills, home to the Maasai people and legions of iconic wildlife — including some of the largest elephant populations in Kenya. We deploy “natural regeneration,” allowing degraded lands to recover, with minimal or no need for direct planting. Learn more »
Through our impact investing fund Conservation International Ventures LLC we support companies that generate positive social, environmental and financial returns. Recent investees include Kenya-based sustainable forestry firm Komaza and South African organic fertilizer producer Thrive Compost. Learn more »
With little more than a thousand mountain gorillas remaining in central Africa, Conservation International is working to consolidate the gains of decades of conservation work, which brought this endangered species back from the brink of extinction. Through the International Gorilla Conservation Programme, we have partnered with the World Wildlife Fund and Fauna and Flora International to strengthen collaboration between governments and park authorities in Rwanda, Uganda and Democratic Republic of Congo to enhance the protection of mountain gorillas and their transboundary habitats, and scale up conservation benefits for nearby communities. Learn more »
With the collapse of tourism due to the COVID-19 pandemic, wildlife conservancies in Kenya’s world-famous Maasai Mara National Reserve — home to a quarter of the country’s wildlife — lost life-sustaining revenues dedicated to protecting this land. Conservation International, in partnership with the Maasai Mara Conservancies Association, established the Maasai Mara Rescue Fund, a loan program that will help cover lease payments owed to Indigenous landowners who typically lease their land to conservancies for tourism operations. Learn more »
In Madagascar, a country with one of the highest deforestation rates globally, we work with the government and local communities to protect the few remaining intact forests. Through enhanced community and drone patrols, support for sustainable agriculture, and the restoration of degraded areas, we help protect the Ankeniheny-Zahamena and Ambositra Vondrozo forest corridors, which harbor rich biodiversity and deliver many benefits to people, including fresh water. Learn more »
The degradation and pollution of Liberia's coastal and marine ecosystems are undermining their critical benefits to people including food, water purification, sediment filtration, habitat for biodiversity and carbon storage. Our Blue Oceans Program is working to improve an understanding of the value of marine and coastal natural capital, catalyze creation of new protected areas, and tackle plastic pollution.
Conservation International are partners are protecting Angola’s Okavango Basin, a life-sustaining oasis of biodiversity, by promoting the creation of one of the largest wildlife preserves in the world. Using the Freshwater Health Index — an innovative tool that makes clear connections between an ecosystem and the benefits it provides to people — we will help guide decision-makers on how to sustainably manage this river system. Learn more »
Conservation news from Africa
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© Cristina Mittermeier
© Don Bayley