Minister Edna Molewa officially opens Biodiversity Economy Indaba

Minister of Environmental Affairs, Dr Edna Molewa, officially opens the third Biodiversity Economy Indaba in East London

Biodiversity is an economic sector in South Africa that can be tapped into to contribute to radical socio-economic transformation in South Africa.

The Minister of Environmental Affairs, Dr Edna Molewa, on Thursday, 8 March 2018, officially opened the 3rd Biodiversity Economy Indaba (BEI) at the International Convention Centre in East London, Eastern Cape, saying this is a sector with enormous potential.

The 3rd BEI theme is: Entrepreneurs meets investors, for a thriving and inclusive biodiversity economy. The aim is to match the various stockholders with aspirant investors and related markets within and outside South Africa.

The Indaba brings together multiple and diverse stakeholders in the biodiversity economy, including the hunting and game farm sectors and the bioprospecting, natural products and biotrade industries.

The Minister was joined by the Minister of Small Business Development, Ms Lindiwe Zulu, Eastern Cape Premier Phumulo Masualle, Eastern Cape MEC for Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs Sakhumzi Somyo, Executive Mayor of Buffalo City Metropolitan Municipality Xolani Pakati, representatives of national parks, provincial reserves, communities, national and provincial government officials, and other stakeholders in the broader biodiversity and ecotourism sectors.

In recent years, the biodiversity economy, which is an important contributor to job creation, has shown a constant annual growth of six percent.

The development of a 14-year National Biodiversity Economy Strategy, designed to achieve the anticipated sustainable advancement for the wildlife and bioprospecting sectors of South Africa to the economy of the country, achieving sustainable livelihoods specifically for rural communities would ultimately advance meaningful contribution to achieving the targets of the National Development Plan.

Minister Molewa said transformation of the biodiversity sector, in particular, is a necessity in a changing world.

This is more so in the context of South Africa, where policies of the past were exclusionary, thus depriving the majority of our people from actively participating in sectors of the economy. It can't be justified that the custodians of the genetic resources and equally the holders of the traditional knowledge, are treated as non-equals in the beneficiation of their resources, she said.

Government, has in response to this anomaly, developed and implements the National Biodiversity Economy Strategy which aims to promote a new generation of partnerships between communities, industry and the public sector.

Dr Molewa said this was done to realize the access, fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising from the use of biological resources.

In order to ensure a coherent approach in the implementation of this strategy, detailed plans at a three feet level were developed through the operation Phakisa Model, organised in the form of the biodiversity economy lab. This was an intense process which focused on identifying quantifiable targets centered on transformation, sustainability and economic growth, as well as the associated initiatives meant to deliver big fast results for the Bioprospecting, Wildlife and Coastal and Marine Tourism subsectors.

Among the outcomes of the Biodiversity Economy Lab held in 2016 were 15 key initiatives identified in the wildlife sector aimed at delivering a thriving and inclusive wildlife economy for the benefit of all South Africans. This included the identification and prioritisation of land for transformation, operationalisation of biodiversity economy nodes, capacity building for community structures, and unlocking the economic potential of protected areas.

The wildlife economy is centered on game and wildlife ranching activities that relate to the stocking, trading, breeding, and hunting of game, and all the services and goods required to support its value chain. The commitment is that the wildlife economy should have contributed R5.7 billion to the economy in the form of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and created 125 000 jobs with an expansion of 10 million hectares by 2030.

The South African bioprospecting sector encompasses organisations and people that are searching or collecting, harvesting and extracting living or dead indigenous specimens, or derivatives and genetic material for commercial and industrial purposes.

Our efforts in the bioprospecting industry should create a sustainable, inclusive and commercially viable sector adding 10 000 new jobs and contributing R1.7 billion to GDP at 10% p.a. by 2030, said Dr Molewa.

Wildlife ranching or game farming in South Africa encompasses more than 9 000 wildlife ranches mostly privately owned and managed. Commercial wildlife ranches cover 16.8 % of the country's landmass, with an estimated 20 million head of game of which 16 million are found on private land and four million on state-owned land. One of the major contributors to wildlife tourism and the South African economy is the hunting industry. Besides contributing to the growth in GDP and creating job opportunities, this sector remains largely untransformed.

The wildlife economy has created over 782 jobs and has donated over 768 heads of Game as part of transformation, through various wildlife economy projects led by the previously advantaged, across the country. To date the Wildlife Economy has secured R138 million in private sector investment, whilst government has invested a further R66.6 million in the wildlife economy sector, though the Expanded Public Works Programme funding streams.

The Department has trained 25 Community Property Associations, and a total of 587 people have been capacitated in the form of skills, training and youth programmes.

With regard to the bioprospecting sector, the five key initiatives identified at the Lab included:

the promotion of the mass cultivation of 25 plant species, for example: Rooibos, Hoodia, Marula, Aloe-ferox (ikhala), Pelargonium (ikhubalo),etc;

to increase land under cultivation for the planting of indigenous plants to enable security of supply in order to prevent over utilization of such species from the wild

to promote sustainable harvesting of high value species;

improving the efficiency of the Bioprospecting Access and Benefit Sharing (BABS) permitting system

and amending environmental legislation to align with the protection of the rights of traditional knowledge holders, in order to align it to an international protocol, namely the Nagoya Protocol on Access and Benefit Sharing.

Bioprospecting and Biotrade activities have supported local livelihoods through sustainable utilisation of indigenous biological resources as informed by the associated local traditional knowledge. Since then, we have seen a steady growth of the bioprospecting industry in the country driven by the increase in the demand of indigenous plants by various industries, said the Minister.

Collaboration is required at local, regional and international level to respond meaningfully to the challenges posed by market forces.

We therefore need to intensify our investments in research and innovation inorder to firm up our capabilities for value addition or benefit innovation from plants in the agro-processing sector and improving the quality of local products.

The Indaba programme includes parallel sessions on the biodiversity and biotrade sectors, the wildlife sector and eco-tourism. This is the first year that Ecotourism has been included as a third leg of the Biodiversity Economy Indaba programme. Economic activities in this subsector involve visiting fragile, pristine, and relatively undisturbed natural areas, intended as a low-impact and often small-scale alternatives to standard commercial mass tourism.

In South Africa, ecotourism it is intended to offer tourists an insight into the impact of human beings on the environment and to foster a greater appreciation of our natural habitats. It is not only critical for local economic growth, but also plays a huge role in educating people on the rich natural resource that the country can offer, also promoting community participation in bringing the awareness of the natural resources to tourist. This in turn contributes to community upliftment.

The 3rd BEI will end with a Biodiversity Economy Parade on the Esplanade in East London on 10 March.

Source: Government of South Africa