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Djibouti - Country Profile

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Biodiversity Facts

Status and trends of biodiversity, including benefits from biodiversity and ecosystem services

The content of this biodiversity profile is still draft. The text below has been prepared by SCBD and remains subject to final approval by the Party concerned.

Djibouti is a small country located in the Horn of Africa, occupying a total area of approximately 9,000 square miles only. It borders Eritrea, Ethiopia and Somalia, and the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden. Rainfall is sparse and erratic, with about 90% of the terrain comprised of desert land made up of volcanic rock. Vegetation is minimal, consisting primarily of thorn scrub and palm trees.

Notably, 7 new bird species have been discovered in the country over the last decade bringing the total to 367. In May 2014, around 500 fish species were photographed and an identification process is currently being carried out in this regard. A report published in 2006 listed the spotted eagle, several species of sharks, the green turtle, the spotted hyena and Grevy's zebra among Djibouti’s threatened species. Figures from 2011 indicate that the primary sector (agriculture, forests, silviculture, fishing, hunting) contributed 3.6% to the GDP. It can be said that the GDP of the majority of the economic sectors rests upon, to a greater or lesser extent, the country’s natural resource base. However, data on the contribution of biodiversity and its ecosystems to human development are very limited. An informal economy exists that is largely dependent on wood resources for fuel and constitutes a subsistence activity for rural populations. Environmental deterioration is apparent throughout the country; data collected over the 2004-2014 period confirms that the general state of biodiversity did not improve over the last decade.

The Day Forest National Park in the Goda Mountains is the largest forest and most humid microclimate in the country. Two hundred years ago, it covered 7,500 hectares while in 2010 it had been reduced to 1,055 hectares (of which 380 hectares are degraded). A remnant of a closed forest, this exceptional ecosystem possesses a high level of endemism and is home to ancient juniper trees, acacias, wild olive trees, fig trees, boxwood, among other species, characteristic of arid areas of the Mediterranean and western Asia. Severe environmental regression began in 1862 when the Day Forest was impacted by a major volcanic eruption causing the forest to dry out. Yet it is human activity carried out over the last decade that has brought about the most alarming changes. One example is the current unstable status of the dominant high-altitude juniper trees that are unable to resist the pressures of overgrazing and firewood collection, in combination with chronic rainfall deficits. The juniper forest is also the natural habitat for the Djibouti Francolin (Francolinus ochropectus), the country’s most reknown species of large endemic fauna, which has been classified by IUCN as critically endangered with extinction.

The Bankoualé Palm Livistona carinensis is a relict near-endemic palm species currently classified by IUCN as vulnerable (although it may be more appropriate to classify it as endangered). This species is only known to occur within tiny populations in Djibouti, Somalia and Yemen due to the permanent presence of surface water in these areas. The Djibouti population is fewer than 400 adults in 12 sub-populations in its main distribution ranges in the Goda Mountains. The adults are over mature, and juveniles and seedlings are only found in areas protected from grazing animals. However, due to its restricted distribution in the country and the region, the species is facing a high risk of extinction in the wild in the medium term.

Main pressures on and drivers of change to biodiversity (direct and indirect)

The content of this biodiversity profile is still draft. The text below has been prepared by SCBD and remains subject to final approval by the Party concerned.

Direct drivers of biodiversity loss are associated with water resources (quantity and quality) for human populations, livestock and agriculture, pastoral and timber resources and forage species. Economic development has created pressures associated with urban and suburban pollution, and coastal pollution from maritime traffic. Other pressures are linked to the overfishing of certain fish species and illegal fishing, and to drought and epidemics affecting coastal livestock.

Indirect pressures relate to the inability of forage crops to withstand climate stress (plant mortality is high and recovery capability altered). As a result, there is occasional transhumance by families to less altered zones and/or areas of refuge, depending on available water points, schools and health centres. However, under these conditions, livestock can perish or are sold in part. Moreover, the expansion of the timber sector (wood and charcoal) and the invasion of the Prosopis (Mesquite) species are major factors contributing to biodiversity loss. However, the main contributing factor is persistent rural poverty which is fundamentally a consequence of the population’s inability to absorb climate shocks.

Measures to Enhance Implementation of the Convention

Implementation of the NBSAP

The content of this biodiversity profile is still draft. The text below has been prepared by SCBD and remains subject to final approval by the Party concerned.

Although adopted 15 years ago, Djibouti’s NBSAP (2000) is largely compatible with the goals of the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020 and its Aichi Targets. Examples of actions taken in this respect are highlighted in the next sections.

Actions taken to achieve the 2020 Aichi Biodiversity Targets

The content of this biodiversity profile is still draft. The text below has been prepared by SCBD and remains subject to final approval by the Party concerned.

Djibouti’s NBSAP (2000) promotes a general policy to reduce pressures on biodiversity and the unsustainable exploitation of resources (Strategic Goal B). The objective of integrating biodiversity across government and society (Strategic Goal A) is treated through actions on awareness-raising, education and training conducted primarily by the Regional Organization for the Conservation of the Environment of the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden (PERSGA), for schools, teachers, youth, technicians, NGOs, clerics, and other groups. The relay of support provided by NGOs (e.g. DECAN, Djibouti Nature) is essential, as is the practice of establishing open steering committees for each project.

The NBSAP also significantly pursues the creation of protected areas and more targeted activities on regeneration and/or protection within nurseries or agropastoral perimeters (Strategic Goal C). There are currently 7 national protected areas (4 terrestrial, 3 marine) in Djibouti. In addition, the protection of 600 hectares of the coastal zone (Haramous-Douda) was formalized in March 2014. Two other protected areas in Djalélo (Arta region) and Assamo (Ali-Sabieh district) were established by Decree in 2011, and are financed through a partnership between DECAN, the Beauval Zoological Park and the Beauval Nature Association. The National Biosafety Program also contributes to Strategic Goal C.

Support mechanisms for national implementation (legislation, funding, capacity-building, coordination, mainstreaming, etc.)

The content of this biodiversity profile is still draft. The text below has been prepared by SCBD and remains subject to final approval by the Party concerned.

Under the Framework Law on the Environment (2000), a decree was adopted in 2011 on a revised procedure for conducting Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA). At the same time, 3 other decrees were adopted on biodiversity protection, regulations on the import of substances harmful to the ozone layer, and regulations on the transport of dangerous materials.

Mechanisms for intersectoral coordination have been established, including the National Commission for Sustainable Development (composed of representatives from various ministries, civil society, the National Association of Djiboutian Women and the National Chamber of Commerce), and the National Steering Committee on Biological Diversity. Both mechanisms are supported by technical committees. Yet much remains to be accomplished regarding the sectoral mainstreaming of biodiversity in the country, although biodiversity is being taken into account in issues on poverty reduction, education, health and rural development. Efforts to decentralize biodiversity administration have not been very effective to date.

An integrated approach to managing protected areas and ecosystems is being promoted to a noteworthy extent. A pilot project using this approach is being carried out today in the Day Forest. Other similar activities are taking place through the Integrated Conservation Programme for Development (PICODE), and through the wider policy on integrated coastal zone management (ICZM) and the territorial management approach. The latter is a relatively new development approach which supports the participation of local communities and the private sector in management activities aimed at the socioeconomic development of the communities.

An in-depth study is required to identify and address synergies among the international environmental conventions and protocols which Djibouti has ratified. The National Action Plan for Environmental Capacity Development (PANDEC) is a strategic tool which can assist in harmonizing actions among these international instruments.

Djibouti is a signatory to the Nagoya Protocol on ABS and is currently taking steps towards its ratification.

Mechanisms for monitoring and reviewing implementation

The content of this biodiversity profile is still draft. The text below has been prepared by SCBD and remains subject to final approval by the Party concerned.

Djibouti recognizes that a weakness in national biodiversity policy is the absence of a mechanism for monitoring implementation activities.

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  • United Nations Environment Programme