Equitable and sustainable use of biodiversity

• By Vitalio Angula

THE Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Tourism (MEFT) is mandated to maintain ecosystems, essential ecological processes and biological diversity of Namibia.

The Ministry is also mandated to ensure the utilization of living natural resources is on a sustainable basis for the benefit of all Namibians both present and future.

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At a stakeholder’s engagement on Tuesday 11 October, Pohamba Shifeta, outlined the role of communities in conservation, sustainable use and benefit sharing of natural resources.

In a speech read on his behalf, the minister said, ecosystems provide the much-needed goods and services that local communities depend on for food, shelter, medicine, utensils and energy.

He further said ecosystems have spiritual and cultural values of importance, therefore local communities who live and interact with nature have a historical continuity of resource use and practices a broad knowledge base of the behaviour of complex ecological systems in their own localities.

“This knowledge is accumulated through a long series of observations transmitted from generation to generation. Where local communities have depended for long periods of time on local environments for the provision of a variety of resources, they have developed a stake in conserving and often enhancing biodiversity. They are aware that biological diversity is a crucial factor in generating the ecological services, natural resources and livelihoods on which they depend,” Shifeta said.

Biodiversity is the variety and variability of life on earth.

Biodiversity is also the measure variation at the genetic, species and ecosystem level.

The stakeholder dialogue on Contributing to an Equitable and Sustainable bio trade sector in Namibia-supporting stakeholder development, linking to global markets was held under the theme; The role of communities in the conservation, sustainable use and benefit sharing of natural resources.

In a statement read on his behalf by Kauna Shroeder, Access and Benefit Sharing (ABS) focal point in Namibia, Executive Director at MEFT, Teofilus Nghitila, said investment in biodiversity can serve as a catalyst for sustainable income generation.

He said there are linkages between conservation, sustainable use and the equitable and fair share of benefits arising from the use of biological and genetic resources however there was a financial shortage for biodiversity conservation and the financial gap was continuously increasing.

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“Expanding access to markets for high quality food, cosmetic and pharmaceutical end products is needed to diversify sources of income, strengthen value chains and to create opportunities for growth within varying sectors,” Nghitila said.

A participant at the stakeholders’ engagement, Martha Negumbo, Factory Manager at the Eudafano Women’s Cooperative (EWC) told Confidentetheir organization produces Marula Oil and Melon Seed Oil for cosmetics which is exported to the European market.

“Eudafano has been around for the past twenty years. As part of the value-chain, we source indigenous raw material from the local community and process it at our factory for export to Germany and France”, Negumbo informed Confidente.

“We distribute both finished products and raw material depending on the order from the client. Some of out clients want the oil in its raw form in order for them to process and refine according to their specifications. The Marula oil is sometimes blended with other cosmetics and distributed and at times it is distributed in the form in which it was exported.”

Negumbo said Eudafano’s annual earnings from the production, processing and distribution of the indigenous oil’s averages N$ 3 million.

“As part of the value chain we are involved from the sourcing, production, processing and distribution. We directly transact with the grassroots and we directly transact with the end consumer which informs us on the distinct needs to grow our business and expand into new markets,” Negumbo said.

Asked on what government can do to further empower such initiatives, Negumbo said capacity building was needed to offer opportunities and grow the value chain.

“Government can look at funding equipment at the community level to speed up processing and to build capacity for future producers,” she told Confidente.

Eudafano is part of the Namibian Network of Cosmetics Industry which aims at developing and promoting an inclusive, diversified, profitable and vibrant health and beauty industry in Namibia.

As key stakeholder in the Equitable and sustainable biotrade sector in Namibia they were a key part in the engagement that seeks to support local development by linking indigenous products to global markets.