Biodiversity is the degree of variation of life on Earth, and it is essential to life as we know it. Efforts to conserve biodiversity and ensure its sustainable use help to maintain the natural processes that create the ecosystem services that enable development – food, fiber, fodder, pollination, clean water, productive soils, and wood.
Biodiversity conservation has other benefits too, and can lead to additional positive outcomes such as building empowered local communities, diversifying livelihoods, promoting gender equality, increasing government transparency and accountability, and contributing to peace and security.
Today, some 1.6 billion people depend on forests for some part of their livelihood, while another 2.6 billion people in developing countries depend on fish for protein and income. One of every three bites of food we eat is the result of the work of pollinators, and the total economic value of insect pollination worldwide is estimated at about $210 billion, representing 9.5 percent of world agricultural output in 2005.
Unsustainable development is a major source of pressure on biodiversity, and poor management of forests and fisheries and unbridled exploitation of natural resources, including animals, are destroying entire ecosystems, decimating local communities and causing unprecedented rates of extinction of plant and animal species. Nature is being degraded, and the world’s poorest people, as well as those living in forests rich in biodiversity, are impacted most keenly.
Given this connection between poverty and the loss of biodiversity, the U.S. Agency for International Development, or USAID, recently developed its first ever formal biodiversity policy, which builds upon its three decades of work in this area. As a result, USAID will focus investment in specific crucial geographic areas, while continuing to use the best science available and to work with partners to address threats to nature such as wildlife trafficking and illegal logging.
It will use approaches to conservation that have worked well in the past, such as close collaboration with local communities, ensuring that local knowledge is respected and applied to development challenges and management of natural resources. USAID will also seek to make use of the latest science and technology, and deploy the best new tools and methods to solve the biggest conservation challenges.
USAID will do so in partnership with the private sector, nongovernmental organizations, research institutions, and other government agencies.
“We consider the stewardship of nature a critical and effective strategy for ending extreme poverty and fostering resilient societies,” said USAID Administrator, Rajiv Shah. “With this Policy, USAID is well positioned to chart a development path that nourishes, rather than depletes, natural capital.”