Oppenheimer’s donation fuels African Ecosystems Program

Africa-led and Africa-focused program to influence thinking and action on the continent

Research partners in South Africa and the UK have launched a program to study the best ways to safeguard African ecosystems.

The Future Ecosystems for Africa program is a partnership between the research and conservation charity arm of the wealthy Oppenheimer family, the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits) and the University of Exeter in the UK.

Fueled by a 20 million rand ($1.2 million) donation from the Oppenheimer Generations Trust, the program is part of Wits’ fundraising campaign to celebrate its centenary this year, which aims to raise 3 billion rand for research and other initiatives.

The program will run for five years and will support three full-time doctoral students, two postdoctoral students and four funded research associates. It will prioritize ecosystem-based interventions in Africa, exploring what to protect and how. It will also identify the voices that need to be included in this decision-making.

‘A breath of fresh air’

Laura Pereira, an associate professor at the Wits’ Global Change Institute, says the donation is unique since the funding and direction are African.

“As we were able to work with funders to develop the work program, it is flexible based on what we as researchers think are the critical areas to study rather than answering a call, which is a breath of fresh air,” she said. Professional research news.

Pereira adds that she, along with fellow scientist and Wits Associate Professor Sally Archibald, is working with project partners across the continent and around the world to conduct research that can feed into policy strategies.

Duncan Kimuyu, project partner and head of the department of natural resources at Karatina University in Kenya, said the program offers a chance to change the narrative and perceptions of African ecosystems.

Duncan MacFadyen, head of research at Oppenheimer Generations Research and Conservation, added that the program is expected to create real impact on the continent: “We hope to better understand the unique and complex relationships between humans and the environment, as well as develop an understanding of self-healing rates in different landscapes across the continent.

Wits said in a statement that the program will build on the findings of the regional assessment of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services for Africa. IPBES is the intergovernmental body that assesses the state of biodiversity and the value of the services that ecosystems provide to society, in response to requests from decision-makers.