Deputy Minister Barbara Thomson’s opening address at an event on plant conservation for human well-being and nature

16 November 2018 


Excellences’, Honourable delegates, ladies and gentlemen, it gives me great pleasure to be addressing you on this very important subject, Plant Conservation for human well-being and nature. As you are aware, our conservation efforts have long been focussed on the protection of natural resources to the extent that we have excluded people and their well-being. As we approach the 2020 milestone for our Aichi Biodiversity Targets, it is time that we prioritise the inclusion of the people who are the main custodians and guardians of the future survival of the very species we are trying to conserve. Plants play a very important role in our lives. They fulfil our food, fuel, medicinal and cultural requirements. They are also a useful source of oxygen, prevents soil degradation and purifies our atmosphere. Have we ever considered that all that we consume or eat comes from plants including meat products? If we have considered this, how have we applied this in our policies? Has it influenced our conservation policies and strategies?

Excellences’ honourable delegates, ladies and gentlemen our world is faced by huge environmental challenges which include land degradation, desertification and drought. We are still grappling with effects of climate change and environmental hazards such as floods and natural disasters. I am convinced that plant conservation is one of the key solutions to these environmental challenges. The world has a wealth of indigenous knowledge, which for the ages past have played a big role in conserving our plants successfully. The African people in particular and the indigenous people in general have relied on their plants for their livelihoods, which was not just limited to food, but included, shelter, religious ceremonies, medicinal purposes and many other cultural activities.

We also have useful international instruments such as the Global Strategy on Plant Conservation which if adequately implemented can assist in the conservation of our plants. These international instruments needs to be translated to suit the national circumstances.

There are urgent concerns and challenges which requires us all to put our heads together and come up with mitigation measures and measurable targets to address such concerns post 2020.  Working together to holt the rapid decline and extinction of plant populations around the globe should be our uppermost goal. Reversing the extinction rate of many plant species, communities, and their ecological interactions should be our priority going forward. Most threats to our plants are caused by human induced actions, such as, climate change, habitat loss and transformation, over-exploitation, alien invasive species, pollution, clearing for agriculture and other development. If this loss is not stemmed, countless economic opportunities for community benefits could be lost. If we all play our part and enhance efforts in plant conservation, then societies around the world will be able to continue to rely upon plants for ecosystem goods and services, including food, medicines, clean water, rich, productive landscapes, energy sources, and a healthy atmosphere.

Ladies and Gentleman, the South African Government is committed to the expansion of our protected areas and botanical gardens network, including improving knowledge and understanding of our botanical resources.

I thank you