UNDP commemorated International Biodiversity Day with a mini-round table meeting held on the 30th of May at the Holiday Inn in Harare. Present at the meeting were thought leaders and advocates from government, private sector, civic society, academia and media.
This year’s commemoration comes under the auspice of the project “Strengthening Biodiversity and Ecosystems Management and Climate-Smart Landscapes in the Mid to Lower Zambezi Region of Zimbabwe”, which is being implemented under a partnership between the Government, GEF and UNDP. The project aims to promote sustainable management and utilization of biodiversity.
The mini-roundtable provided a platform to reflect on the recently published IPBES 2019 Global Assessment Report and the implications of the issues raised with regards to biodiversity in Zimbabwe
‘’ Notwithstanding Zimbabwe’s conservation success, the country faces multiple challenges for development associated with biodiversity loss, ecosystem degradation and climate change consequences. These challenges include deforestation, poaching and illegal wildlife trade, human wildlife conflict’’ – Mr Edward Samuriwo, Director of Environment, Ministry of Environment, Tourism and Hospitality Industry
The UNDP Resident Representative, Georges van Montfort, further reiterated, “Zimbabwe is still rich in biodiversity and it is critical to ensure that this biodiversity is maintained. While we have achieved a lot for social and economic development, we need to recognize that prosperity has also come at the expense of the environment.”
Expert panellists from various sectors spoke on the current challenges being faced in biodiversity conservation in Zimbabwe. Panellists present included : Mr Tanyaradzwa Mundoga , Ministry of Environment; Georges Van Montfort, UNDP ; Yemi Katerere, WWF; Moreangles Mbizah, Independent Consultant; and Dorothy Wakeling, Conservation Society of Monavale (COSMO).
It was noted during the roundtable discussion that the continued decline of biodiversity and ecosystem services is significantly impacting the quality of life. Notably, food systems present a significant threat to biodiversity.
Biodiversity underpins our very human existence and it is under threat from people directly and indirectly. For example, urban sprawl in Zimbabwe is threatening the biodiversity that functions as our life support system “ – Mr Mundoga, Deputy Director , Ministry of Environment and Tourism and Hospitality Industry.
Wetlands ecological integrity remains a major concern. Transformative action is needed to protect and restore degraded ecosystems such as wetlands , a critical part of our natural environment that provide us with clean water. Without healthy wetlands the country faces a serious risk of running out of water. Community members have already come together to protect Monavale Wetland, an important wetland in Harare which provides a habitat for animals and plants and ensures that the community has access to water.
“ We need our wetlands. Without them we have no livelihoods” – Dorothy Wavely, COSMO
Independent Consultant, Moreangels further stated that to confront biodiversity loss, the root of the problem needs to be addressed - humanity.
“Poverty stands out as a key factor driving people to over-depend on biodiversity. Subsequently individuals encroach on forests and poach wildlife in pursuit of sustenance.”
The roundtable largely concluded that there is need for a new narrative and called for transformative action to curb the acceleration of biodiversity loss. The main action points highlighted included:
- Increasing societal dialogue to enhance public awareness on the impact of human activity on biodiversity.
- Identifying and supporting inspired youths to be champions of change in biodiversity conservation.
- “Futures Thinking” – forward thinking and scenario planning to develop tools and policies that will protect biodiversity in the long term.
- Understanding the economic value of ecosystem services and the financial implications of ecosystem degradation to strengthen the arguments and incentives for conservation.
- Resuscitate the National Biodiversity Forum and consider transforming it into a National ‘Think Tank’ on Biodiversity.
- Enhancing monitoring systems for less charismatic species (such as lions, elephants and rhinos), including the biodiversity that we don’t see.