Not only is Africa the second most-populous continent in the world, its human population is also incredibly diverse. Consider, for example, that over 2,000 native languages are spoken across the continent (Lewis et al., 2014). (Interestingly, there are strong positive correlations between linguistic diversity and biodiversity, as well as between the loss of species and languages; Gorenflo et al., 2012). Africa is also economically diverse; the continent contains some of the poorest nations in the world but also some of the fastest growing economies (World Bank, 2017). Herein also lies a major challenge: Africa’s diverse human population—already over 1 billion people—is expected to double over the next 25 years (World Bank, 2019). To stimulate economic growth and provide resources for a growing and upwardly mobile human population, once unending wildernesses are constantly being cleared for agriculture, timber, expanding cities, and other human activities. In the process, the remaining natural areas are being polluted, overharvested, and fragmented, particularly in areas of outstanding conservation value (Balmford et al., 2011).
This environmental destruction we are witnessing across Africa holds negative consequences for all people on the continent. Among the most vulnerable are traditional peoples who rely on natural products such as firewood, wild animals, and wild edible fruits and roots to maintain their way of life. The destruction of the environment also makes it more challenging for city dwellers to access basic needs such as clean drinking water, clean air, and wilderness areas where they can fulfil their spiritual and emotional needs. With Africa’s human population and consumption expected to grow substantially for many years to come, there is an urgent need to find ways to ensure that the region’s unique environmental treasures are preserved, for the benefit of current and future generations.