From Botswana to Australia: Learning about Environmental Accounting

Written by Disikalala Gaseitsiwe, Deputy Executive Secretary, GDSA

Editor's Note: In December 2016, the Gaborone Declaration for Sustainability in Africa (GDSA) Secretariat, together with Conservation International, provided the opportunity for three government officials to travel to Australia and participate in a short course on Environmental Accounting. This opportunity is one of several that will be afforded to GDSA member countries in the coming year, as the GDSA hopes to increase technical capacity on Natural Capital Accounting. Here, Mr. Disikalala Gaseitsiwe, Deputy Executive Secretary of the GDSA Secretariat, shares his experience of participating in this course. 

In December 2016, I had the opportunity to attend a short course on environmental accounting as part of the GDSA NCA Community of Practice. As a Government Liaison Officer, and also a focal point for NCA within the GDSA Secretariat, it is extremely important that I have a good knowledge of the environmental accounts and their uses, to facilitate informed decision making regarding sustainable use of natural assets. This is because natural capital accounting (NCA) is a key focal area for GDSA. The GDSA Secretariat and GDSA National Focal Points therefore, must be fully oriented on issues around NCA so that they can be effective in providing leadership regarding information dissemination for the benefit of GDSA member countries’ national planning, which takes into account natural capital.

During the course, I was able to work together with individuals from a range of countries and backgrounds. Out of the 22 course participants, three were government officials from the GDSA, including my colleagues from Ghana and Liberia. Other participants included economists, ecologists, environmental scientists, statisticians, accountants, public policy analysts, and natural resource managers.

The course covered quite a number of areas, which I found very relevant and useful for my work. In particular, I was interested in gaining an introduction to key concepts in environmental-economic accounting. Specifically, I benefitted greatly from an exercise on how physical flows are treated, how to complete the physical supply and use tables, as well as completing the asset accounts. In addition, a hands-on group project encouraged us to focus on how environmental accounting can be used in practice. In my case, my group looked at the applicability of environmental accounting as a tool for policy analysis to develop a government response to the growing concerns about potential environmental degradation and economic loss due to overstocking by subsistence cattle farmers in Botswana.

As a result of the course, and my engagement with experts in this field, I am now in a better position to engage with NCA practitioners and work with them to ensure that information from the environmental and ecosystem accounts is disseminated to the users including decision-makers. 

GDSA Secretariat Holds Briefing of Diplomatic Missions and International Cooperating Partners Resident in Botswana

 

Permanent Secretary in the botswana  Ministry of Environment, Wildlife and Tourism,  Mr. Elias Magosi, briefs attendees on the gaborone declaration progress (Gdsa photo / © tiego mpho).

Permanent Secretary in the botswana  Ministry of Environment, Wildlife and Tourism,  Mr. Elias Magosi, briefs attendees on the gaborone declaration progress (Gdsa photo / © tiego mpho).

by Tiego Mpho, Program and Policy Manager, Gaborone Declaration for Sustainability in Africa 

On 22nd March 2016, the Gaborone Declaration for Sustainability in Africa (GDSA) Secretariat convened and facilitated a meeting to brief heads of diplomatic missions and representatives of various International Cooperating Partner organizations resident in Botswana on the work of the GDSA. All in all, about twenty-four emissaries, representing Namibia; Kenya; Mozambique; South Africa; Botswana; Germany; France; Norway; EU; America; The United Nations; SADC; GIZ, Friedrich Ebert Stiftung Foundation and The World Bank, attended the meeting. 

Facilitated by Mr. Disikalala Gaseitsiwe, the new Deputy Executive Secretary of the GDSA and Government of Botswana Liaison, the meeting first heard from Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Environment, Wildlife and Tourism Mr. Elias Magosi. Mr. Magosi graciously welcomed all and gave a brief synopsis of the genesis and evolution of the GDSA particularly acknowledging the vision and call to action sounded by the ten GDSA founding Heads of State. He lauded UNDP and especially Conservation International for their indispensable assistance in setting up and sustaining the new Secretariat. 

Following Mr Magosi’s opening remarks, GDSA Executive Secretary Mr. Ruud Jansen was called upon to elaborate further on the motivation, commitments, outcomes and partnerships of the GDSA thus far, as well as on the role and governance structure of the Secretariat. He announced several planned milestone developments and/or outputs as well as upcoming activities and events related to publicity and resource mobilization by the Secretariat. These include:

•    Formalization of Uganda and Madagascar’s membership to the GDSA; 
•    Confirmation of Gabon’s GDSA Focal Point in the Ministry of Economy and Sustainable Development paving way for the country’s road show;
•    Alignment of the draft GDSA work plan with the SDGs and Paris Climate Change agreement; 
•    Nairobi Statement on rules of engagement by Focal Points;
•    GDSA Side event at the African Ministerial Conference on the Environment (AMCEN) scheduled for April 2016 in Cairo, Egypt
•    GDSA side event at the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA) scheduled for May 2016 in Nairobi, Kenya

Following Mr. Jansen’s presentation, a question and answer session ensued and focused particularly on: the extent to which the GDSA is aligned with both global and regional policies such as BIOFIN and SADC’s green economy strategy; Wildlife Enforcement Network of Southern Africa (WENSA); The World Bank’s Wealth Accounting and the Valuation of Ecosystem Services (WAVES) initiative; financial support to the Secretariat; factors limiting buy-in and proactive advocacy for the GDSA by other signatory countries besides Botswana. Mr. Jansen thanked participants for their inputs and assured them that the Secretariat had accepted their guidance. Closing the meeting, Mr. Magosi thanked all that attended the meeting and promised that his Ministry would continue its strong support of the GDSA. 

Gaborone Declaration Roadshow: South Africa and Botswana Discuss Progress in Sustainability

By Guest Author Kim Reuter, PhD, Natural Capital Accounting Director for the Africa + Madagascar Field Division of Conservation International

Attendees of the botswana roadshow pose for a portrait during the event held september 17, 2015 at the grand palm hotel in gaborone. blog author kim reuter is in the second row, at the far left. conservation international / photo by tawana babili

Attendees of the botswana roadshow pose for a portrait during the event held september 17, 2015 at the grand palm hotel in gaborone. blog author kim reuter is in the second row, at the far left. conservation international / photo by tawana babili

“Botswana is a water scarce country,” reads a sentence in the second paragraph of an extensive scoping document I wrote a few months ago from my yellow-painted cubicle in Washington, DC. It was such an easy sentence to write, but I didn’t really understand what it meant until I had the opportunity to visit Botswana in person this week alongside my colleagues from Conservation International, with members of the Gaborone Declaration Secretariat. During this week-long trip, which also included a visit to South Africa, I had the opportunity to hear about the consequences of water scarcity, and potential solutions for this issue, first-hand via participation in the final two Gaborone Declaration Roadshow events in South Africa and Botswana.

The Gaborone Declaration Roadshow, which has visited eight countries in the last few months, is designed to introduce key stakeholders to Conservation International and the Gaborone Declaration Secretariat, and spur progress on achieving sustainable development in Africa. The Roadshows, which have been organized as half-day workshops, bring together a range of government ministries to discuss the Gaborone Declaration and to set the path for the Gaborone Declaration for the coming years. The Gaborone Declaration was signed by ten countries in 2012 with the objective of ensuring that “the contributions of natural capital to sustainable economic growth, maintenance and improvement of social capital and human well-being are quantified and integrated into development and business practice.”

My role before, during, and after these two Roadshow events is to work on, and learn about, issues related to natural capital accounting. Broadly speaking, natural capital accounting can help countries understand the value of their natural value (e.g. minerals, forests, water resources) and to plan the use of these resources in a sustainable manner. Because natural capital accounting is on the cutting edge of various sustainable development and environmental monitoring initiatives, it is a key area that many of the Gaborone Declaration countries have expressed a strong interest in. Botswana and South Africa are no exception.

At the South Africa roadshow, we were joined by a highly engaged set of government officials from a wide range of ministries representing social, environmental, and economic issues. What I found striking during our half-day workshop – which took place just a stone’s throw from the capital in Pretoria – was how passionate and dedicated the various government representatives were about their cutting edge programming. From large biodiversity meta-database projects to nation-wide renewable energy development, South Africa demonstrated that they are not only aware of the need to be sustainable, but are actively implementing projects that speak to the Gaborone Declaration’s vision. It was a truly collaborative experience, and I certainly felt that it provided a great platform for learning to occur among the representatives from Conservation International and the Governments of South Africa and Botswana. This was especially true in terms of my personal interests in natural capital accounting, as South Africa is one of the regional leaders in this field.

Just two days later, the Botswana Roadshow took place. Sitting in the same venue where the original declaration was signed in 2012, we participated in an equally exciting Roadshow event. Attended by around 50 individuals, including the Honorable Minister of Lands and Housing, Mr. Prince Maele, this roadshow was unique in that brought together not only government officials from multiple sectors, but private sector, academic, and non-profit organizations as well. The goal, again, was to promote cross-sectoral integration of the Gaborone Declaration in Botswana’s national programming. The event highlighted Botswana’s leadership role as the Secretariat of the Gaborone Declaration, and several speakers noted the progress that Botswana had made in its sustainability planning.

Coming out of the two Roadshows and looking forward to 2016, I am truly excited for what the future holds for the Gaborone Declaration signatories. As evidenced by South Africa and Botswana, the Gaborone Declaration signatory countries include some of the leading innovators in sub-Saharan Africa when it comes to sustainability. With the Secretariat acting to amplify the impact of individual country programs through learning exchange and facilitation, the Gaborone Declaration – created by Africans for Africa – will increase sustainability, food security, and resilience to climate change.