East Africa’s Biodiversity Policies Need Clearer Guidelines for Informatics

Following up on an article in the The African Technopolitan Magazine in January of this year (previous news post), Dr. Aime Tsinda from the Institute for Policy Analysis and Research (IPAR) in Rwanda (project website) published a review of East African biodiversity informatics policies in the Journal for Nature Conservation. Tsinda’s co-authors were Roger Mugishaa, Lillian Mutesi, Alfred Bizozaa, Eugenia Kayitesi of IPAR Rwanda, and Pamela Abbott of the University of Aberdeen, U.K.

The group reviewed biodiversity-related policies and policy reviews in Tanzania, Ethiopia, Kenya, and Rwanda, asking how these policies relate to the production, management, and use of biodiversity data. Though the study noted that all four countries are committed to biodiversity protection via several international conventions, the domestic landscape of information about biodiversity remains fractured, both within in and among the countries. The authors recommend that national governments offer guidelines, and set standards for biodiversity data, and clarify which institutions are primarily responsible for data management. These actions would reduce confusion among institutions that has resulted in both redundancy and gaps in biodiversity informatics.

In all countries, the study cited a need for more concrete language about biodiversity informatics. While some policies acknowledged the need for informatics, they nearly always lacked specifics on how to meet that need, i.e., targets and plans for data collection, mobilization, hosting, and accessibility. Adopting policy documents and, critically, technical guidelines for management of biodiversity data would make it easier for each of the institutions gathering information separately to contribute to a comprehensive national effort – and improve the accountability of the countries to their international commitments.

Last year, JRS awarded 3 grants, including this project by IPAR Rwanda, to study the influence of national policies on biodiversity informatics (previous news post). JRS hopes that this research will identify barriers to the use of biodiversity data in sustainable decision-making.

Link to the full article here.