Reports from the Field (Part 3): BIOFIN advances in South Africa

16 Oct 2015

Tracey Cumming is the BIOFIN project leader in the Department of Environmental Affairs in South Africa. In this Report from the Field, Tracey comments on biodiversity challenges and BIOFIN approach in the country. 

As the new National Biodiversity Strategy is shaping up in South Africa, what are the main priorities for biodiversity in the country for the coming years?

South Africa is one of the most biologically diverse regions in the world, recognised for species diversity and endemism, as well as diversity of ecosystems. The country also faces significant pressures on biodiversity, and has three globally recognised hotspots.  Some of the primary causes of loss and degradation of natural habitat are cultivation and overgrazing, invasive alien species, coastal development and mining.  The National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan -NBSAP- presents a roadmap to conserve, manage, rehabilitate and sustainably use biodiversity in line with the South Africa’s development plans. To this end, we need to continue integrate biodiversity into the national development path, demonstrating how biodiversity and ecosystem services support job creation, climate change adaptation, sustainable rural livelihoods and water security. We also need to continue to expand the protected area estate to reach national and international targets, and manage our existing protected areas effectively.

From the work done so far for BIOFIN, can you share some observations about biodiversity finance challenges in the country?

The biodiversity sector is expected to experience reduced government funding over the coming years, while still aiming to meet national and international targets and continue to manage biodiversity of global significance. In the face of this, we need to look at building partnerships between government and the private sector, including NGOs and landowners. We also need to better mainstream biodiversity into other government sectors, ensuring funding flows from these sectors into biodiversity management. We already know that biodiversity underpins society and the economy in a number of ways. This needs to be communicated better, and it needs to result in real policy and institutional changes that bring about additional sustainable finance for the biodiversity sector. 

BIOFIN also aims to help countries to look into finance from the private sector. Can you share some examples with us on how the private sector finances biodiversity in South Africa?

One example is our biodiversity stewardship model. Here, government partners with landowners and NGOs to conserve and manage biodiversity. These partnerships result in long-term, secure, well-managed protected areas on private and communal land. This programme effectively sees substantial investment in-kind from landowners, while the government is able to allocate funds more effectively by not purchasing property. Establishing a protected area through this model costs the state between 70 and 400 times less, and 4 – 17 times less for the state to support the ongoing management of the protected area.

Another example is the Land User Incentives Programme, where the private sector bids to implement invasive alien species' clearing and land restoration projects on private and communal land, in partnership with government. This model is currently leveraging around 30% of the total cost of restoration from the private sector.

Both of these programmes are relatively new, and improvements in design, incentives and planning will make them more effective in the future.