ValuES is a global project that aids decision-makers in partner countries in recognizing and integrating ecosystem services into policy making, planning and implementation of specific projects. ValuES also promote knowledge-sharing via regional workshops and participation in global discussion forums. Furthermore, the ValuES project offers technical advice and capacity development through various trainings, case studies, methods and access to information. The training programmes are developed according to the country needs and Namibia was fortunate enough to have received a number of trainings on Economic Valuation and a week-long autumn school programme with the Namibian University of Science and Technology department of Agricultural and Natural Resource Management.
This year, the regional meeting was attended by 45 delegates from different Asian and European countries and Namibia being the only African country. The 4 days meeting objectives were to promote the exchange of experiences and challenges faced in the integration of ecosystem services into policy, facilitate dialogue with regards to methods, tools and practical insights for the assessment, valuation and integration of ecosystem services into public policies, establish collaboration among participants, engage in peer-coaching among projects and strengthen the ValuES network.
The regional meeting is of relevance to Namibia, particularly the Resource Mobilisation for Biodiversity Conservation Project being implemented by the Ministry of Environment and Tourism, and GIZ. The overarching goal of the Resource Mobilisation project is to build the Namibian capacity in demonstrating the value of ecosystem services and consequently support the mobilisation of resources for biodiversity conservation. The outcomes of this project will help to facilitate the achievement of the targets agreed in the Country’s Second National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan (NBSAP2).
This meeting acted as a source of guidance for the ResMob activities as it was attended by key partner stakeholders from United Nations Environment Programme-The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity, Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) and other similar ValuES projects.
The participation of Namibia in this international meeting allowed for Namibia to share experiences on the ecosystem service concept, as well as learning from the experience of other countries that work on related projects. Namibia through the ResMob project has done extensive work using the Ecosystem Service approach. One such example is the Development of the Ecosystem Service Inventory of Namibia which was the scoping phase for the Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB) country study.
Currently, the ResMob project is conducting a national TEEB study with the aim of valuing the ecosystem services of national parks, conservancies and private farms. In addition, TEEB case studies with selected corporate companies are to be conducted to disclose companies’ dependence and impacts on natural capital. To date biodiversity is incorporated in the fifth National Development Plan and Ecosystem Services are integrated into policy documents such as Economics of Land degradation study of the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry.
The main highlight of the meeting was during the mutual update session when countries underlined on the progress made, benefits and the challenges faced with using the ecosystem services concept. Most of the countries faced similar challenges of lack of capacity and awareness, importance of engaging various stakeholders especially government agencies for political support and lack of institutional and legal framework, legitimacy of Ecosystem Services Assessments and Valuation, and effective communication. Solutions to these challenges all bared mention to increasing capacity through integrating Ecosystem Services concept into the universities curricula, providing trainings to raise awareness and facilitating inter-sectoral meetings.
Namibia highlighted that the ResMob project is coming to an end and thus it is important to mainstream the work it has done into that of the Environmental Economics Unit under the Department of Environmental Affairs at the Ministry of Environment and Tourism and the Environmental Economics Network of Namibia. In addition, the project is also supporting capacity development at universities to improve and promote teaching of the environmental economics subjects in future. This action was backed up by including the Head of Department for Agriculture and Natural Resource Sciences at the Namibian University of Science and Technology in this regional meeting in order to facilitate the inclusion of Values Summer School into the University’s curricula.
As a case study, the meeting delegates visited the Dr Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary in the Chorao Island, Goa. The bird sanctuary is managed under the conservation efforts of the Goa Forest Department and with support from GIZ. A mangrove interpretation facility was set up in April 2016 to provide information on areas of unique ecology and history. This protected area was once a rice field but due to land use change, it is now a mangrove ecosystem that supports a high diversity of flora and fauna. The team also visited the existing farms on the island to get a feel of how humans continue to benefit and utilise ecosystem services for food production.
One key question that was relevant to Namibia was how to introduce the Ecosystem Service Concept as a tool for political decision making. Recommendations were made to link the ecosystem services to a political hot topic, backed up with evidence in a national policy document, and identify influential champions who can take the topic forward and integrate relevant capacity development trainings. Furthermore, it was advised to embed ecosystem services into existing tools such as Integrated Regional Land Use Plans and the Environmental and Social Impact Assessment and to use the results from case studies to show usefulness and practicality of ecosystem services approach.
It was noted that in order to tackle the challenge of influencing political decision-makers, it is important to use ecosystem services in economic terms. Other useful recommendations included translating policy documents into local languages and incorporating a Training of Trainers programme.