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Mapping Africa’s biodiversity will make planning easy

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Mapping the occurrence and status of species and ecosystems in South Africa, Namibia, Mozambique, and Malawi will produce information that assists in the development of national strategies and action plans to ensure biodiversity is integrated into the planning and decision-making processes. Image credit: Leon Louw for WhyAfrica

Mapping Africa’s biodiversity will make planning easy

Biodiversity is one of Africa’s greatest natural resources and should be integrated into national planning and all decision-making processes.

The more information we collect about Africa’s biodiversity, and the more we educate decisionmakers in the private and public sectors about its value, the better we will be able to plan for future development.

In June this year, in the presence of the French Ambassador to South Africa, the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI) signed a financial agreement with Agence Française de Développement to implement a spatial biodiversity assessment, prioritisation and planning project (SBAPP).

Mapping the occurrence and status of species and ecosystems in South Africa, Namibia, Mozambique, and Malawi will produce information that assists in the development of national strategies and action plans to ensure biodiversity is integrated into the planning and decision-making processes.

The project will run for five years and will terminate in June 2027. Project objectives include in-country assessments of a wide range of different species and ecosystem types that are facing pressure from infrastructure and agricultural development, the over-utilisation of natural resources, pollution, biological invasions, and climate change.

The information collected as part of the SBAPP project will be managed by the participating countries and made available to the public.

SANBI, a pioneer in this work, is the project’s lead implementing agency, with country coordination by the Namibian Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Tourism; the Wildlife Conservation Society country office in Mozambique in coordination with the Mozambique National Directorate of Environment; and the Malawi University of Science and Technology in collaboration with the Malawian Environmental Affairs Department.

Sound decisions about land use needed

According to Shonisani Munzhedzi, CEO of SANBI, it is vital for countries to know what biodiversity they have, where it is, and what state it is in.

“This basic information has multiple applications – including for planning how and where conservation action could be prioritised and for policies and cross-sectoral frameworks to support sustainable development.

“This intervention is timely as it comes at the time when nations of the world are framing the new deal for nature and people in the form of the Post 2020 Global Biodiversity Framework. It further entrenches sound decision-making on appropriate land use, conservation, and sustainable utilisation of natural resources,” says Munzhedzi.

Working regionally with the involvement of stakeholders is key to the project’s success as the four countries share cross-border ecosystem types, are home to similar species communities and face similar environmental pressures. A diverse network of more than 15 partner institutions (government research institutes, non-profit organisations and universities) is involved and is contributing substantial skills and resources.

The project also creates a prime opportunity for expertise and capacity exchange between biodiversity institutes in France, and Southern African countries of Namibia, Mozambique, Malawi, and South Africa.

About the project partners

Besides the main country coordination partners mentioned above, this project involves the following institutions:

  1. Birdlife South Africa
  2. Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT)
  3. University of Cape Town (UCT)
  4. Namibian University of Science and Technology (NUST)
  5. National Museum of Namibia
  6. National Botanical Research Institute (BRI Namibia)
  7. University of Namibia (UNAM)
  8. Museums of Malawi
  9. National Herbarium and Botanical Gardens
  10. Biology department (University of Malawi)
  11. Mzuzu University
  12. Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources

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AgricultureEnvironmental Management & Climate ChangeEnergyESGInfrastructureMiningPolitical EconomyTourism and ConservationWater Management