German Federal Agency for Nature Conservation (BfN)


Cooperation with African partners

Combining conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity and ecosystem services
Integrative concepts for sustainable development in Africa

Biodiversity in Africa

Giraffe and zebras in Arusha National Park, Tanzania (Photo: Christina Tarne)
Giraffe and zebras in Arusha National Park, Tanzania (Photo: Christina Tarne)

9 out of 35 global biodiversity hotspots are located in Africa. Species diversity on this continent is particularly high, so that the commitment to the conservation of ecosystems is particularly essential. 445 endangered endemic animal species and more than 30,000 endemic plant species exist in these hotspots only, which need special protection. Nearly 675 million ha of forest area of this continent are to be conserved as a carbon sink and as a natural habitat.

Climate change and poverty lead to land use changes and to overexploitation of biological resources. These trends result in the loss of biological diversity and thus to the destruction of the natural resource base. The establishment of sustainable forms of use is therefore a key instrument for the long-term conservation of biodiverse regions.

Biosphere reserves as an instrument for sustainable development

UNESCO's Man and the Biosphere Programm exists since 1971. Within this frame, a large number biosphere reserves in more than 100 countries was developed and to recognized during the past 40 years. Biosphere reserves are model regions for sustainable development, where harmonious coexistence of man and nature should serve as a paradigmatic example and subject to research.

Overview of the African rift in the Lake Manyara Biosphere Reserve, Tanzania (Photo: Christina Tarne)
Overview of the African rift in the Lake Manyara Biosphere Reserve, Tanzania (Photo: Christina Tarne)

85 biosphere reserves of 33 African countries promote sustainable regional development. Biosphere reserves are qualified as adequate protected area categories for cultural landscapes especially in Africa, since they combine both protection and sustainable use of biological diversity and ecosystem services in one concept. Thereby they also contribute to poverty alleviation.





According to the coalition agreement of the German Federal Government, anti-poaching constitutes a current focus of German-African cooperation on nature conservation. A new project intends to analyse the situation of poaching vertebrates in sub-Saharan Africa in detail and is ment to sustainably optimise anti-poaching. The focus here is on subsistence poaching and alternatives for livelihoods (income and food). The topic shall be addressed exemplarily in UNESCO Biosphere Reserves in order to build on their impact as model regions. 

Implementation of biosphere reserves in Southern Africa

(Photo: Bettina Hedden-Dunkhorst)

With the project "Biosphere Reserves in Africa - instruments for nature conservation, sustainable development and regional integration", the Federal Agency for Nature Conservation (BfN) and the Federal Environment Ministry (BMUB) support the implementation of the concept of UNESCO Biosphere Reserves in Southern Africa. For this purpose, screening and feasibility studies for first biosphere reserves in Botswana and Namibia as well as workshops for the technical exchange were supported.

Elaboration of a management manual for biosphere reserves in Africa

In collaboration with the UNESCO MAB-Secretariat, AfriMAB (MAB regional network for Sub-Saharan Africa) and ArabMAB (i.a. North Africa), the German Commission for UNESCO (DUK) was coordinating a project where African experts elaborated a manual for biosphere reserve managers. The concept of the manual had been discussed at a workshop held in Kenia in February 2013 and a corresponding draft was elaborated. In the second project stage in 2014 the management manual was validated during workshops with the managers of all African biosphere reserves and adapted to practical requirements. A consolidated draft was commented in an online participation process as well as reviewed by an expert commitee. The manual has been published in print in English and French and made available online by mid 2015.

Workshop on the cooperation with African biosphere reserves

On 03 December 2012, the German Federal Agency for Nature Conservation (BfN) in cooperation with the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safty (BMU), the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), the German Commission for UNESCO (DUK), the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) and the KfW Entwicklungsbank organised a workshop on "Biosphere Reserves in Africa - Instrument for Sustainable Development" (in German). The concept of the biosphere reserves (BR) in terms of its potential for sustainable development in Africa has been discussed. Furthermore, experiences of implementing the BR-approach in Africa and of identifying good practices, which are gathered in German-African cooperation, have been exchanged.

Workshop on the management of African biosphere reserves

From 27 June till 2 July 2011, the German Federal Agency for Nature Conservation (BfN) with the support of the AfriMAB Secretariat, the German Commission for UNESCO, the UNESCO-MAB Secretariat and the Bavarian Management Center for the Rhön Biosphere Resere, organised an International Expert Workshop on "Managing Challenges of Biosphere Reserves in Africa".

Establishment of biosphere reserves in Ethiopia

Wild coffee plants, Ethiopia (Photo: Manfred Denich)
Wild coffee plants, Ethiopia (Photo: Manfred Denich)

Ethiopian highlands belong to the „Eastern Afromontane“ biodiversity hotspot. Biosphere reserves were identified as suitable instrument to secure the livelihoods of the local population. BfN promotes feasibility studies for new biosphere reserves, the set-up and optimisation of corresponding management and governance structures as well as biodiversity maintreaming for the suistainable use of biological resources (coffee, honey, medicinal herbs, herbs, tourism).

Sustainable wild collection of medicinal and aromatic plants

Many wild plants represent a vital component of our medical und food supplies. By now, almost 15 000 species, most of which are in Africa, are endangered due to overuse and improper harvesting techniques. Therefore, in cooperation with partners, BfN developed an International Standard for Sustainable Wild Collection of Medicinal and Aromatic Plants (ISSC-MAP) in 2007. It will ensure the sustainability of harvesting methods and the management of wild plants.

Conservation of the devil's claw

Fruit of the devil's claw with claw-like outgrows, South Africa (Photo: Uwe Schippmann)
Fruit of the devil's claw with claw-like outgrows, South Africa (Photo: Uwe Schippmann)

The African devil's claw is threatened with extinction due to extreme overuse. By reason of medically valuable ingredients of the tuber, there is a great demand especially at the European market, which has led to the inappropriate, uncontrolled harvesting of plant parts. With the support of BfN and funding from BMU, it was possible to promote measures, which facilitate sustainable harvesting and commercial exploitation and thus protection of this species from 2000 to 2007.

Project management at BfN

Section I 2.3 International Nature Conservation
Contact: Florian Carius

Further information

BMZ: Cooperation with African countries

German Federal Government: Guidelines for Africa policy

Last Change: 18/03/2021