DFFE drives transformation within the biodiversity sector for economic growth

Thursday, June 27, 2024

By Mohlago Flora Mokgohloa

Transformation of the Biodiversity Sector remains sacrosanct and is a major lever to ensure that the sector makes a significant contribution to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of the country whilst conserving valuable natural resources. 

The Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment (DFFE) is entrusted with the constitutional mandate to manage, protect, and conserve South Africa’s environment and natural resources, has made significant strides in conserving our natural resources and ensuring sectoral transformation.

This progress is highlighted by the recent revision of the National Biodiversity Economy Strategy (NBES) which seeks to advance an inclusive biodiversity sector that locally beneficiate the rich indigenous biological and genetic resources for a thriving people and nature. This renewed focus on transformation was central to discussions during the 2024 Biodiversity Economy and Investment Indaba (BEII) held earlier this year in March in Ekurhuleni east of Johannesburg, Gauteng.

Many of the over 1000 participants at the BEII reiterated that the Biodiversity Sector as a whole urgently requires transformation. This transformation must ensure the meaningful and equitable inclusion of rural communities and previously disadvantaged individuals into the biodiversity economy, and biodiversity conservation and sustainable use in general.

The aim of the BEII was to enhance the conversation on the NBES and its contribution to addressing poverty, unemployment, and inequality. It also aimed to promote multi-stakeholder commitment to strengthening the biodiversity economy sector and enriching the dialogue among industry players around the goals of the White Paper on Conservation and Sustainable Use of South Africa's Biodiversity (the White Paper 2023). The Indaba promoted cooperative governance and whole of society approach for effective policy implementation and business-to-business trading, networking, and sustainable partnerships and showcasing market-ready biodiversity products and services from across the biodiversity economy value chains through exhibitions.

Consistent with the policy context of the White Paper, the revised NBES is founded on the key pillars of conservation, sustainable use, beneficiation of biodiversity business value chains, and transformation. These pillars promote sustainable and inclusive socio-economic growth and development. This requires growing and sustaining conservation land and seascapes while promoting and facilitating inclusive biodiversity-based businesses that drive the transformation of the biodiversity sector.

South Africa’s approach to biodiversity is holistic, recognizing the benefits that intact ecosystems, healthy species populations, and genetic diversity bring to the economy and society for people and nature to thrive. The country promotes a diverse biodiversity-based economy, balancing ecological, social, and economic elements. This is not about exploiting natural resources for short-term gains but ensuring healthy ecosystems and long-term survival of species, inclusive growth where benefits are shared equitably and people live in harmony with nature.

The NBES, informed by the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework and the White Paper, expands on previous strategies to include marine, coastal, estuarine, and freshwater opportunities. Another vital part of the strategy is ecosystem restoration and the recognition of the importance of ecological infrastructure ensuring that both nature and people can thrive sustainably.

Transformation is a crucial theme in the NBES, aiming to include rural communities and previously disadvantaged individuals in the biodiversity economy for rural socio-economic development. Successful examples of biodiversity transformation like the Tshivhula Communal Property Association (CPA), the Makuleke in the Limpopo section of the Kruger National Park, and Babanango in KwaZulu Natal Province showcase how land restitution can lead to socio-economic benefits. These projects demonstrate the potential for community-owned land to be used for conservation businesses while promoting sustainable rural development.

The story of Tshivhula Game Farm-Ndou Safaris in Limpopo is a testament to the positive impact of such initiatives. With 20,000 hectares of land restored to the Tshivhula community, the farm has become a model of biodiversity stewardship, focusing on hunting and ecotourism. Basic infrastructure and capacity support from, national and provincial governments, and public entities like South African National Parks (SANParks)  and further investment from private partners has been crucial to this success.

The DFFE's efforts to invite various media houses to witness the success of the Tshivhula Game Farm-Ndou Safaris illustrate the department’s success in transforming the sector. The media group that attended the BEII Post-Indaba Media Excursion at the facility was able to engage with the CPA, the private partner, employees at Tshivhula Game Farm-Ndou Safaris, SANParks officials, Limpopo Land Claims Commissioner officials, and DFFE officials. The excursion concluded with a visit to Mapungubwe National Park which is also a World Heritage Site and part of the Transfrontier Conservation Area shared with Zimbabwe and Botswana, where the media group had another opportunity to engage with officials during the game drive and a tour of the museum.

As South Africa continues its journey under the 7th administration, the revised NBES provides a framework for growth and transformation in the biodiversity sector. By balancing conservation with sustainable use and ensuring inclusive socio-economic development, South Africa is demonstrating how natural resources can be used responsibly and in a manner that benefits all citizens and grow the economy.

*Mohlago Flora Mokgohloa is the Deputy Director-General: Biodiversity and Conservation at the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment.