3 October 2012

Africa: Finding a Nexus Where Environment and Development Meet

Photo: Greenpeace International
Protesters at the Global Day of Action in Copenhagen (file photo).

press release

Washington — Ghana, like any other nation in West Africa, is endowed with abundant and valuable stocks of fish. Fish provide 65 percent of protein for the population, and as many as 2.2 million people are dependent on the fisheries sector for their livelihoods. Yet Ghana's fish resources are heavily exploited – the total number of fish caught each year has peaked and fish catches are in serious decline.

The World Bank's project to support marine fisheries and aquaculture in Ghana, approved in 2011, is designed to help the government move towards sustainable fishing by introducing secure and enforceable fishing rights for fisheries, creating employment opportunities in processing fish for export, reducing illegal fishing, and protecting the ecosystems with improved regulations.

In a new World Bank report "Enhancing Competitiveness and Resilience in Africa," the Ghana project is one of many described that embody the report's key message: Environmental management is key to creating sustainable industries and growth, and should be incorporated into every country's broader development agenda in Africa.

The report, following on the heels of previous strategies for Africa for agriculture, energy, mining, transport, green growth, and climate change, emphasizes the importance of country-driven agendas, partnerships, collaboration across environmental sectors, and the key role of private sector investment as well as local communities.

Making environment central

Idah Z. Pswarayi-Riddihough, World Bank Sector Manager for Environment and Natural Resources Management within the Africa Region, says the report calls for a new approach where development and environmental management goals are both met.

"There is more and more understanding of and acceptance that environment is really a core part of everything that we do," Pswarayi-Riddihough says. "It's not just a separate subject on the side that you sort of deal with in terms of compliance or safeguards."

According to Pswarayi-Riddihough, one of the report's main messages is that countries and their partners should take advantage of doing good work and making sure the work they do is sustainable, by taking into account the environmental effects.

"I think we have gotten to the stage where we say, 'Environment is a core of everything we do,' she said.

The report proposes six areas for action that align with the environmental challenges in Africa and the cross-sectoral nature of environment and natural resource management:

Managing renewable natural resources for growth, resilience and ecosystems sustainability;

Improving the livability of the urban environment;

Making development climate resilient and promoting low carbon growth;

Managing development of mining, oil and gas sustainably;

Enhancing access to energy and infrastructure while mitigating environmental risks; and

Aiding responsible investment through transparent, environmental regulations and institutions.

"The region's agriculture, mining, forests and water basins are all under pressure from environmental degradation, flooding, drought and climate change, making progress all the more difficult," says Jamal Saghir, World Bank Director for Sustainable Development in the Africa Region. "The communities and ecosystems they rely on need an integrated approach to natural resource management. This Action Plan lays out the strategic areas where we will place emphasis as we work to respond to client needs."

The World Bank is already supporting projects, as described in the report, which place environmental management into broader development goals:

In Benin, the World Bank supports the emergency-funded Contonu Urban Environment Project with its three components: improved drainage, collection and disposal of solid waste; improved sanitation and wastewater treatment; and flood and disaster risk preparedness. Similar projects are underway in other urban centers, such as Accra in Ghana, and Zanibar in Tanzania.

In Niger, the World Bank supports the Government's Strategic Program for Climate Resilience (SPRC) with a focus on sustainable land and water management, improved weather services, and social protections in rainfed areas. The project builds on Niger's farmer managed forest regeneration program that gives simple title to farmers to land and the trees, resulting in widespread recovery of vegetation, new fodder for livestock, and controlled erosion. Ethiopia has a similar project, while in Senegal, the focus is on flooded early warning systems and coastal protection planning.

In the Democratic Republic of Congo, the World Bank supports environmental management plans developed by local communities as part of a larger road improvement project. The program enables more transparent environmental governance and oversight in a country where environmental agencies are weak.

In Ethiopia, World Bank funds support programs to improve the oversight skills of those working for local environmental protection agencies.

Climate resilience and adaptation

The report stresses the World Bank's message that climate change adaption and risk management must be a key part of Africa's development agenda in all areas, ranging from climate-smart agriculture and coastal land-use management, to infrastructure planning and improved weather services.

As much as 30% of greenhouse gas emissions in Africa are caused by land and forest degradation, land use change and deforestation, the report notes. In addition to expected low carbon projects such as the support for bus fleets in Lagos, Nigeria, the World Bank also supports low carbon growth through agroforestry and sustainable land management. In Kenya, for example, the World Bank supports a government project that is increasing the productivity of 60,000 hectares of land by improving land fertility and landscape restoration that also results in carbon sequestration.

"Responsible management of the environment, including natural capital, offers enormous opportunities to advance human and economic development," says Pswarayi-Riddihough. "The challenge now is to support governments, businesses, and people in the region to pursue development programs with an eye on sustainable resource management."

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