(voices from Africa, June 1994)

Where exactly is Isiolo? This is a question that even many Kenyans may have trouble answering. Isiolo is a district in the arid northern province of Kenya, a hot, flat, unending landscape sparsely peopled by Samburu pastoralists and occasional tourists. It is places such as these, forgotten and seemingly useless to most, that have a hidden but vast potential for development. Overlooked, deemed poor and seemingly uninhabitable to the casual observer, Isiolo is home to rich traditions and culture and a surprising wealth of natural resources. Isiolo is a startlingly crystalline metaphor for the ignored and forgotten ways of a rich and resourceful continent.

For three days in November 1991, 20 men and women from seven African nations -experts, scholars in fields ranging from indigenous knowledge to economics- met in Isiolo to articulate an African perspective on environment and development. No small talk, but certainly one of extreme importance .

The authors of the Isiolo Declaration met to deliberate on matters pertaining to environment and development in Africa with a strong and clear African voice, presenting a new vision of environment and development rooted in an African reality and condition. The participants, individuals of varying backgrounds but common purpose, were brought together to exchange their views, hopes and aspirations and integrate them into an African blueprint for development.

The Isiolo Declaration: Africa s Perspective on Environment and Development


The Isiolo Caucus defined development as a socio-political process which:

Sustainable Development

Sustainable development shall never be attained as long as unsustainable exploitation of the earth's resources by the North continues. The theory of sustainable development currently dictates that those with the capacity to exploit global resources maintain the same level of exploitation, while the poor and weak retain the existing levels of declining development and standards of living. Sustainable development shall simply ensure continued exploitative dominance of the North over the poorer and weaker South. The theory should be rejected totally.
A new development theory that seeks to redress existing imbalances by ensuring equity in political, ideological and cultural influences in the control and exploitation of global resources needs to be adopted.

Africa's Lost Resources

The people of Africa and the diaspora must be compensated for what was unjustly wrested from their heritage through human enslavement, natural resource exploitation, culrural plunder, imposed ideological and political control and centuries of imperialism. A Global Reparations Fund (GRF) should be launched. African govemments, NGOs and research bodies should incessantly campaign for the fund to be established by all those nations that, at any one time, colonized Africa without her people's consent and all those that promoted the holocaust of slavery in the continent. A special global conference under the auspices of the United Nations should be convened in 1994 to deliberate on the modalities of establishing the fund. The international NGO community should hold workshops and symposia to deliberate on the subject in detail.

The African Family Unit

The family unit has been and remains the pillar of Africa's cultural integrity and heritage. The woman, as the custodian of the family's social and spiritual bonds, has an invaluable role to play in the process of developing the total society. The child's place and right in the family unit should neven be compromised by the selfish material and ideological desires of the adult members of the family unit. The noble roles of mother, father and child in the African family must be safeguarded against divisive modern ideological whims that promote chauvinistic and radical feministic norms, to the detriment of the family bond. The Isiolo Caucus declares that Africans should reject development programmes that promote the discrimination of gender roles in disregard of the total welfare of the family. Family planning programmes in Africa should strive to restore the dignity of the African family as enshrined in the people's cultures.

Land and Biological Resources

The most crucial threat to Africa's land and biological resources is and has been the coercive trade and market forces in the North that consistently work to undervalue the worth of the yields from the continent.
Insensitive consumer patterns in the North have directly caused the extermination of rare wildlife species in Africa.
The depletion of natural resources to satisfy exotic wants outside the continent and the establishment of large-scale plantations of cheap cash crops destined for markets in the North have denuded Africa's most fertile soils, clogging rivers with silt and destroying invaluable plant and animal species as more land is cleared for extensive plantations.
The Isiolo Caucus declares that African countries should form cartels to safeguard Africa's natural resources and control their exploitation. African countries should strive to research and document the potential of existing biological resources.


People are the most valuable resource for development. People should nol be depicted as a problem but as a resource to be mobilized for positive development. The vast resources being spent on population control programmes in Africa should be invested in improving the welfare of her people and in mobilizing their creative potentials for development endeavours.
The ethics of people, as the ultimate custodians and managers of natural resources, should be promoted in all development programmes in Africa.


The most critical threats to biodiversity in Africa are the global trade and market systems that encourage the clearing of natural vegetative cover to make room for large-scale plantations of cash crops needed by markets in the North.
Africa's immense natural biodiversity potential is largely unresearched and hence hardly valued for its ecological and economic potential. Policies and laws on natural resource management enacted during the colonial era do not provide adequate attention and value to local resources. African countries should research the potential of their biological resources and create regulatory measures to oversee their conservation and rational exploitation.


Poverty in Africa is a state of social and economic deprivation induced by morally erosive political and economic forces from outside the region. The erosion of indigenous socio-economic systems, the adoption of values and educational systems that deplete creative energy and entrepreneurial skills of the young, market systems that suppress the development of industrial and technological potential from the region, systems of trade that deliberately undervalue products from natural resources in Africa to satisfy greedy wants for cheap raw materials by industrialized nations of the North and political systems and regimes that suppress the intellectual and creative potential of their own people are among the key causes of poverty in Africa.


Daniel ALLARD - "Réseau africain pour le développement et l'intégration (RADI)", Dakar, Sénégal.
Achoka AWORI - Kenya Energy and Environment Organizations (KENGO).
Belghis BADRI - President of the Babiker Badri Scientific Association for Women Studies and Associate Professor of Sociology in Khartoum University, Sudan.
Essma BEN HAMIDA - Cofounder of ENDA Inter-Arabe in Tunisia.
James BUTURO - Department of Development Administration, School of Public Policy, University of Birmingham, UK.
Ibrahima CHEIKH DIONG - "Reseau Africain pour le développement et I'intégration (RADI), Dakar, Sénégal.
Jamal ALAWIYYA - Project Coordinator at the Environmental Society, Institute of Environmental Studies, Khartoum, Sudan.
Ruth MEENA - Coordinator of the Gender Project in the Southern Africa Political Series Trust (SAPES), Harare, Zimbabwe.
Prisca MOLOTSI - Vice-President of the International Alliance of Women and the Coordinator of the Zambia Alliance of Women Project.
Sam MOYO - Executive Secretary of the Regional Network of Environmental Experts (ZERO) in Harare, Zimbabwe.
John 0.MUGABE - Assistant Director and Researcher in the Biopolicy Institute of the African Centre for Technology Studies (ACTS) in the Netherlands .
Peter NGOBESE - Director of the Group for Environmental Monitoring in South Africa.
Mamadou SONKO - Expert on desertification in the Sahel.
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