Namibia Economist (Windhoek)

8 March 2013

Namibia: Biodiversity Crucial to Ecosystem

The Minisitry of Environment and Tourism seeks high level commitment for the implementation of the second National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan (NBSAPII).

At a recent workshop, attended by experts in biodiversity conservation and sustainable development, findings from the regional NBSAP II consultations which took place in October and November 2012, show that 70% of Namibia's population rely on the natural base for income, food, medicine, fuel and shelter.

According to Sylvester Mbangu, National Development Advisor of the National Planning Commission, the country's dependence on natural resources is expressed in the concept of ecosystem services which play a role in the livelihood and survival of those who depend on the resources. "It is therefore important for us to know and understand that biodiversity is the key component for these ecosystem services and if we want to maintain our wide variety of ecosystem services in the country, then we also have to conserve our biodiversity and promote sustainable utilisation thereof," he said. Mbangu made the remarks on behalf of the Director General of National Planning Commission, Tom Alweendo.

Mbango added that conserving and maintaining the country's biodiversity and ecosystem provides an enabling environment for development and contributes to environmental sustainability. He said bush encroachment is the result of inappropriate rangeland management practices like overgrazing and inappropriate land use. Over many years, this leads to bush encroachment, in some areas so severe that the beef production in those district is far below potential.

Deputy Minister of Environment and Tourism, Pohamba Shifeta emphasised that although the country had achieved numerous successes in conserving biodiversity [and promoting] sustainable utilisation of land, challenges still remain with regard to resources for implementation of activities. He also outlined the lack of research on biodiversity issues and capacity building as major challenges the country is facing. "Careful planning on how to make the best use of our resources is therefore necessary. Clearly, an integrated approach is required here so that the impact of different sectoral activities does not affect biodiversity," said Shifeta.

Apart from having the world's largest population of cheetahs and free-roaming black rhinos, Namibia is one of the very few countries in Africa with internationally-recognised "biodiversity hotspots" which are areas such as the Sperrgebiet, a restricted diamond mining are in the Succulent Karoo floral kingdom and the rugged Namib Escarpment, which forms part of Africa's 'great western escarpment'.

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