Conservation and the sustainable use of biodiversity together with wildlife are key economic drivers that could play major roles in boosting a country’s socio-economic development.
This was the overall message of Ms. Lizanne Nel, Manager: Conservation with the SA Hunters and Game Conservation Association, when she addressed the seventh After-work-talk of the Environmental Economics Network of Namibia in Windhoek on 15 November.
In highlighting her presentation: “Biodiversity conservation – friend of foe to economic development?”, Ms. Nel said biodiversity should perhaps be repositioned in policy frameworks. Biodiversity should be appreciated in terms of its contribution to conservation, socio-economic development (GDP & job creation), competitive land use, as a rural economic driver, savings in expenditure and food security.
She referred to Operation Phakisa which the South African Government launched in 2014, and modelled on the Malaysian “Big Fast Results” methodology. It operates on a results-driven approach to development, involves various sectors such as business, labour, academia, civil society and government. Furthermore, it serves as a collaboration to develop delivery action plans, setting targets and ongoing monitoring. The challenges of poverty, unemployment and inequality are addressed, with delivery accelerated in key areas.
Wildlife and its socio-economic potential has been targeted as one such area. “The Wildlife sector’s growth per annum has outperformed the General Gross Domestic Product in South Africa over the last number of years.” In 2014 this sector’s growth was measured at 9.3% compared to the national GDP of only 1.52%.
On top of that the Wildlife Sector showed a stable growth in jobs compared to Agriculture. Indeed, it provided three times more jobs and salaries are three times higher than in Agriculture.
According to Ms. Nel the Wildlife Sector underpins various economic activities at a primary and secondary levels. In terms of wildlife ranching the primary activities include the breeding and sale of animals, and secondary economic activities being live capture, translocation services, veterinary services, fencing and maintenance.
Wildlife activities at a primary level comprise of wildlife viewing, trophy and biltong hunting. Secondary contributors include accommodation, transport, equipment and supplies (arms & ammunition) and taxidermy.
Wildlife products at a primary level refer to game meat processing, skin and hide production as well as other products such as for curios and decorations. Packaging and transportation are example of secondary activities.
The Wildlife Sector in South Africa aspires to bring about an inclusive, sustainable and responsive wildlife economy that grows at 10% per year until at least 2030, while providing a foundation for wellbeing and maintaining the ecological resource base. Its objectives target economic growth, transformation and sustainability.
In terms of utilisation possibilities, Ms. Nel distinguished between three production systems, being intensive/commercial, semi-extensive and extensive/protected areas.
She asked which of these should the emphasis be placed on.
In South Africa extensive production systems, especially, could provide big possibilities, such as communal areas and communities alongside protected areas such as the Kruger National Park (KNP).
At the KNP about 90 percent of the annual spend go to Black Empowerment Companies. Local small and medium enterprises locally operate as safari companies, arts and craft outlets, community kiosks and community car washes. A total of N$628 million was invested in SMME infrastructure development since 2006.
About 12 500 people work in the KNP and neighbouring conservation areas. Up to 90 percent of the staff of the KNP are from areas adjacent to the KNP. A total of 41 student chefs was trained.
Ecosystem services around the KNP provide further opportunities. About 61 percent of the KNP perimeter is conserved land. Households derive income from thatch and worm harvesting. In terms of cultural benefits, the 1,6 million visitors per year are engaged. More than 165 000 people were involved in park based activities in 2014.
Awareness raising and education target 3 700 locals participating in issue-based campaigns and learners and kids attend various educational programmes in the KNP. Quite a number of local people can enter the park for free and half price permits are issued to local communities.
The return on investment by extensive/protective areas production systems of N$8,500 per 100 ha compares excellent to the N$2,305/100 ha of intensive/commercial systems and N$7,059/100 ha for semi-extensive systems.
Extensive/protective areas production systems provide an average of 33 permanent of 133 jobs per 1 000 ha, compared to 11 permanent of a total of 28 jobs per 1 000 ha in intensive/commercial systems.
Extensive/protective areas production systems, however, face various challenges. These include unproductivity, a lack of access to financing, no private landownership and competition from mines in terms of land use.
According to Ms. Nel wildlife provides unique opportunities to communal people and areas. Wildlife is able to compete as a sustainable land use form and should be aligned in land use planning and restitution processes. Different valuation and approaches are needed. New generation partnerships, being multi-disciplinary and multi-sectoral, should be formed. The benefits derived from wildlife should be packaged throughout the value chain and support industries.
Transformation should be accelerated and the communities should be educated through mentoring programmes, which should be resilient and adaptive.
She concluded by saying that the role of protected areas should be elevated to off-site accelerators in socio-economic growth. Policy frameworks should be inclusive of all of these and it should be about a collaboration of all stakeholders involved.