A nexus that needs to empower nationally
From a small wooden hut on a riverbank of the Okavango River in Namibia, a young boy watches over a handful of grazing impalas as the early morning breeze lifts.
On the other side of the world, a business executive pours herself a glass of cool water at the end of a sweltering day in Washington DC. On the opposite continent to the south, an aspiring tour guide is reading a book on insects of the Amazon of Brazil, anxious to make an impression on his first tour group the following week.
Far north-east of Africa, a fisherman in South Sudan heads home with his day’s catch of catfish, enough to feed his family and a few neighbours. Nearly 2 500 km to the north, a participant at the Conference of Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity in Berlin places an order for a kudu game steak.
Although they may not realise it, these people all share a common bond in a very real, tangible and vital way. Each depends on a protected area for food, water, income and/or subsistence. The examples cited illustrate the fundamental but often overlooked relationship between human welfare and the biodiversity found within protected areas. The species, ecosystems and ecological processes that compose the natural world are as basic to human existence as food and water
Namibia is well known for its wealth of species, diverse habitat, unique biology and as an endemism hotspot for many species – particularly mammals, birds and amphibians – that are of global significance.
In recent years the Government of Namibia has established an impressive system of state-managed Protected Areas (PAs) aimed at protecting and conserving biological diversity. These efforts are being complemented by a strong community-based natural-resource management regime through communal conservancies. Protected areas play a critical role in the protection and conservation of the world’s natural and cultural resources. Their inherent values range from the protection of biodiversity to supporting ecosystem functions and resilience in surrounding areas. Worldwide, protected areas have become a standard and indispensible tool for the protection, conservation and restoration of biological diversity.
At a time when threats to the environment have never seemed greater, the importance of biological diversity and its conservation have never been clearer. The conservation of ecosystems and biodiversity is the foundation of a sustainable economy. Water, food, shelter and energy are the building blocks upon which life and economic systems are built. The resilience of the global economy is intricately linked to the state of the environment.
Twenty years after the international community meeting in Rio de Janeiro agreed on the triad of ecological, economic and social sustainability, the subject of a green economy is gaining ground in debates on the environment and development. Many international organisations have developed their own definitions and programmes designed to boost economic growth, create jobs and protect natural resources, all at the same time. In view of the ecological, social and economic problems caused by the overuse of natural resources and the continued increase in greenhouse gas emissions, the question of a sustainable economic order is more urgent than ever. To date this agenda continues to chart the policy course for the world towards sustainable global development.
The current threats to protected areas across the globe are linked largely to climate change, invasive species, over-harvesting of biological resources, infrastructure for energy and transportation, inappropriate resource-management policies, unregulated tourism and recreation, encroachment, and development. In addition, economic growth in its present form is reaching its limits, global energy and resource consumption is soaring, while forests are shrinking, drinking water is becoming scarce and ecosystems are vanishing along with flora and fauna. The current global consumption patterns are unsustainable, coupled with high population growth rates.
Given this, we believe that the green economy concept in the context of protected areas needs to be locally relevant to the people so as to generate prosperity and security. Green economy development in protected areas needs to be nationally empowering so that it can support industries and services such as the tourism and hospitality sector. At a time when tourists are demanding greener products, there is a need to adapt tourism products and services in such a way that they are environmentally friendly. Developing best-practice guidance and standards for advancing sustainability in key industry sectors, such as agriculture, extractives, and tourism is crucial for achieving a green economy in the context of natural resource management.
This article was originally published in the 2013 Conservation and the Environment in Namibia magazine.