A global conservation gathering

Every four years, the IUCN World Conservation Congress brings together thousands of leaders and decision-makers for the largest global gathering in the conservation movement.

Due to the pandemic, this year’s gathering in Marseille was smaller than usual, but A Rocha International and A Rocha Ghana were both able to attend and for the first time, participated in the Members Assembly. Decisions made here can inform international climate and biodiversity policies, so our presence demonstrated that a Christian organization is able to advocate for conservation across a wide variety of topics and that A Rocha is clearly respected for its solid scientific work.

The exhibition area, which functions like a trade fair for the conservation movement, welcomed 25,000 visitors and A Rocha France joined the A Rocha delegation to present Eglise Verte, a programme supporting French churches to go green. There were many significant conversations held at our stand with people from around the world and a generally positive response from those finding a Christian organization in the mix.

One particular highlight was the celebration of Prof Alfred Oteng-Yeboah, the Board Chair of A Rocha Ghana and trustee of A Rocha International. In recognition of his enormous contribution to biodiversity conservation in Ghana and around the world, he was bestowed the IUCN’s highest honour, the John C. Phillips Memorial Medal, joining the ranks of distinguished conservationists such as Sir David Attenborough, Mrs Indira Ghandi and Professor E.O. Wilson.

Photo: Alfred Oteng-Yeboah receiving the John C. Phillips Memorial Medal. Photo by IISD/ENB


Mapping the world’s coral reefs

Understanding where coral reefs are and monitoring their changes is an important part of conserving these special marine habitats. Although they occupy just a small proportion of the world’s oceans, they harbour an enormous diversity of marine life. They also support the livelihoods of fishing communities and protect coastlines from the damaging effects of climate change.

On the doorstep of A Rocha Kenya’s field study centre, Mwamba, lies Watamu Marine National Park. Established in 1968, it is one of Kenya’s oldest marine parks. Over a period of three months, A Rocha Kenya’s marine team checked coral reefs in the park assigned to them by the the Allen Coral Atlas project and then used their SCUBA gear and research boat ‘Tewa’ to document specific details, such as percentage coral cover. Their data contributed to the development of a global map of coral reefs.

In September, maps of the world’s tropical, shallow coral reefs were completed, marking a major milestone for the Atlas. Thanks to this global collaboration of more than 450 teams who led expeditions and contributed data, we have information about this marine ecosystem in unprecedented detail, which are downloadable and accessible to all. Now organizations like A Rocha Kenya have a new tool to guide their conservation efforts.



Nine years as a refugee in Lebanon

Ibrahim Saffieh arrived in Lebanon with his family in 2012 as refugees fleeing the war in Syria. Initially he managed to find employment slaughtering chickens. Then in 2015, A Rocha Lebanon offered him work, first at our nature park in Qab Elias and more recently at Mekse, helping with practical conservation and site maintenance.

Ibrahim loves the outdoors and is a loyal worker. He can turn his hand to anything that needs to be done on site – from tree planting and pruning to pond maintenance and irrigation. When extra labour is needed, he arranges work for other refugees, paid on a daily basis thanks to Gifts with a Difference, and the generous individuals whose purchases have supported nature-based livelihoods for Syrian refugees.

Ibrahim also grows food for his family on currently unused land and sells any surplus produce for income. His wife, Fatimah, makes wonderful manousheh, a traditional Lebanese flatbread and their youngest son, Mohammad, hopes to follow in her culinary footsteps by learning catering. At 13 years old, he has already left school and works 12-hour days at a nearby sandwich restaurant. Their eldest son, Ahmed, is 20, and is a carpenter living and working in Beirut, while his daughter, Bathoul, is in her final year at school and dreams of going to university.

Gifts with a Difference has made a real and positive impact for refugee families like Ibrahim’s. Thank you for making a difference!