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