GDSA Welcomes the Promulgation of the DELTA Act to Enhance Conservation in the Critical Okavango Basin

Aerial shot of the Vumbura Plains, Okavango Delta, Botswana. (© Jon McCormack)

Aerial shot of the Vumbura Plains, Okavango Delta, Botswana. (© Jon McCormack)

January 2019 - The Gaborone Declaration for Sustainability in Africa (GDSA) Secretariat welcomed the passage into law of the Defending Economic Livelihoods and Threatened Animals (DELTA) Act by the President of the United States. The Act will significantly improve the protection of the Okavango River Delta, Africa's last-remaining wetland wilderness which covers 125,000 square miles across three GDSA member countries, Angola, Botswana and Namibia and is home to the largest remaining population of African elephants.  

The Okavango ecosystem is a main source of water and livelihoods for over 1 million people, and the effective management and protection of this critical watershed will help advance important conservation and economic growth objectives for the three countries, local communities, and the broader region but both physical factors such as climatic variability, climate change and tectonic activities and human activities are rapidly transforming the ecosystem. As these threats are currently escalating, it is important that the sustainability and valuing of the Basin be made a high priority agenda item by all stakeholders with an interest in the wetland.

On his part, GDSA’s Executive Secretary Ruud Jansen said: “The implementation of the DELTA Act will add to the ongoing national, regional and multilateral activities in the Okavango Basin and neighboring watersheds. Not only are the Quito and Cubango rivers the lifeline for the Okavango Delta, a Ramsar and World Heritage site, they also contribute to the necessary natural capital in Angola, Botswana and Namibia which provides the basis for community based natural resource management and sustainable rural development. The GDSA looks forward to forging strategic partnerships with parties operating in the Delta region.

On the 28th December 2018 Angola became a member of the GDSA and the promulgation of the DELTA Act could not have been more opportune as it is expected to support regional cooperation of the Okavango Basin states towards prudent conservation, management and utilization of nature and natural resources for long-term sustainable development of the basin populations including in such areas as nature-based tourism.

Optimizing natural resource in the Basin’s regions will be key to achieving growth with diversification and poverty reduction in Botswana, the GDSA’s Secretariat, Conservation International (CI) is committed to provide technical support for environmental accounting of the Okavango which will be integrated with the national accounts and development plans to optimize use of country’s Natural Capital. In Namibia, the GDSA will continue to assist the Government of Namibia in developing its national plans for natural capital and implementing its community-based approaches to conservation of the Basin. The GDSA is also keen to support its new member, the government of Angola in the conservation and sustainable development of the Delta through natural capital accounting and sustainable tourism, as part of regional cooperation involving Namibia and Botswana.  

On his part Dr. M. Sanjayan CEO of Conservation International – which supports the GDSA’s Secretariat financially and technically – said: "Environmental leadership in the U.S. has long been a bipartisan effort and today, the DELTA Act joins that proud history. With this legislation, the U.S. will be able to lend its expertise to help combat wildlife trafficking and promote sound development practices that will meet the needs of the communities who are dependent on the delta and increase social and economic stability in southern Africa.  

"This legislation is a great example of U.S. global leadership in international conservation. Conservation International has a long history in supporting the people and nature, which also happens to be one of my favorite places in the world. I'd like to thank the bill's sponsors, many of whom have been strong supporters of the environment, Representatives Jeff Fortenberry, Ed Royce, and Eliot Engle and Senators Portman, Udall, Burr, Coons, and Whitehouse for their hard work on this legislation," he added.  

CI and GDSA are working with basin countries and local and international partners to promote sustainable use of natural resources within the wider Okavango Basin by deploying scientific tools such as Natural Capital Mapping and Accounting to ensure that socioeconomic development is based on the economic value of ecosystem goods and services and does not come at a cost to critical natural resources and biodiversity but rather use their value to underpin human wellbeing.

For more information, email rjansen@conservation.org