The GDSA Secretariat five year report: celebrating five years of progress towards sustainability

September 2017: The GDSA Secretariat is pleased to release the five-year report on the GDSA Secretariat. This review outlines the GDSA operating model, provides analyses of the outcomes that have resulted from the GDSA Secretariat’s work under the three GDSA commitments, and describes lessons learned over the GDSA’s five-year lifetime.

As of July 2017, the GDSA has grown to 12 countries, whose boundaries house 306 million people, 15.3 billion metric tons of carbon stocks, and 3,500+ threatened plant, fish, bird, and mammal species. The GDSA has been endorsed by the African Ministerial Conference on the Environment (AMCEN) – who in 2016 encouraged their member states to join the GDSA – and the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting. The GDSA has worked with 20+ partners across the GDSA member countries and entities managing over USD$118 million in projects have publicly linked their work to the GDSA. These entities have used the GDSA as evidence for a need or demand for their work, or have indicated that the GDSA has provided the mandate for action.

The cover of the GDSA Secretariat five year report.

The cover of the GDSA Secretariat five year report.

The report notes that awareness of the GDSA is relatively high. Over one-third (40%) of all Convention on Biological Diversity and Global Environment Facility focal points in sub-Saharan Africa are aware of the GDSA. Furthermore, most of these focal points in GDSA countries feel that the GDSA has “promoted progress in the implementation of sustainable development in Africa.”

The GDSA member countries have made significant progress towards implementing their GDSA commitments compared to non-GDSA countries in Africa. In 2012, GDSA and non-GDSA countries were equally likely to have ongoing natural capital accounting (NCA) initiatives. However, by 2017, GDSA countries were significantly more likely than 37 other countries in Africa to have initiated work on NCA. Moreover, 11 of the 12 GDSA countries explicitly link their NCA work to the GDSA, noting that the work fulfills the GDSA commitments.

Want to know more about the progress of the GDSA in the last five years? Be sure to read the report here.

The GDSA joins the Natural Capital Coalition

August 2017: The GDSA has joined the Natural Capital Coalition, a unique global multi-stakeholder collaboration that brings together leading initiatives and organizations to harmonize approaches to natural capital. The Natural Capital Coalition is the author of the Natural Capital Protocol, which is a framework designed to help generate trusted, credible, and actionable information for business managers to inform decisions. In brief, the Protocol aims to support better decisions by including how we interact with nature, or more specifically natural capital.

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The GDSA has written about the Natural Capital Protocol in the past and even attended the launch of the Protocol at the 2015 World Forum on Natural Capital.

Moving forward, the GDSA hopes to work together with members of the Natural Capital Coalition to promote mainstreaming of natural capital into private sector decision-making in Africa.

In the immediate future, the GDSA - together with Birdlife - is organizing a breakfast dialogue on natural capital and the private sector at next week's Responsible Business Forum in South Africa! Participants and panelists - from the NGO, academic, and private sector - will discuss and learn about opportunities for the private sector to become more involved in sustainability programming.

For more information on the Natural Capital Coalition, visit:

Linking Business, Nature, and Sustainability: GDSA discussions on sustainability in business

This blog post was written by Adam Fishman, a Fellow at Conservation International.

August 2017: In response to the increasing importance and prevalence of private sector engagement with sustainability issues in Sub-Saharan Africa, the GDSA convened a discussion in Gaborone, Botswana. The workshop, hosted at Barclays Bank, brought together corporates from key industries operating in the country to start a dialogue on the state of sustainability in Botswana and establish common ground for mutually-beneficial actions. Participants included CEOs, CSOs, and other corporate engagement staff from the tourism, financial, and extractive industries in addition to officials from government ministries.

Key Points from the Workshop

Opening remarks by GDSA and Barclays staff set the objectives for the roundtable and outlined how Barclays is tackling issues of environmental sustainability, social welfare and financial inclusion. The keynote presentation focused on the business case for sustainability, highlighting reasons for the GDSA’s focus on large-cap companies; detailing how and why businesses can become and are becoming more engaged; and reviewing tools and frameworks for reporting on sustainability, linking to international agreements such as the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The keynote acknowledged the GDSA’s role as a platform for cross-sector and cross-country knowledge-sharing, but also GDSA partners’ experience with data collection and analysis.

In the discussion that followed, participants built understanding around reasons behind shifts toward sustainability, whether for public perception benefits, compliance with regulations, or as part of core business strategy, and shared steps that have already been taken in their respective companies. Some participants acknowledged that their natural capital dependency was direct and inextricably linked to their business, and that sustainability initiatives in operations not only help attract and retain talent, but also mitigate waste management issues whilst reducing costs. There was consensus agreement that multi-stakeholder public-private partnerships are critical to implementing corporate sustainability objectives as well as achieving public policy goals. During the discussion, participants brainstormed early ideas on where and how businesses operating in Botswana could partner with the national government on initiatives that go beyond regulatory compliance. Finally, it was agreed that there is a need to scope where and how private sector actors can help governments achieve sustainability pledges per their adoption of the SDGs and submission of Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) under the Paris Agreement. Doing so serves to localize the SDGs and helps connect global agreements to national policies.

Next Steps

The roundtable closed with participants enumerating the way forward and identifying where the GDSA can play a supporting role in relation to existing sustainability initiatives, decision-making tools, and reporting mechanisms. Participants agreed that there is scope to build on existing initiatives and partnerships to collectively break silos. All agreed that there is a need for additional meetings and awareness-building, complemented by further analytical work. Those in the room called for circulation of a list of topics for discussion, agreeing that those who are particularly invested or interested in a certain area can host. Participants were enthusiastic at the prospect of collaboration, as few had previously engaged outside of their own industries.

The GDSA would like to thank participants, and extend its sincerest appreciation to Barclays Bank for hosting the discussion.

GDSA Co-organizes South-South Exchange to Costa Rica

July 2017 - The GDSA, together with Conservation International (CI) and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) hosted a high-level South-South Exchange on Payments for Ecosystem Services (PES) to Washington D.C. and Costa Rica. The overall aim of this exchange was to expose Government and non-Government officials of Rwanda to success stories elsewhere. Costa Rica is the poster-child of PES, and has a long history of having implemented a successful PES scheme on the national level. Two Government officials from South Africa joined as GDSA ambassadors as well as to facilitate cross-continental learning.

Trip participants with the CEO of Conservation International, at CI’s headquarters in Washington D.C.

Trip participants with the CEO of Conservation International, at CI’s headquarters in Washington D.C.

The South-South Exchange took place between June 26 and July 2, 2017. It was an intense one-week program, entailing a day at CI’s headquarters in Washington D.C., where the delegation was welcomed by the CEO of CI, and learnt more about CI’s work on PES and within Rwanda. The remainder of the week was spent in Costa Rica and included high-level meetings in San Jose with the former President Miguel Ángel Rodríguez and the current Minister of Environment, Edgar Guitérrez. The final three days were spent in the field to see PES in action, and to learn about the challenges and benefits of implementing PES.

The overarching objectives for the exchange were to:

  1. Provide a solid base of information on various topic relevant to PES from experts in the Cl headquarters in Washington D.C.;
  2. Expose the delegation to the institutional structures and financial mechanisms that Costa Rica has developed for implementing national conservation policies, as well as the role of the government in guiding this process;
  3. Expose the delegates to the research, valuation techniques, and job creation programs for PES and the economics of natural capital; and
  4. Expose participants to the political and institutional processes to implement innovate solution to landscape management.

The overall outcome of the trip was extremely positive and the participants had learnt a wealth of information. This trip will directly inform Rwanda's ongoing work in PES, which were highlighted as a priority action area by the government during the GDSA road show in 2015. 

More information about the GDSA's work around PES can be found on this page; read more about Rwanda here.

World's first species diversity accounts for Uganda

This blog post is an edited version of a post that originally appeared on the IDEEA Groups's blog, and is reproduced here with their permission.

Gorillas in Bwindi National Park, in southwest Uganda. © Levi S. Norton

Gorillas in Bwindi National Park, in southwest Uganda. © Levi S. Norton

In March 2017, Uganda - a GDSA member country - published the world's first species diversity accounts. The work was conducted by the Ugandan Government, the UNEP World Centre for Monitoring Conservation (UNEP-WCMC), and the IDEEA Group. This is an important step in natural capital accounting and future work on this topic may help countries begin to mainstream biodiversity information into their decision-making. 

In many countries, economic development threatens biodiversity. At the same time, however, biodiversity and the associated natural capital can provide significant opportunities for development such as through expanded wildlife based tourism and sustainable harvesting of natural products.

The accounts published by Uganda, together with partners, create a clear and credible evidence base to understand the extent of human and economic impact on species biodiversity in Uganda. This is a world-first application of the System of Environmental-Economic Accounting – Experimental Ecosystem Accounting (SEEA-EEA) framework to compile species accounts at the national level.

The report provides significant insights into the state and trends in ecosystems and biodiversity for Uganda that will be used to assess national progress towards the objectives of Uganda’s National Development Plan (NDP II), its National Biodiversity Strategy Action Plan (NBSAP II), and various international commitments (e.g. Aichi targets and SDGs). At a program and sector level, the report identifies cost-effective actions that can help to re-establish and sustain valuable natural capital assets in ways that support positive social development outcomes.

Interested in more information? Be sure to read the report here.

The GDSA co-hosts workshop on the SDGs in Nairobi

July 2017 (Nairobi, Kenya): In July 2017, the GDSA – together with Conservation International (CI) and Vital Signs – held a workshop on how nature contributes to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The workshop brought participants from six GDSA countries (Botswana, Kenya, Namibia, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Uganda). These participants came from a range of entities, including their Bureaus of Statistics, Finance and Planning, and Ministries of Environment.  

Workshop participants pose for a group photo.

Workshop participants pose for a group photo.

During the workshop, countries shared their ‘state of play’ for national-level SDGs planning and reporting. In addition, CI introduced their SDGs assessment framework, which looks at how nature underpins 50+ targets under the 13 SDG, and discussed with participants how the tool could help government officials make the case for nature as a foundation for achieving the SDGs. The idea behind these discussions is that natural systems support our food production, clean our water, regulate our climate, and safeguard the Earth’s diverse species – and by doing so, support our development ambitions.

Workshop participants expressed that they valued learning more about the relationships between nature and the SDGs, and thinking about these connections through a new approach. Participants flagged the importance of being able to monitor and report on the SDGs in order to measure their achievement. They also highlighted the importance of understanding the value of natural capital and how this value can be linked more explicitly to development issues.

As a next step, CI and Vital Signs will be working to undertake a more in-depth analysis of how natural capital underpins the SDGs in one pilot country to enable full integration of nature to achieve their climate and sustainable development goals. CI will also produce an expanded analysis of how nature underpins not only the SDGs, but also contributes to the achievement of international commitments on climate change (the Paris Agreement) and biodiversity (the Aichi Targets). Information from this pilot work will be made available on the GDSA website, with lessons sharing to GDSA member countries. In addition, the GDSA – and partners – will be looking for opportunities to expand work on this subject in the GDSA member countries in the near future.

Interested in getting more information the GDSA's work around the SDGs? Check out our page on Vital Signs for Sustainability.

GDSA hosts Focal Point gathering at the 16th session of AMCEN in Gabon

June 2017 (Libreville, Gabon): The Sixteenth Session of the African Ministerial Conference on the Environment (AMCEN) was held held from June 12-16, 2017 in Libreville, Gabon, under the theme: "Investing in Innovative Environmental Solutions to accelerate implementation of Sustainable Development Goals and Agenda 2063 in Africa".


In March 2015, AMCEN endorsed the GDSA as an implementation vehicle for AMCEN’s Regional Flagship Program on Africa’s Partnership for a Green Economy. The next year, in April 2016, the GDSA was acknowledged by AMCEN as a vehicle for valuation and accounting of natural capital and as a vehicle for contribution to  the implementation of Agenda 2063 and the 2030 Agenda. At the 2016 meeting, AMCEN member countries were also invited to join the GDSA.

GDSA Focal Point Meeting

The AMCEN conference is an opportunity for ministers and experts to discuss and prepare Africa’s common position and engagement in upcoming global environmental fora. Given the high attendance at AMCEN meetings, the GDSA uses the opportunity to convene GDSA Focal Points for discussions on GDSA-related issues. Six of the 12 member countries sent representatives to the meetings; representatives from Lesotho and Zambia sat in the meeting as observers.

The African Ministerial Conference on the Environment was established in 1985 to strengthen cooperation between African Governments in economic, technical and scientific activities with the prime objective of halting and reversing the degradation of the African environment. AMCEN has contributed significantly to heightening policy responses of African Governments and the international community to Africa’s environmental and sustainable development challenges and opportunities. Through its meetings, AMCEN provides guidance to governments and policymakers on key regional policies and initiatives related to the environment and sustainable development int eh continent.

Information in this blog post adapted from the UN Environment website.

The GDSA presents at the Poverty Environment Partnership meeting on natural capital

Participants at the PEP 22 meeting in New York (USA)

Participants at the PEP 22 meeting in New York (USA)

June 19th-22nd, 2017 (New York, USA): The GDSA Executive Secretary, Ruud Jansen, participated in this Poverty Environment Partnership (PEP) 22 meeting in New York (USA). The topic of the meeting was, 'Investing in Natural Capital for an Inclusive Green & Blue Economy to Implement the SDGs and the Paris Climate Agreement'. 

The meeting was attended by 62 participants representing 41 organizations. Mr. Ruud Jansen presented as part of the second session, entitled: 'Why invest: mainstreaming and institutions to integrate natural capital into economics.' During this session, participations discussed and learned about the SEEA (System of Environmental-Economic Accounts) and how the GDSA and other entities, such as the Global Environment Facility, have prioritized natural capital accounting. Hurdles relevant to natural capital accounting were discussed as were opportunities for regional work across multiple countries, building on platforms such as the GDSA.

More information about the outcomes of the PEP 22 meeting can be found on the Poverty Environment Partnership website

The GDSA participates in the seventh WAVES partnership meeting!

June 2017 (Kigali, Rwanda): Around 70 representatives of eight WAVES member countries, plus donor countries, United Nations agencies, academics, and experts from think tanks and nongovernmental organizations, attended the two-day meeting, held in Kigali, Rwanda, June 6–7 2017. The Government of Rwanda’s Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources and the World Bank officially co-hosted the meeting—the first WAVES annual meeting to be held in Africa. Mr. Ruud Jansen, the Executive Secretary of the GDSA, gave a presentation during the meeting.

This was the second year that the GDSA Secretariat was asked to present at the meeting (read more about last year's meeting in Costa Rica, here). Three of the 12 GDSA countries are WAVES Core Implementing Countries (Botswana, Rwanda, and Madagascar); WAVES and the GDSA, along with CI, co-organized a workshop on natural capital accounting last year. Mr. Ruud Jansen also attended the World Environment Day ceremony while in Rwanda.

More information this meeting can be found on the WAVES website, including presentations given at the meeting itself.

The GDSA Secretariat benchmarks successful South African communal rangeland stewardship and livelihoods improvement model

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Written by Tiego Mpho, Policy & Programme Manager at the GDSA

At the invitation of Conservation South Africa (CSA) and in preparation for its submission of a concept proposal to the Green Climate Fund (GCF), focusing on Climate Change Risk Reduction through ecosystem based adaptation in Botswana’s communal grazing lands, the GDSA Secretariat participated in a three-day learning exchange in Matatiele, South Africa from 16th to 18th May 2017.  

The exchange was hosted by uMzimvubu Catchment Partnership Programme (UCPP) which includes such organisations as Environmental & Rural Solutions (ERS), Maloti Drakensberg Transfrontier Programme (MDTP), Conservation SA (CSA) and Meat Naturally Pty (MNP). It aimed at showcasing a locally developed grassland restoration model which provides a framework for maintaining healthy communal landscapes and livelihoods through sound rangeland stewardship. Specifically, the focus was on sharing experiences and innovative ideas, from the uMzimvubu and other landscape projects, for potential use of the model in other communal catchments, in South Africa and similar ecosystems in Southern Africa.

Interactive presentations by implementing partners provided an overview of the approach, including the core sustainability concepts of the model which are:

  • Social mobilization and governance, as a foundation for sustainable range management by land users;
  • Technical elements of livestock and veld improvement, through the deployment of trained Eco-rangers, to provide husbandry support;
  • Conservation-based grazing agreements, based on incentives and compliance with agreed practical grazing plans (including sanctions);
  • The business and marketing entity, Meat Naturally Pty, which arranges mobile auctions and marketing opportunities.

Participants witnessed the market element in action at a Meat Naturally mobile auction at Thaba Chicha, Kwazulu Natal, adjacent to the Ongeluksnek Nature Reserve. Sellers (livestock owners) are signed up by Eco-rangers several weeks prior to the event. On the day of the event, their stock are weighed at a mobile kraal, allowing buyers and sellers to know the weight of each animal before bidding. Auctioneer Gerbrand Nel, the manager of Meat Naturally Pty, facilitated the bidding process in a colourful mixture of languages (Xhosa, English and Afrikaans) to suit sellers and buyers alike while an admin team from CSA and ERS processes seller information, weight, agreed price and animal details. Ecorangers manage the livestock process from arrival, movement through the sale kraals, and to the loading pens prior to removal on buyers’ transport. The auction sold 70 animals, generating R543 350 for 35 sellers, of which a third were women, with anverage price of  R15.62/kg. Translated into employment value,at fulltime minimum wage equivalent per annum, the auction turnover has created almost 185 jobs (in situ). This shows a most valuable direct livelihood benefit from improved rangeland management and market access.

Long hailed as an effective and adaptable sustainable land management and livelihoods improvement strategy, the Meat Naturally Pty approach as practiced in the uMzimvubu Catchment is also highly scalable especially within other GDSA member countries like Namibia, Botswana, Tanzania and Kenya wherein rangeland-based livestock production is still the dominant land use and most viable agribusiness for small resource poor farmers.