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National Biodiversity Economy report launched

Launch of the Zimbabwe Biodiversity Economy (ZBE) Study Report Photo by John Cassim, ConseveZim

The National Biodiversity Economy report was launched in Harare today. The Ministry of Environment, Climate, Tourism and Hospitality Industry with support from the African Wildlife Foundation commissioned a National Biodiversity Economy study on the 15th of June 2021 to provide insight into the contribution of biodiversity to the economy of Zimbabwe and inform a planning framework for natural capital accounting.

In her speech during the launch, the Acting Secretary for Environment, Climate, and Wildlife, Mrs. Tarirai Musonza, said the study was necessitated by the need to increase understanding of the contribution of biodiversity to the economic development of the country and subsequently inform investments into the biodiversity economy.

She highlighted that the participation of all stakeholders was thus very important to the success of gathering the required information.

“Your presence here is testimony of your commitment to the work we carried out and future work on the biodiversity economy. The biodiversity economy will play a major role in achieving the National Development Strategy 1 (NDS1) and the realization of Vision 2030 of becoming an empowered and prosperous upper-middle-income country.

“The Zimbabwe Biodiversity Economy (ZBE) Study Report recognizes the key role of nature in Zimbabwe’s economic development and will therefore provide a foundation to harness opportunities and long-term growth of a biodiversity economy, including harnessing investments in this critical economic asset as we endeavour to attain vision 2030,” she said.

Zimbabwe is rich in biodiversity in its varied landscapes and aquatic ecosystems. It has approximately 5,930 vascular plant species, of which 214 are endemic, 670 bird species, 270 mammal species, 156 reptile species, 120 amphibian species, and 141 fish species. These species are found within and outside protected areas. However, this biodiversity is under serious threat from climate change and human activities such as deforestation, wildlife crime, illegal harvesting, and trade of wildlife and forest products.

The country also boasts of an extensive protected areas network of 27.2%. These areas have significantly contributed to the safeguarding of biodiversity. Subsequently, these areas have generated revenue through nature-based tourism. Protected areas have also contributed to global goals such as the Aichi Biodiversity Targets by increasing areas under protection, and those under the Paris Agreement through carbon sequestration.

Indications in the ZBE Report are that the protected areas have the potential to grow in terms of revenue that can be realized. The government is thus in the process of adding new areas to the network as guided by the recently adopted Global Biodiversity Framework. There is however a challenge of financing the management and maintenance of protected areas. The Ministry will thus continue to lobby and engage locally and internationally for more financial support.

Biodiversity and associated ecosystems play a key role in the socio-economic development of the country. However, biodiversity is under threat from various drivers that include overexploitation, land use change, pollution, and invasive alien species. The actual value of biodiversity in socio-economic development is largely unknown. The ZBE Report provides us with a potent tool for advocating the mainstreaming of biodiversity in all sectors as well as the allocation of adequate resources for conservation.

Speaking on the same occasion, Olivia Mufute, the Zimbabwe Country Director of the African Wildlife Foundation (AWF) partnered with the Ministry of Environment, Climate, Tourism, and Hospitality Industry to produce the Zimbabwe Biodiversity Economy Report.

“The ZBE Report not only sets a baseline on the value and contribution of nature but also identifies viable business and investment opportunities through which Zimbabwe can unlock the enormous potential value in its rich biodiversity.

“Ladies and gentlemen, worth noting is that approximately, 5 days ago, over 30 000 delegates from African nations gathered at the 2023 Africa Climate Summit held from 4-6 September 2023 in Nairobi, Kenya. The event, which culminated in the adoption of the Nairobi Declaration sought to deliberate on solutions to climate change shocks and its cost to Africa, as well as influence commitments towards addressing climate change on the African Continent. I am happy that at the local level in Zimbabwe, the launch of the ZBE Report is a manifestation of Zimbabwe’s willingness to act on climate change adaptation and mitigation measures as it contextualizes this global issue within the confines of Zimbabwe. As you may be aware, biodiversity conservation and its benefits play a very critical role in mitigating the effects of climate change fueled by various factors such as deforestation, emission of greenhouse gases, pollution, and other human activities,” she said.

In July 2022, Africa convened its first-ever Africa Protected Areas Congress (APAC) which culminated in the Kigali Declaration, wherein a call was made to Africa to promote the development of biodiversity economies as a way to fund and incentivize conservation. Again, in December 2022, the world deliberated and approved the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework, which recognizes the importance of biodiversity economies in mobilizing critical resources needed to plug the conservation financing gap of over $700 billion a year.

Mufute said the report launch is a demonstration of Zimbabwe’s commitment to fulfilling its regional and international obligations and commitments.

She was optimistic that the ZBE report is a huge milestone for Zimbabwe towards economic development that is consistent with sustainability objectives of social well-being, environmental health, and equitable economy.

“The roadmap for Natural Capital Accounting, illustrated in the report, provides a framework that would help Zimbabwe to mainstream the value and contribution of nature into development planning, policy development, and decision-making on public and private investment. The ZBE Report’s Investment Blueprint highlights opportunities and steps that Government and stakeholders need to take to realise the potential of the country’s biodiversity heritage.  Indeed, the ZBE Report will play an important role in addressing challenges underpinning biodiversity loss in Zimbabwe and positioning the biodiversity economy as a key economic sector to invest in.

“Esteemed stakeholders, the ZBE Report is in line with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) 11, 12, 13, 14, and 15, which speak to environmental protection and is also aligned to SDG 8 which speaks to economic growth. The findings and recommendations of the ZBE Report are important to Zimbabwe’s contribution towards national and international development frameworks as you will find out upon reading it and as you have already seen on the ZBE video shared earlier on,” she added.

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Byron Adonis Mutingwende