Indiafrica
 
 
 
   
India and Africa: Hand In Hand

Aswin Kumar K


Introduction

Majestic and fascinating in their own accord, India and Africa differ in a lot of ways. India with its varying landscape and a huge variety of people and wildlife can be equated to the whole land mass of Africa. India being a developing nation itself along with similar and lower paced African nations faces huge hurdles in the path of conserving the environment. But the increasing need have spurred the focus towards the common goal and collaboration with healthy competition can go a long way in making sure that the future generations are not deprived of the wealth of nature.


Overview

India and Africa is home to nearly a third of the population on the planet. The land masses are dominated by huge differences in cultures and languages having developed over millions of years. India and Africa have been the home to the earliest known men and civilizations. The natural resources are also abundant on these two vast stretches of land including oil and precious materials like gold and diamond.

India is a tropical country dominated by hot and humid climate but its varying topography gives rise to a variety of vegetation ranging from evergreen forests in the tropical south to alpine forests in the snowy north with deciduous forests contributing another majority. Deserts and Mangroves form a smaller portion. Africa being a vast continent itself has its own variation in vegetation but it is dominated by arid vegetation and dry lands with significant contribution from central tropical wet forests that covers the Serengeti.

The major difference arises in the distribution of wildlife. In Africa, the big mammals have learnt to co-exist and this has resulted in concentration of wildlife at certain pockets where better quality life is available. India presents a slightly varied scenario with specific types of large mammals restricted to certain pockets like the Asiatic lions at Gir or the Indian one horned Rhinos in the North East. The lesser numbers and the terrain present a difficult set of challenges in spotting the wildlife in India.


MAJOR ISSUES

Energy

The increasingly modernizing and technologically developing world consumes more and more energy. Energy has always been the prime requirement driving the population and the industries. Energy from non-renewable sources still contributes majorly to the energy needs. But the ever depleting resource with increased need for energy has spurred us towards seeking non-conventional sources of energy.

India is slowly trying to seek non-conventional sources but the energy demand growth is outpacing the same. Africa is lacking significant funding and technology though there have been instances where effort has been put up to tap energy from other sources. Africa is continued to be exploited for the abundant oil and natural reserves it has by the European nations indirectly


Forests

Deforestation has been a primary concern in both India and Africa. Development has led to reclaiming lands for urbanization apart from a significant portion of forests used for agriculture and domestic purposes. But the major threat comes from illegal logging and mining resulting in loss of vegetation. This has led to a rapid decrease in the green cover leading to changes in the overall weather.

Africa is suffering at twice the rate compared to rest of the world and is the worst affected in the last 3 decades. Western Africa has lost about 90% of the forests and Central Africa is losing its green cover rapidly. India presents a significantly different picture compared to Africa. India has been able to put a check on deforestation and the green cover has increased in the last few years.


Wildlife

Hunting of animals is a practice that has been known to man for millions of years. Animals were hunted for recreation and other valuables driving many of them to extinction such as the Cheetah in India. But, during the recent years, poaching poses a serious threat to the mega fauna of the lands. India and Africa with some of them unique wildlife and varied vegetation have faced the greatest problems of poaching.

While Africa was in political turmoil, the animals were easily captured by the poachers and slaughtered in large numbers. Even though, efforts have started late to conserve them, still majority of Africa faces problems of poaching. African open lands help to provide a better watch but the vast stretch of lands with different political territories make it much more difficult. Lack of funds and inadequate personnel have also not helped the cause.

While the dense vegetation and sparse numbers make the poaching activity in India almost undetectable, the restriction to certain pockets also helps the poachers target a specific zone. But India with its stable political economy and availability of significant amount of funds has given greater emphasis to conservation which has resulted in saving a majority of wildlife. But administrative problems still hamper the process with certain pockets showing disturbing results.


PROBLEMS AND OBSTACLES

Political Scenario

Political landscape of the area plays an important role in future conservation. India though is considered politically better stabilized compared to majority of Africa, still problems reign due to large differences between the state and central governments. Africa is known for its political problems and civil unrests which have led to a slow economy coupled with loss of precious natural resources over the years.

Some nations like South Africa have developed a better infrastructure over the last few years, but majority of the African nations still suffer from unstable governments and civil unrests leading to poor economic conditions.


Economic Condition

There is a need for facilities and basic infrastructure mainly in certain poorly developed African nations. India has some funding issues and administrative problems but Africa continues to be the poorest continent in the world. African nations such as Somalia, Rwanda and Zimbabwe suffer from poor economic growth, devalued currency and unstable governments. Governments are unable to provide nutrition to people itself which has led to almost zero funding and lack of personnel for conservation of wildlife. Poor living conditions and poverty has also led to people indulging in illegal activities including mining, deforestation and poaching to earn revenue resulting in further loss of precious natural resources.


Science and Technology

Majority of the African nations suffer from poor quality of infrastructure and lack of technology. India has a significantly better technological capability and is better equipped to handle situations whereas its African counterparts lag in this regard. Telecommunication infrastructure is developing slowly in Africa compared to the explosive growth in India owing to its greater investment potential.

Agriculture continues to be very primitive yielding low outputs. India has adapted technology at a slightly faster pace but still lagging compared to Europe. Africa rather is still heavily lagging in this regard. In Africa, research infrastructure is almost nil owing to lack of funds and institutions of knowledge. India has a better education infrastructure with many technologically developed research facilities and universities.


COLLABORATION

Knowledge Sharing

Information is wealth. Sharing knowledge and information regarding various aspects related from politics to conservation is the first step in the cooperation between India and Africa. To facilitate the information flow between India and the various nations across Africa, an intermediary should be established which can function as a part of New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD) established by the African Union. The first meeting between India and Africa last year resulted in some fruitful accords in various fields.

Information regarding economic improvement, successful practices and new technology can be shared which can be replicated on the other side. There shall be frequent communication between respective wings of the agency to facilitate the sharing with occasional meets to discuss various plans and strategies and also to garner new ideas.


Funding

As we have already seen, funding is a major problem in majority of Africa. As the national governments in most cases are unable to find sufficient funds for the same, funds need to be generated from international sources such as the World Bank and the IMF. The Western nations and China who contribute to the development of Africa can help with the same. India has already committed $5 billion in lines of credit for the next three years to help Africa to achieve its development goals of which a certain portion would be allocated to environmental conservation and energy.

The organization established for this cause would take care of the funds distributing it across the various territories. The funds should be used to recruit personnel to aid in conservation activities


Technological Cooperation

Science and Technological development forms an integral part of the economy of the nations. India with its superior telecom and information infrastructure could help build the technology in Africa. It will be fruitful for both the parties to share technological expertise.

Technology in agriculture and various industries will help the nations increase their output and lead to the growth in the economy.


Political Cooperation and Policy Replication

India and Africa have committed to working together in the lines of Politics to ensure peace and democracy. India has to play major role in ensuring this happens as majority of the African nations suffer from civil unrest and political issues.

There may be certain laws or policies enacted by certain Governments that can be beneficial or would have given successful results. The governments can share experiences in this regard and can be persuaded to senact such a law or adopt a similar policy. Though it is often very difficult to persuade a government to do it, roping in experts and key people and explaining would certainly move at least a few


Engaging Local Community

The local people know more than any other expert from other areas. They can be utilized efficiently in majority of the developmental activities.

Let us consider the protection of forests. Mostly tribal form a significant part of the forest and they have lived there for years and know the forests better than anyone. As a part of mapping and information gathering, local people would form an indispensable part of it. There are issues that local tribal people engage in shifting cultivation on forest lands and poaching due to their poor economic conditions. But given their rights, they would strive to protect the forests which have been their home for so many generations.

One fine example is the case of India where a law has been enacted to protect the rights of tribal people. They have the right to live in the ancestral forests except core zones of protected areas and are free to use the forests for collecting products for their livelihood. This has worked well in certain areas where the tribal people have been proactively been able to stop deforestation and prevent poaching to certain extent.


Tourism and Wildlife Conservation.

Tourism is a major and developing source of revenue for both India and Africa. Both the parties can contribute significantly to each other’s growth in this sector through cooperation in identifying and promoting tourism in the respective nations.

A significant number of species are endangered or threatened in the forests of India and Africa. On several occasions, the species may be restricted to a smaller land fold. Collective Animal breeding programs can help in perpetuating the endangered species which can be later introduced into the wild. India and Africa can collaborate in this regard to ensure greater success. Animals may also be shared across a part of a good gesture.

Animal reintroduction is another area where the two can collaborate. For example, cheetahs have become extinct in India in the last century. Africa can help India reintroduce Cheetahs in the wild. Though there have been similar plans for the same and obstacles, this is worth giving a try


Conclusion
There needs to be a health way to compete so as to accelerate the results of these planned activities. Specific targets can be setup and teams can be formed for different sectors in different regions which can have a healthy competition towards reaching the goal. The targets can be linked with greater funds and other incentives to motivate the regions to achieve the goal.

 
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