Call for inclusivity in efforts to grow biodiversity economy

Tuesday, March 26, 2024

President Cyril Ramaphosa has emphasised that previously disadvantaged individuals and communities must be at the centre of efforts to fully harness the benefits of the biodiversity economy.

“We must put rural communities at the centre of every decision making process, and ensure we are empowering and equipping them for the new opportunities in the biodiversity sector,” President Ramaphosa said on Tuesday in Boksburg.

Addressing the Inaugural Biodiversity Economy and Investment Indaba, the President called on industry, finance institutions, philanthropies, civil society and traditional leaders, healers and practitioners to collectively embrace government’s vision for a transformed biodiversity economy.

“For us to fully harness the benefits of the biodiversity economy, we have to understand its scope and breadth. Work is underway to develop Natural Capital Accounting for the biodiversity sector.

“This is being done through a partnership between the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment, Statistics South Africa and the South African National Biodiversity Institute. This initiative will ensure that the contribution of the biodiversity sector, including its entire value chain, is formally recognised.”

He said today, sustainable use of biodiversity is a pillar of rural economies across South Africa, supporting hundreds of thousands of jobs.


“Sustainable biodiversity use also contributes to urban economies. For example, traditional medicine markets exist in nearly every major urban centre in South Africa.

“The trade in indigenous medicine plants is a multi-million-rand industry that supports jobs and livelihoods across the value chain. As a country, we have been firm that communities must benefit in a tangible manner when plant and animal species are harvested for commercial gain,” the President said.

He mentioned that Rooibos as a product is popular not just in South Africa but around the world.

“Four years ago, the first industry-wide benefits sharing agreement was launched between the South African Rooibos Industry and the Khoi and San Councils.

“This agreement has to date distributed a total amount of R28 million to the two councils in recognition of the communities’ indigenous knowledge of the Rooibos species.”

There must be tangible beneficiation in communities when indigenous plant species are harvested for commercial benefit, whether it is for medicine, cosmetics or other purposes.

“Sustainable mass cultivation of indigenous plant species must support the creation of businesses, factories and value chains that allow for end products to be exported to the rest of the continent and abroad.

“This mass cultivation can also assist land restoration and rehabilitation, as well as carbon sequestration, which is important in the context of climate change. To ensure a more holistic approach to access and benefit sharing, we are developing nurseries for the production of   indigenous species, so these can be cultivated for medicinal and cosmetic purposes,” Ramaphosa said.

There are already a number of commercially successful game meat production facilities in several parts of the country.

“For many decades, fishing was the preserve of commercial enterprises only. This is something we are working hard to change. In January this year, we allocated 15-year fishing rights to the small-scale fishing sector in the four coastal provinces. We must build on this,” said the President.

Job creation

“Job creation must be at the centre of our efforts. As with our mineral resources, we cannot simply be mere exporters of raw materials so that jobs and industries can be created elsewhere. Jobs and opportunities must remain here, in South Africa, in our communities. This is what the revised Biodiversity Economy Strategy aims to address,” the President said.

He said when it comes to animal species, beneficiation must result in the establishment of community-run businesses, be they lodges or game meat butcheries and production facilities.

“We have a Game Meat Strategy that is focused on scaling economic enterprises for communities and previously disadvantaged individuals and providing land use patterns that are compatible with conservation.

“It aims to synergise our economic and conservation objectives by emphasising that a successful biodiversity economy must be linked to the restoration of ecosystems. It broadens the existing terrestrial goals and adds marine, coastal, estuarine and freshwater opportunities,” the President said.


This strategy places the transformation of the biodiversity sector at the centre of efforts to fully harness the benefits of the biodiversity economy.

“Rural communities, disadvantaged individuals and traditional leaders must be part of devising new approaches to investment in community-owned land for biodiversity-based enterprises.

“The work to conserve and restore our biodiversity takes place as the world is experiencing the increasingly destructive effects of climate change. African countries are among the most vulnerable to the effects of a rapidly changing climate. They have to adapt and build resilience within the context of historically low levels of development and severely limited capacity,” the President said.

The Climate Change Bill, which is currently before the National Council of Provinces, seeks to enable a just transition towards a low-carbon, climate-resilient society.

“This just transition must contribute toward the creation of decent work for all, social inclusion and the eradication of poverty. A just transition puts people at the centre of decision making, especially those most affected by the transition, by empowering and equipping them for new opportunities of the future,” the President said. –