Note: The objectives are as they appear in the Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan from Botswana found on the cbd.int/doc/world/bw/bw-nbsap-01-en.pdf link.

 

BRIEF INTRODUCTION

 

As a party to the Convention on Biological Diversity, Botswana has outlined eleven (11) objectives towards the implementation of the treaty.  What follows is from a document submitted by the country posted on the CBD website on Botswana page. cbd.int/doc/world/bw/bw-nbsap-01-en.pdf link.  A brief commentary follows.

 

THE BOTSWANA BIODIVERSITY STRATEY PLAN OBJECTIVES

 

As a signatory to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) Botswana government has committed itself and its citizens to actively ensure that its Biodiversity resource is maintained for years to come.  The goal of this Biodiversity Plan and strategy is therefore to contribute to the long term health of Botswana ecosystems and related species, and to encourage sustainable and wise use of resources through the provision of a framework of specific activities designed to improve the way biodiversity is perceived, utilized and conserved.  The strategy builds on and complements the National Conservation Strategy and forms part of government’s effort to achieve Vision 2016.  The Biodiversity strategy has 11 strategic objectives designed to reach the Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan (BSAP) guiding vision which reads:

 

A nation in balance with nature with fair access to biological resources, where benefits deriving from the use of these resources are shared equitably for the benefit and livelihoods of current and future generations and where all citizens recognize and understand the importance of maintaining Botswana’s biological heritage and related knowledge and their role in the conservation and sustainable use of Botswana’s biodiversity.

 

The Strategic objectives are:

 

1. Better understanding of biodiversity and ecological processes:

Sound planning and development rely on sound data. Our understanding of ecosystems functioning is currently fairly limited and more research, data collection and inventories are needed. In order to know if our actions and activities are sustainable and to calculate environmental costs and benefits and long-term effects of different land use options we need reliable biological base-line data and long-term monitoring of the status of our genetic resources. Reference collections and taxonomic research are essential tools in

identifying organisms, species and varieties

 

2. Long-term conservation and management of Botswana‘s biological diversity and genetic resources:

For successful long-term conservation of biological resources it is important to take a holistic approach. The latest directives from the CBD are to adopt more of an ecosystems approach, i.e. to conserve habitats, of which species are the components.  With limited resources conservation activities need to be prioritized, and activities to do so form an

important part of the BSAP.  Development of district level biodiversity strategies to guide district planning and actions is a key component of the national strategy.  Conservation of Botswana‘s endemic species is especially important. It is also vital to protect and conserve the knowledge and traditions, which are related to biodiversity use. The younger generations are quickly losing interest in traditional knowledge and practices, and it will only take a few generations for this knowledge, built up over generations, to disappear if we don’t make an effort to preserve it.

 

3. Efficient and sustainable utilization of all components of biodiversity in Botswana through appropriate land and resource use practices and management:

 

Sustainable use of biological resources is the key to development. The nation’s wealth is built on its natural resources. The current population of Botswana are custodians of this natural heritage, and it is the responsibility of this generation to make sure that we don’t erode the capital we have been given, leaving our children and grand-children the same resources and opportunities that we were given.  Sustainable use of components of biodiversity requires a combination of legal, policy and economic incentives, a change in attitudes, i.e. a realization of the value of biodiversity (See objective 6), education and providing people with sustainable livelihoods opportunities and options.

 

4. An institutional environment, including human capacity, conducive to effective

biodiversity conservation, sustainable use and management.

 

An institutional environment conducive to effective biodiversity conservation, sustainable use and management refers to an institutional climate and set-up which includes cross-sectoral coordination, political will, appropriate economic incentives, adequate institutional structures and capacity, and a legal system to support and encourage conservation and sustainable use and management of Botswana‘s biological resources.

 

5. Coping with environmental change and threats to biodiversity

Prevention is usually a much better and cheaper solution than cure. Addressing threats to biodiversity before they happen will therefore be cost effective in the long-term.  Of all the threats, climatic change poses the greatest challenge as its effects are still not sufficiently known and as it cannot be addressed directly. Rangeland degradation and hydrological change provide more direct and tangible threats to biodiversity, although also affected by climate change to some extent.  We have the means and technologies to reduce the effects of these threats, and the main challenge is to find solutions, which are biologically, politically and economically acceptable.

 

6. Appropriate valuation/appreciation of biological diversity, and raised public awareness on the role of biodiversity in sustainable development and public participation in biodiversity related activities and decision making:

 

This is an extremely important objective as the way we think of and value biodiversity form the foundation on which to build sustainable use and management of this natural resource. There is still a major need to raise general awareness levels of the value of Botswana‘s biodiversity capital to society and the ecological services it provides from primary school to government decision making. Public participation in decision-making involving the use of biodiversity will encourage public support and participation and is vital to achieve sustainable solutions, be it for land use, or use of components of biodiversity.

 

7. Fair access to biological resources and equitable sharing of benefits arising from the use of biological resources.

 

Fair access to biological resources and equitable sharing of benefits deriving there from is one of the three key components of the CBD. There is an urgent need for Botswana to develop a specific Biodiversity Access and Benefit Sharing (ABS) strategy, which will address access to the actual resources as well as to related indigenous knowledge. The strategy should also identify means of encouraging fair benefit distribution. The ABS strategy would subsequently need to be supported by appropriate legislation, strengthened import and export regulations and enforcement in order to encourage use of biodiversity components and to discourage bio-piracy and un-equitable sharing of benefits. The right to utilize components of biodiversity is often taken for granted, but with that right comes a responsibility to ensure that the resources are used sustainably and not wasted or depleted. One important concept of the Strategy is therefore to link the right to access to resources with the responsibility of sustainably using and monitoring of the same resource.

 

8. Safe industrial and technological development and other services based on national biodiversity resources for future prosperity.

 

Botswana has so far applied the precautionary principle when dealing with biotechnology and Biosafety.  New technologies based on genetic resources can however offer scope for economic diversification through research and development and participation in technical joint ventures.  There is a need for a structured approach to biotechnology and related Biosafety issues, which takes into consideration the requirements of the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety to the Convention on Biological Diversity. The Ministry of Agriculture is already in the process of developing a national Biosafety framework and protocol, which links in with this strategy. There is also a need to raise public awareness

about biotechnological opportunities and risks.

 

9. Improved availability and access to biodiversity data and information, and promotion of exchange of information:

 

Information and data are essential components of responsible and informed decision making. There is a need to facilitate the access and use of existing biodiversity data and to generate new data where there are gaps in our knowledge. The proposed model for streamlining the access to national biodiversity data include a computerized biodiversity Clearing House Mechanism (CHM) and the appointment of national focal-point institutions responsible for the recording, safe-keeping and maintaining records and data related to specific groups of organisms.

 

10. Recognition of Botswana‘s and the Southern African Region’s roles with regards to Biodiversity:

 

Botswana shares a lot of its natural resources with neighbouring countries and some of the identified eco-regions and eco-systems stretch across the national borders. Regional collaboration is therefore important for the long-term success of conservation programmes. Regional collaboration, cooperation and consistency are also important when setting standards and developing legal and policy frameworks, and to increase markets and for sharing resources, and thus reduce costs. To efficiently conserve biodiversity in the region it is important that access regulations (to wild medicinal plants for example) and management standards (including Biosafety and management of Invasive Alien Species) are harmonized.

 

11. Implementation of this Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan: 

 

It is important for the future health of Botswana‘s biodiversity that the Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan is implemented together with the existing National Conservation Strategy without delay. A critical prerequisite for successful implementation is to achieve political and high-level support and will to implement the strategy. This will help to drive the process. Public support and acceptance are also of key importance.  In addition, efficient coordination is a key requirement. It is proposed that a BSAP implementation office be established within the Ministry of Environment, Wildlife and Tourism, with the specific task of coordinating, monitoring and evaluating Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan activities. To achieve full effect, the Strategy also needs to form an integral part of the national planning process and through appropriate interventions at the national level filter down to the users of biodiversity.

 

COMMENTARY

It is clear that Botswana has made concerted efforts to ensure that its biodiversity is maintained and protected to benefit the current and future generation but more needs to be done to translate the policies on paper to actual activities.  The most important factor is the involvement of stakeholders, more especially those who live in areas where the natural resources are found.  It is known that most communities depend on the natural resources found in their vicinities, taking an example of the mophane worm (a valuable local food source) which feeds from mophane tree leaves at certain periods during the rainy season. The communities in the areas have to be educated on the sustainable harvesting of the mophane worm to ensure that the resource is not depleted for future use and also for the maintenance of a good balance of the ecosystem. Understanding and appreciation of the importance of keeping that balance would help communities take calculated efforts to keep their natural resources healthy.

 

More research also needs to be done to determine the extensive natural resources that the country has and to further determine various uses for those resources some of which can be translated into commercial products.  Also there are issues of intellectual property protection that can be explored.  Geographic indications might be used to protect commercial rights and distribution of the mophane worms from distinct localities. The country therefore needs researchers in the field to ensure that that information is available and can be used for policy, economic and business decisions to contribute to social and productive needs of the country.

 

Public Private Partnerships (PPP) should also be adopted to shift the burden of implementation from the government.  A PPP is a contractual agreement between a public agency and a private sector entity.  Through this agreement the skills and assets of each sector (public and private) are shared in delivering a service or facility for the use of the general public.  In addition to the sharing of resources, each party shares in the risks and rewards potential in the delivery of service and or facility. www.ncppp.org.  Through this arrangement government will be able to diversify its economy through a strong partnership with the private sector for the benefit of the citizens.  More collaboration can also be established between the various government departments to facilitate transfer of information and knowledge and the development of policies and laws to make implementation easier of the Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan easier.  PPP’s can facilitate intellectual property protection, commercialization and distribution of products derived from biodiversity, for example traditional medicines. 

 

The review of the Industrial Property Act presented an opportunity for Botswana to make provisions for the protection of traditional knowledge and whether those are sufficient to enable strong protection is yet to be determined when implementation starts.

 

The country is also interested in the ongoing discussions at WIPO on the Intergovernmental Committee on Intellectual Property and Genetic Resources, Traditional Knowledge and Folklore which will be holding its Sixteenth session from May 3- 7, 2010. http://www.wipo.int.  It is the hope of countries such as Botswana, which have biodiversity resources that the discussions will culminate into an international instrument for the protection of genetic resources and promote access and benefit sharing such that biodiversity resources are both conserved and utilized.