Acting Minister Mr Derek Hanekom's statement on behalf of SADC Region during the African Ministerial Summit on Biodiversity

13 November 2018


Chair: I present this statement on behalf of the Southern Africa Development Community. We thank the Government of Egypt for affording us this opportunity to reflect our contextual experiences on matters of land degradation and ecosystem restoration. 

Overall status of land and ecosystem degradation in the sub-region

Issues of land and ecosystem degradation are of critical importance to the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) region. Land degradation is widespread in the sub-region and is a factor that continues to undermine our development efforts. The recent drought experienced in the sub-region highlighted the urgency and need to respond appropriately to the effects of land degradation and desertification. The sub-region’s consciousness is growing in the appreciation of the impact of land degradation as it manifests itself through declining soil and land productivity, bush encroachment, increasing alien species invasion and high levels of deforestation.  The biggest concern is that this phenomenon reduces the capacity of the land to support the rural population, especially the most vulnerable sections of the society.

Statistics on the subregion indicate that Land degradation in Southern Africa causes major economic losses estimated at USD 20 billion/annually, adversely affecting approximately 55% of our 327 million people who are mainly based in the rural areas. This phenomenon undermines our efforts to poverty eradication, fight against inequality and unemployment in a sub-region that has an estimated 70% of people dependant on agriculture for food, income and employment. Such economic losses are unaffordable and undesirable, hence the need and our massive investments in accelerating the implementation of proactive and responsive measures.

Current regional and national land and ecosystem restoration initiatives and plans; the main gaps and obstacles in implementation;

The SADC Region is home to a variety of land and ecosystem restoration initiatives and plans. The UNCCD has always been of particular importance to the region given the significant impacts of drought, desertification and land degradation on the population and the environment. The sub-region developed its first Sub-Regional Action Programme on Desertification in 1997 and this was subsequently updated and replaced by a new Sub-Regional Action Programme(SRAP) which is currently under implementation for the period 2015-2025.

The revised SRAP is aligned to the 10-year strategy for the UNCCD and 21 actions have been identified to be implemented to satisfy the five operational objectives of the UNCCD Strategy. The implementation of the SRAP is guided by 4 strategic objectives of 1) Advocacy, awareness raising and education; 2) Policy framework; 3) Science, technology and knowledge; and 4) Financing and technology transfer. These strategic objectives guides the development and implementation of country driven national response programmes aimed at addressing land degradation while encouraging ecosystem restoration.  

A number of gaps and obstacles however hamper the successful implementation of programmes notably  lack of  adequate financial resources, institutional capacities,  and policy frameworks for land management as well as shortcomings in research and data on the biophysical aspects of land degradation.

Relevant experiences, good practices and lessons learned (including major successes and the factors that have contributed to those successes);

Chair, regarding the implementation of land degradation neutrality targets and the CBD programme of work on ecosystem restoration, our sub-region has identified targets, on amongst others:

  • Rehabilitation of  5 million hectares of degraded land to functionality by 2030
  • Conversion of  1.2 million hectares bush land back to rangeland/savanna by 2030 as compared to 2015
  • Halting  the conversion of forests and wetlands to other land cover classes by 2022
  • Increasing forest cover by 3.5 million hectares by 2030 as compared to 2015

The role of indigenous knowledge and practices in this regard is invaluable. Our countries in the sub-region present rich diversity of experiences, most of which will be shared through the many side events in which we will participate.

Potential opportunities for upscaling of ecosystem restoration efforts and targets in the sub-region.

By implementing these commitments, we will be addressing several SDGs at once as recently posited by the Intergovernmental Platform for Biodiversity and Ecosystems Services (IPBES 2018) report on land degradation. Equally important is that the approach taken addresses climate change mitigation and adaptation, and ending poverty and hunger