Namibia has invented a number of innovative ideas that will enhance the conservation and sustainable use of its ecosystem services and biodiversity.

Henry Ndengendjeho, Biotechnology Coordinator with the Ministry of Environment and Tourism, who deals with fair and equitable benefit sharing of biological and genetic resources, said one idea is to develop and promote strategies for the sustainable use of indigenous plants. Some have medicinal properties while some can be manufactured into cosmetics, liquor or oil for human consumption.

These activities, or ecosystem services, can help communities earn revenue, alleviate poverty and create jobs. Plants that can be utilised include, Hoodia, Devil’s Claw, the !Nara plant, the Marula tree and Kalahari Melon.

The Hoodia plant is used in the making tablets for slimming or weight loss, as the plant has appetite suppressing properties. Devil’s Claw roots and tubers are used in medicine for the treatment of arthritis, gout and muscle pain. Marula fruits are squeezed to extract the liquid to produce liquers, while oil is extracted from the seeds when crushed. The !Nara plant’s bitter roots can be chewed or made into a decoction to treat stomach ache and nausea. Kalahari melon seeds are rich in essential fatty acids and the extracted oil is manufactured into skincare products.

Ndengendjeho made a presentation on Namibia’s efforts towards the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity at a media training session on environmental sustainability in Windhoek on 1 November 2016.

He explained that Namibia is blessed with an impressive wealth of unique diverse genetic resources, species and ecosystems, which are the sources of food, medication, utensils, building material and energy. They also have recreational and spiritual values associated with them.

“Indeed, the country’s biodiversity and associated traditional knowledge are some of the nation’s greatest assets for development,” he pointed out.

The Namibian Government has always recognized the role of rural communities in the use, conservation and management of biodiversity and ecosystems. This is evident in its support of community-based natural resource management programmes, community forests and others.

However, Ndengendjeho said for trade in biological and genetic resources to bear the desired fruits, there is a need for a conducive institutional and legal framework for the country.

The third objective of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), to which Namibia is a Party, calls for a fair and equitable benefit sharing arising from the commercial use of genetic resources. The  Nagoya Protocol to the CBD came as a response towards the implementation of this objective.

In terms of the Nagoya Protocol, biological and genetic resources in rural communities should be accessed through prior informed consent and the benefits should be shared through mutually agreed terms.

Namibia played a major role in the adoption on the 2010 Nagoya Protocol, as it led the negotiations on this on behalf of the African continent.

The Director of Tourism in the Ministry of Environment and Tourism, Sem Shikongo, pointed out that a stronger focus should be placed on the implementation of the CBD in Namibia.

Shikongo, who spoke on the CBD and its implementation in Namibia, said the concept of biodiversity needs to be demystified as well as the processes of biodiversity.

Biodiversity is vital for human survival and the Ministry of Environment and Tourism for this purpose implemented the Resource Mobilization for Biodiversity Conservation (ResMob) Project.

ResMob is a joint project of the Ministry of Environment and Tourism and the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH commissioned by the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety (BMUB). This project is part of the International Climate Initiative (IKI). The supports this initiative on the basis of a decision adopted by the German Bundestag.

The overarching project goal is to improve Namibia’s capacity to mo­bilise financial, human, technical and knowledge-based resources for biodiversity conservation, specifically to support the implementation of the objectives outlined in the second National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan (NBSAP 2).

The key product of the project will be the preparation of a national Resource Mobilisation Strategy for Biodiver­sity Conservation, including concrete policy options, economic instru­ments and communication plans.

This five-year project is busy implementing various communication tools and events to inform policy-makers and the public on the importance of the mobilization of resources in order to conserve Namibia’s biodiversity.