Feature Story

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Back in 1929, Sierra Leone served as the headquarters of the British West African Meteorological Services. With independence, the Sierra Leone Meteorological Department was formed. It was one of the most advanced meteorological departments in West Africa, with advanced capacity in weather data collection, analysis and service provision.

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Conserving the global commons can mean grappling with complex issues, studying the science underlying them, and making far-reaching commitments. But it can also involve measuring crabs in a hot village square.

At the end of June, delegates to the Sixth Global Environment Facility (GEF) Assembly in Da Nang, Viet Nam, did both. After two days of intensive meetings, involving heads of government, ministers, and top scientists and businessmen, a group of them headed off to the nearby Cham Islands to witness conservation, literally, at ground level.

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When William Buco, father of five, moved to Dar-es-Salaam thirty years ago the coastline was unrecognizable to today. He could sit on the beaches and picnic with his friends. Coconut sellers came by with fresh harvests, and newly married couples posed for wedding photographs with the oceanic backdrop. Then the tide turned, and all this began to change.

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Leonidas Nzigiyimpa, a conservation champion in Burundi, has devoted his life to protecting his fragile country’s natural wealth. Driven by a passion for change, he led the rehabilitation of forests, the protection of chimpanzees and rare species, and the empowerment of indigenous communities adjacent to the Bururi forest reserve. It is for these efforts that Leonidas is a recipient of this year’s National GeographicBuffett Awards for Leadership in Conservation.

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With over 20 million of visitors per year, the exceptionally well-preserved Southeast Asian trading port city of Hoi An, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is left with the gargantuan task of disposing of 27,000 tons of solid waste per year.

In 2016 alone, over 21 million tourists visited the city of 120,000, or 175 tourists per resident annually. The booming tourism industry produces approximately 75 tonnes of solid waste per day. Problems relating to insufficient collection and improper disposal of this waste had been festering for years.

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It’s illegal to cut down mangroves to make charcoal in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Everybody knows it.

The problem is, in a country where more than 4.6 million children are acutely malnourished and over 90 percent of people don’t have enough food to eat, many people simply don’t feel they have a choice in the matter.

Cutting down mangroves means money or light or heat for cooking. Cutting down mangroves means survival.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.

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Takorayili, a village in the Northern region of Ghana, is sprinkled with bare, scorched hills and rocky arid terrains. The soil is not able to retain rain water. It is not fertile enough to sustain the growth of plants. As the rain water runs off downhill and drains into channels that dry up as quickly as they are filled, it washes away the top soil and its nutrients.

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Coastal fisheries are a primary source of livelihood and an important source of protein for many coastal communities in Viet Nam.  However, in a number of provinces in the early 2000s,competition over resources, compounded by environmental degradation, led to near-depletion of some higher-value fish species.y.  As a result, many small-scale fishers were forced to abandon their operations seeking other sources of livelihood. 

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For more than two decades, Steward Siapalala was known for poaching wild animals in the Kafue National Park, one of Zambia’s embattled reserves and the fifth largest National Park in the world.

"I had a killer instinct... I could shoot down a buffalo with just one bullet,” he says, pointing at a mock target with an imaginary rifle.

Farming had been Siapalala’s main livelihood, but poor yields due to unsustainable agricultural practices and climate change pushed him into poaching.