FINDING new ways for Namibian to derive an income from natural resources on a sustainable level without permanently damaging the environment amidst the devastating drought and the current economic downturn will a be tough nut to crack.
The Minister of Environment and Tourism, Pohamba Shifeta, officiated at the official opening of a session at the National Conference on the current state of sustainable natural resource management and said the government is grappling with amongst others the issue commercial harvesting of slow-growing hardwood trees for export overseas.
“These activities only benefit few individuals here and abroad at the expense of the broader population, economy and environment. Namibia is not like other tropical rain forest countries where you can undertake large-scale commercial timber harvesting. The levels of harvesting we have seen in recent years have been inherently unsustainable and we, therefore, need to ensure that these activities are carefully controlled and regulated.”
Minister Shifeta said the Ministry of Environment and Tourism is obliged by the Namibian Constitution and other laws such as Environmental Management Act to protect the Namibian environment entirely, on land, water and in the air.
“The environment belongs to us all, needs to benefit us all and be protected by us all and most importantly bequeath it to the future generations. I therefore urge every citizen, to respect and adhere to the numerous measures put in place to ensure the sustainable use of our natural resources including wildlife, fisheries and forest resources. Let us comply with measures such as quotas and permits and be accountable,” he said.
The conference on the Current State of Sustainable Natural Resources Management in Namibia and Ways is aimed at unlocking Namibia’s bio-economy potential.
The minister said the conference comes at a opportune time because it is more important than ever, especially during the time where increasing levels of deforestation and land degradation are experienced.
Minister Shifeta’s full address reads as follows:
It is my profound pleasure to be here with you today to provide the keynote address under this session on the sustainability of forests and its ecosystem services.
Let me at the onset thank the organizers for this profound initiative. The theme of the conference on the Current State of Sustainable Natural Resources Management in Namibia and Ways to Unlock its Bio-economy Potential is both timely and extremely significant.
The Namibian Government recognizes the importance of natural resources and the role of the ecosystem services in sustaining our lives. Our Constitution obliges the State to act positively and to put measures in place to promote the “maintenance of ecosystems, essential ecological processes and biological diversity of Namibia and utilization of living natural resources on a sustainable basis for the benefit of all Namibians, both present and future” (Article 95(L)).
This article is more important than ever now, especially during this time as we continue to experience increasing levels of deforestation and land degradation. For us as a country to succeed in the fight against deforestation, we must ensure that devolution of rights is accompanied by livelihood improvement opportunities through ecosystem services and the sustainable use of forest resources.
Over the past 29 years, the Ministry of Environment and Tourism has put various measures in place to ensure the effective implementation of Article 95 L of our constitution. From the forestry ecosystem point of view, section 3(2)(d) of the Environmental Management Act No. 7 of 2007 provides that “equitable access to environmental resources (such as forests and others) must be promoted and the functional integrity of ecological systems must be taken into account to ensure the sustainability of the systems and to prevent harmful effects”.
Furthermore, section 3(2)(l) of the Environmental Management Act states that “damage to the environment must be prevented and activities which cause such damage must be reduced, limited or controlled.”
The Government has also developed approaches to devolve rights and responsibilities to communities over the conservation and sustainable use of natural resources. Such approaches include the establishment of the Community-based Natural Resource Management Programme and community forests have become important providers of ecosystem services, especially in North eastern part of our country.
The CBNRM programme provides a legal framework to empower communities in wildlife conservation and the utilization of forest resources and has created incentives for sustainable development and co-existence with fauna and flora.
As the theme of this session is focusing on the ‘sustainability of forests and its ecosystem services’, we all know that humans derive essential services from biodiversity. These services are also known as ecosystem services and are grouped into four (4) primary categories. These are
Regulating services – this is the ability of ecosystems to sequester Carbon, natural regulation and regeneration of populations and the purification of air and water.
Provisioning services – this is the ability of ecosystems to provide us with resources essential for life such as food, crops, raw materials such as timber and fodder, clean water, medicinal resources and energy derived from hydropower and renewable sources for example.
Supporting services – these are services that make it possible for ecosystems to function such as nutrient recycling, soil formation and pollination.
Cultural services – this refers to the cultural importance of biodiversity as well as it importance for activities linked to recreation and tourism.
Ecosystem services underpin Namibia’s economy and human well-being. About 70 % of Namibia’s population directly rely on it for their livelihood. A number of recent studies have emonstrated the economic benefits that Namibia derives from biodiversity. It is estimated that approximately N$13 billion in revenue is generated annually from biodiversity, with an estimated 40% of this accounted for by tourism.
Ecosystem services are of particular importance to the most deprived sections of our society, especially our communities residing in rural areas. They have little or no land, little or no fuel, little or no income, and struggle daily with the burden of poverty. There is a natural link between forests and the rural population. Forest resources can provide, building materials, fuel, craft materials and importantly much needed employment. These resources are also renewable once they are used sustainably.
Our Ministry is determined together with line ministries and other key stakeholders to promote a thriving forest sector, utilised to the lasting benefit of the society, and developed and managed to protect and to improve the environment.
There are important over-riding concerns for us as a Ministry. It is particularly important that we desist from exploiting any of our natural resources for short term gains which ignores the future and thereby sacrifices the future generations.
With this in mind, I would like to inform you that my Ministry is still gripped with tackling the commercial harvesting of slow-growing hardwood trees for export overseas. These activities only benefit few individuals here and abroad at the expense of the broader population economy and environment. Namibia is not like other tropical rain forest countries where you can undertake large-scale commercial timber harvesting. The levels of harvesting we have seen in recent years have been inherently unsustainable and we, therefore, need to ensure that these activities are carefully controlled and regulated. Otherwise the future generations will not forgive s as our forest habitats will have disappeared.
I would like to reiterate that the Ministry of Environment and Tourism is obliged by the Namibian Constitution and other laws such as EMA to protect the Namibian environment entirely, on land, water and air. And we do so without fear, favour or prejudice.
I therefore urge every citizen, to respect and adhere to the numerous measures put in place to ensure the sustainable use of our natural resources including wildlife, fisheries and forest resources. Let us comply with measures such as quotas and permits and be accountable. The environment belongs to us all, needs to benefit us all and be protected by us all and most importantly bequeath it to the future generations.
As you deliberate and identify opportunities to unlock the economic potential of natural resources, let us think of the most vulnerable in our society and focus on measures that are practical and lead to improvement in the livelihood of our people in a sustainable manner.
With those few words, I wish you fruitful deliberations and assure you that the Ministry will continue to support initiatives that are aimed at improving the conservation, management and sustainable utilisation of our natural resources as well as improving livelihoods of our people.