Speech by the MEC Sylvia Lucas on the occasion of the Kimberley Biodiversity Research Symposuim
4 Sep 2012Programme Director
Members of the Scientific Community
Ladies and Gentlemen
We are extremely excited once more as the Provincial Government and as the department to be part of this occasion which will contribute towards the preservation, protection and development of our biodiversity.
It is heartening to note that the Kimberley Biodiversity Research Symposium has been running for nine years already. During the past nine years this symposium has grown into a recognisable event where various biodiversity related issues have been addressed. The need for more focussed biodiversity research to assist with sustainable land use management purposes has been highlighted. It is therefore my pleasure to announce that in celebration of the tenth anniversary of the symposium, which will take place in 2013, a bigger event is being planned to include even more presentations on biodiversity related research. A workshop is also planned to address research streamlining within the province and to hear from the Northern Cape researchers what challenges are experienced with administrative procedures in obtaining permits and to suggest ways and means to try and improve service delivery to our clients.
Biodiversity is essential to human survival, yet the value of biodiversity still remains largely unrecognised. Currently R27.2 billion is generated annually directly from economic activities supported by biodiversity in South Africa. The estimated value that ecosystem services and species contribute to the South African economy is 7% of South Africa’s Gross Domestic Product which equals approximately R73 billion. Furthermore, over one million jobs are created annually from economic activities directly supported by biodiversity.
The National Department of Environmental Affairs has recently completed a Vulnerability Assessment Report on a Biome level for South Africa. Furthermore the Namakwa District Municipality has also developed a vulnerability assessment report for the Namakwa district which will be launched on the 30th October of this year. Conservation International will also be conducting a vulnerability assessment to enable the selection of pilot sites for ecosystem-based adaptation in the Namakwa District.
A vulnerability assessment is the process of identifying, quantifying and prioritising (or ranking) the vulnerabilities in a system. Vulnerability assessments have many things in common with risk assessments and are typically performed according to four main steps, which include:
The Northern Cape Province cannot afford to lose its biodiversity assets. Despite its low population densities, there are many challenges facing our biodiversity management and conservation. The lack of biodiversity data, especially to assist with developing a proper vulnerability assessment for the entire province, is a serious cause of concern for our department and other conservation organisations within the province. Gaps have been identified in almost every aspect of biodiversity management, which includes ecosystem functioning, species richness, and many more. Some of the presentations which will be delivered at today’s symposium will indicate the importance of obtaining sufficient biodiversity data and also highlight some of the gaps which have been identified within the province.
- Cataloguing assets and resources in a system;
- Assigning quantifiable values (or at least rank order) and importance to those resources;
- Identifying the vulnerabilities or potential threats to each resource; and
- Mitigating or eliminating the most serious vulnerabilities for the most valuable resources.
The lack in data needs to be addressed in a systematic manner in order to ensure the sustainable use of our natural resources and the continuance of this heritage for future generations.
We would therefore like to invite the scientific community present here today to assist us in addressing the current gaps in the immediate future and we hope that some of these issues will be addressed at next year’s tenth anniversary event.
The Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs recently awarded seven Bioprospecting permits benefitting local communities around the country and also launched the guidelines for bioprospecting awareness and benefit sharing. These permits will enable the organisations to legally engage in bioprospecting activities and afford certain benefits to the owners of the traditional knowledge and owners of indigenous biological resources. As a caring society, it is incumbent upon each and every person in our home province to take good care of our biodiversity, in other words our fauna, flora and natural resources in order that we build a sustainable provincial economy.
This is a further demonstration of the role of biodiversity in the economy by improving livelihoods especially for rural communities.
These natural resources underpin a large proportion of the economy and many urban and rural people are directly dependent on them for employment, food, shelter, medicine and spiritual well being.
We are pleased that through this permit system, the Regulations govern the use of indigenous biological resources or associated traditional knowledge targeted for research and development or bioprospecting with an intention to commercialise the end product.
The sustainable use of our biological resources will undoubtedly benefit the local community through the creation of job opportunities as well unlocking the economic potential of the area.
Our government will continue to collaborate with researchers and institutions to ensure that we are able to effectively preserve our fauna and flora for present and future generations.
Without scientific knowledge we are more susceptible to the impacts of climate change, limiting our ability to realise that our climate is changing and to mitigate its impact on our livelihoods. Being a province that is already rated the third most degraded and being largely economically dependent on farming (stock and game) and eco-tourism; we cannot sit back and wait to see what will happen.
Being a country already ranked the fourth worst in vanishing flora and fauna, I call on you (the scientific community) to direct your research towards our practical urgent needs in securing our own future survival and that of our biodiversity we depend on. We know species are limited in their ability to move into more suitable habitats, but through establishing corridors to facilitate the cooler southward and eastward movements of species we might be able to secure the future of at least some species.
Programme Director, with ever increasing demands being placed on our natural resources and heritage due to population growth and urban expansion, and a simultaneous drive to preserve biodiversity for future generations and literally our own survival, we have arrived at a cross road. How do we balance habitat integrity with sustainable utilisation? How do we ensure the survival, the prospering of plant and animal life without curbing economic growth and social upliftment? Some might even say, how do we counteract the thrust of a sixth extinction?
It is vital questions like these that we look to science for guidance. For it is only through rigorous investigation, asking the difficult questions and searching for answers, applying our minds to human-environment interactions, that we can apply appropriate mitigating decisions for sustainable use.
In conclusion, it is important for all of us to work together to conserve our environment, reduce poverty, create jobs and empower our communities to be able to meaningfully participate and make informed decisions which will improve their standard of living.
This year’s symposium once again hosts a variety of talks from scientists from all over South Africa who are conducting their research within our beautiful province. I would like to thank you for assisting us to built our knowledge base within the Northern Cape and wish you an enjoyable and successful symposium.
Issued by: Northern Cape Environment and Nature Conservation
4 Sep 2012
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