Former Botswana President and GDSA Chair Joins Conservation International as Distinguished Fellow




By Ally Jamah

July 2018: Former Botswana President and Chairperson of the Gaborone Declaration for Sustainability in Africa (GDSA) Dr. Ian Khama has agreed to lend his political and diplomatic weight to further advance sustainable development and wildlife protection in Africa by becoming a Distinguished Fellow for environmental non-profit  Conservation International (CI).

In his new role, Dr. Khama —who voluntarily stepped down from power at the end of March this year — will represent CI across Africa and build on his decades-long legacy of forging a more sustainable development path for the region.

Dr. Khama has been a driving force behind the GDSA and will continue to work with member countries of the initiative that seeks to enhance sustainable development in Africa. He will also engage more nations in the continent to align economic development with sustainability goals.

CI has been the secretariat for GDSA since 2014, providing technical and financial support for the 14 member-states of the initiative after the government of Botswana delegated the role to the conservation non-profit.

Dr. Khama will also work with the international community to combat the illegal wildlife trade through the Elephant Protection Initiative, a multi-national coalition of 18 African countries with CI being a co-secretariat. 

Building on his success in helping to make Botswana a beacon of sustainable tourism, Khama will also continue to provide leadership in ensuring tourism supports the region’s environmental and cultural heritage.

“What President Khama brings to Conservation International is immeasurable. For decades, he has provided us with a unique perspective as an exceptional leader who shares our commitment to securing nature for the benefit of people. We’re thrilled to continue to benefit from his vision and institutional knowledge to preserve Africa’s rich natural resources,” said Conservation International Chairman Peter Seligmann.

“Over 30 years ago, Conservation International was founded on the principle that community-led conservation was the approach that best benefited people and ecosystems. President Khama embodies this approach and has successfully led environmental initiatives in Botswana and the broader African region to implement this idea. We are honored to have President Khama continue to lend us his leadership and expertise as a Distinguished Fellow,” said Conservation International CEO Dr. M. Sanjayan.

Launched in 2012, GDSA is an African-led inter-governmental action platform that emphasizes sustainability and incorporating the true value of natural resources in economic planning and development across member states.

GDSA members include Kenya, Gabon, Botswana, Liberia, Madagascar, Mozambique, Namibia, Rwanda, South Africa, Tanzania and Uganda.

A number of regional and global platforms have endorsed the GDSA. These include the African Ministerial Conference on the Environment (AMCEN), the United Nations Environmental Assembly (UNEA), and the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting. 


Uganda joins the Sustainable Coffee Challenge!

April 2018 – Following a joint mission between the Sustainable Coffee Challenge and the GDSA Secretariat to Uganda in February, the Sustainable Coffee Challenge has announced a new collaboration with the Government of Uganda to work together to establish coffee as the first sustainably-grown agricultural product. This announcement was made during the 121st session of the International Coffee Organization's Coffee Council in Mexico City, Mexico.

"This new partnership show a willingness of governments to work collaboratively to ensure our ability to meet the growing demand for coffee in a way that supports economic development among producers and conserves the unique tropical ecosystems in which coffee grows," said Bambi Semroc, Vice President of Sustainable Markets and Strategy at Conservation International.   

Uganda's participation in the Challenge builds on the country's 'Coffee Roadmap', which sets out the ambitious target to increase annual production from 3 million to 20 million bags of coffee per year by 2025. Uganda is the second GDSA member country to join the Sustainable Coffee Challenge (Rwanda being the first). Two other countries - Mexico and Costa Rica - have also joined the Challenge.

"Coffee production is integral to the Ugandan economy as it contributes to 20 to 30 percent of our exports," said Dr. Emmanuel Iyamulemye, Managing Director of the Uganda Coffee Development Authority. "We are excited about this new partnership with the Challenge, which will allow us to realize the targets in the 'Coffee Roadmap' by tapping into ways we can renovate and rehabilitate our coffee production sustainably for our smallholder farmers who are the majority of our coffee growers."

The Sustainable Coffee Challenge, formed by Conservation International and Starbucks and launched during the Paris climate meetings in 2015, is uniting players from across the coffee industry – growers, traders, roasters, retailers, governments and nongovernmental organizations. It aims to stimulate greater demand for sustainable coffee while partnering to find solutions to mitigate impacts of climate change and other stressors.

The Gaborone Declaration for Sustainability in Africa (GDSA) Secretariat is working to promote the Sustainable Coffee Challenge in its member countries, as a platform that helps countries move towards implementing the second GDSA Action Statement. More information about the collaboration can be found in a joint case study published by the GDSA and the Sustainable Coffee Challenge, available online.

About the Sustainable Coffee Challenge
The Sustainable Coffee Challenge convenes, unites and urges the coffee sector and conservation partners across the industry to spur the actions and investments necessary to make coffee the first sustainable agriculture product in the world. The Challenge is committed to stimulating demand for sustainable coffee across the value chain, from the policymaking level to the final consumer. By encouraging demand for sustainable coffee, it leads to investments that enable the transition to a sustainable production and ensuring the coffee we drink is a sustainable product.

About the Uganda Coffee Development Authority
Uganda Coffee Development Authority was established by an Act of Parliament 1991 and amended in 1994, Cap. 325 under the laws of the Republic of Uganda. Uganda Coffee Development Authority is established as a public authority and its mandate is to promote and oversee the coffee industry by supporting research, promoting production, controlling the quality and improving the marketing of coffee in order to optimize foreign exchange earnings for the country and payments to the farmers.

© Conservation International/photo by Miguel Ángel de la Cueva

© Conservation International/photo by Miguel Ángel de la Cueva

The Secretariat continues successful visits with member countries

April 2018: Building on our February visits to select GDSA member countries in East Africa, the GDSA Secretariat is pleased to have visited Ghana in March and Lesotho in April of this year.

In regards to our visit to Ghana, the GDSA Deputy Executive Secretary and Sr. Technical Director were hosted by the Government on March 22nd and 23rd. During these two days, we were pleased to meet with the Deputy Minister for Environment, Science, Technology & Innovation (MESTI), Hon. Patricia Appiagyei, who reiterated the Government's support for the GDSA. We were further given the opportunity to meet with a range of stakeholders in government including within MESTI, the Environment Protection Agency (EPA), and the Vice President's Office. As a result of these meetings, the GDSA Secretariat has agreed to sponsor the participation of the Hon. Deputy Minister to attend the Global Bamboo and Rattan Congress in China later this year. In addition, we will begin working with the EPA to identify opportunities around natural capital accounting and policy-oriented south-south learning exchanges.

In Namibia, we were likewise warmly welcomed by our GDSA Focal Point and the Honorable Deputy Minister of Environment and Tourism. Following these meetings, which were attended by the GDSA Executive Secretary and Deputy Executive Secretary, there was a small roundtable discussion, open to a range of government and non-government stakeholders designed to increase awareness of the GDSA in Namibia. These meetings helped confirm a range of opportunities for the Secretariat to support work in Namibia. For example, a delegate from Namibia will be included on a GDSA-organized learning exchange to Costa Rica happening later this year.

Looking forward, the Secretariat continues to work towards its aim of visiting every member country in 2018. These visits are designed to strengthen the Secretariat's ties with member countries and to identify opportunities for continued implementation of the GDSA vision.

The GDSA Secretariat to participate in two-year working group on sustainable water

April 2018: The GDSA Secretariat is pleased to announce that it has been invited to participate in a multi-year working group (also known as a 'Pursuit'), funded by SESYNC, that aims to increase understanding of how water resources can be sustainably managed in urban areas in Africa. The Pursuit - which is being led by colleagues from the City College of New York (USA) and Conservation International - will involve a team of 19 experts meeting four times between mid-2018 and end-2019. Of relevance to the GDSA member countries, the outputs of the Pursuit will include case studies for two of the GDSA member countries which will aim to provide policy-relevant recommendations for how natural and blended infrastructure can be used to support water sustainability targets under the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

More information about the project can be found on the SESYNC website, here.

Photographs courtesy of © Benjamin Drummond.

The GDSA Secretariat participates in sustainability events across the continent

March 2018: The GDSA Secretariat continues to proactively attend, and be invited to, a range of regional and international events on sustainability in Africa. These events are often excellent opportunities to connect with representatives of our member countries as well as with the donor community and civil society. Here is a brief look at some events we've attended this year so far.

Closing regional workshop of the United Nations project to support development of environmental-economic accounting (Nairobi, Kenya)

The GDSA Secretariat was invited to present at the the Closing Regional Workshop for the United Nations Development Account Project, organized by the United Nations Statistics Division (UNSD) in collaboration with Kenya National Bureau of Statistics, UNECA, UN Environment and the World Bank. At the workshop, which took place in December 2017 in Nairobi, representatives from six GDSA countries presented on their natural capital accounting efforts, including new accounts that had been developed under the project by Uganda and Kenya. It was a great opportunity for participants to share their experience and discuss lessons learnt on the implementation on environmental-economic accounts as well as how to best communicate and disseminate the outputs of these efforts to affect decision-making.

Conservation Agreements training (Maun, Botswana)

From January 22nd - 24th, the GDSA Secretariat participated in a training offered by Conservation International (CI) to UNDP staff, partners, and farmers on Conservation Agreements. Conservation Agreements (CA) are a replicable rangelands management tool, and the GDSA Secretariat is facilitating fundraising efforts to expand efforts utilizing CA across Southern Africa.

Conservation International's Strategic Meetings on Sustainable Production and Climate Change

Conservation International (CI) invited the GDSA Secretariat to participate in two separate strategy meetings on sustainable production and climate change. The first meeting, took place in Nairobi in January, was designed to help inform CI's Africa strategy and action plan for sustainable production in the coming years. The GDSA Secretariat had the opportunity to present to CI colleagues and to a range of external partners as well, on the value of the GDSA for promoting sustainable production. For the second meeting, which took place in Washington, DC (USA) this month, the Executive Secretary for the GDSA participated in strategy sessions aimed at helping CI develop its global work on climate change issues.

World Wetlands Day celebration (Gaborone, Botswana)

The GDSA Secretariat facilitated a panel discussion at this year's World Wetlands Day celebration in Botswana on February 2nd. Hosted by the Botswana Ministry of Environment, Natural Resources Conservation and Tourism the event was called, “Wetlands for a sustainable urban future” in Gaborone. The panel discussion provided with an opportunity for bringing together various stakeholders involved in biodiversity conservation and ecosystem management, including policy and decision makers in a forum to discuss the importance of conserving and managing wetlands as a means for obtaining a sustainable urban future.

ESPA African Final Conference (Nairobi, Kenya)

In March 2017, the GDSA Secretariat was happy to be invited to participate in the final workshop held by the Ecosystem Services for Poverty Alleviation (ESPA) program. Taking place in Nairobi this conference brought together policymakers, practitioners, and researchers to reflect on how new approaches to managing Africa's ecosystems could help empower vulnerable communities, improve wellbeing, and progress sustainable development. Through a process of presentations and group discussions, participants helped to shape a 'call to action' declaration for African decision makers, connecting key insights from across the whole 8-year ESPA programme to some of Africa's most pertinent issues relating to social and ecological systems.

Giants Club Summit (Kasane, Botswana)

Finally, the GDSA Secretariat was invited to participate in the Giants Club Summit (15-17 March) which took place in Kasane, Botswana. Not only was the GDSA logo on the program brochure but our Executive Secretary moderated a panel on the "Opportunities for the Okavango River Basin" which focused on discussing the need to manage natural capital and ecosystem service flows across national boundaries. The Summit was attended by the President of Botswana, Ministers of Environment from several GDSA countries, and a range of key players in the fight to save elephants in Africa. During the meeting, the GDSA Executive Secretary had the chance to meet briefly with Ministers from Uganda and Gabon as well as the new Kenyan Cabinet Secretary for Environment.

GDSA Secretariat visits East African member countries

February 2018: The Gaborone Declaration for Sustainability in Africa (GDSA) Secretariat arranged to visit three of its East African member countries in February 2018 including Uganda, Rwanda, and Kenya. As per the current GDSA Secretariat work plan (presented and agreed to with the Focal Points during the October 2017 Focal Points Meeting) and aligned with the Maun Ministers’ Statement (October 2017), the Secretariat undertook these trips to re-engage with the member countries and understand their priorities in terms of implementing the Declaration.

As such, the objectives of the trip were to engage on issues such as resource mobilization and joint program implementation opportunities. In addition, the trips were designed to ensure action on key points of the Maun Statement.

During the trips, the GDSA Secretariat succeeded in meeting the countries' Focal Points as well as their colleagues from a range of ministries and agencies. In Uganda, the Secretariat also met with the Minister of Water and Environment as well. When possible, the Secretariat worked to meet with non-government actors as well, including potential donors and civil society.

A report has been produced and summarizes the key meetings held in each of the three countries along with the next steps agreed to with those member countries. This report can be accessed here.

UN Environment and Government of Botswana sign MOU to implement work under the Gaborone Declaration

NAIROBI, 9th March 2018: The Permanent Representative of Botswana to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) H.E John Moreti and the Executive Director of UNEP Mr. Erik Solheim, signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the Government of the Republic of Botswana and the United Nations Environment Programe (UNEP) on Cooperation in the Field of Sustainable Development and Poverty Eradication within the context of implementing the Gaborone Declaration for Sustainability in Africa (GDSA).

The MoU, among others, provides a framework to facilitate collaboration between UN Environment and the GDSA signatory countries in pursuit of sustainable management of natural capital for sustainable development and poverty eradication.

"The MoU between the Government of Botswana and UN Environment offers the best opportunity to map out concrete collaboration," said H.E. John Moreti following the signing. "This will help actualize the vision of our leaders, who recognize the clear linkage between the natural resources of our continent and sustainable development planning."

The signing ceremony, which took place in Nairobi at the UN Environment headquarters, was witnessed by the GDSA Deputy Executive Secretary Mr. Disikalala Gaseitsiwe of the Government of Botswana. "This signing ceremony has taken place during a time in which there is growing interest and momentum in the GDSA. We welcome this new commitment for progress under the GDSA and look forward to working closely with UN Environment," he said.

During the signing ceremony, the two signatories noted the progress made by the GDSA in supporting sustainable development programs in member countries and expressed the hope that the momentum so far generated could be maintained. 

"Being an original signatory of the 2012 Gaborone Declaration, UN Environment has been on a journey with the GDSA countries since the very beginning. It is wonderful to see this genuine commitment by UN Environment to continue working with us moving forward, especially following their presence at last year's GDSA Forum of Ministers meeting in Botswana," said Mr. Ruud Jansen, Executive Secretary of the GDSA.

The Gaborone Declaration for Sustainability in Africa (GDSA) is an initiative initiated by ten African countries that came together in May 2012 for the Summit on Sustainability in Africa, to discuss the future of Africa in preparation for the Rio+20 UN Conference on Sustainable Development. The summit resulted in the Gaborone Declaration, in which countries committed to the following:

  • Integrating the value of natural capital into national accounting and corporate planning and reporting processes, policies, and programs;
  • Building social capital and reducing poverty by transitioning agriculture, extractive industries, fisheries, and other natural capital uses to practices that promote sustainable employment, food security, sustainable energy and the protection of natural capital through protected areas and other mechanisms;
  • Building knowledge, data capacity and policy networks to promote leadership and new models in the field of sustainable development and to increase momentum for positive change.

Currently, the GDSA has 13 member counties including the Kingdom of Lesotho who recently joined as an associate member.

Momentum grows in Uganda for the Gaborone Declaration for Sustainability in Africa (GDSA)

Kampala, Uganda (October 20th 2017): Over the last two days, the Government of Uganda has hosted a delegation from the Gaborone Declaration for Sustainability in Africa (GDSA) Secretariat, including representatives from Conservation International and the Government of Botswana.

The Gaborone Declaration for Sustainability in Africa (GDSA) is a regional action platform initiated in May 2012 by ten African countries to bring together like-minded countries as they progress towards sustainable development; the GDSA has since grown to encompass 13 member countries. The Government of Uganda expressed interest in joining the GDSA in 2013, appointing a GDSA Focal Point within the Ministry of Environment and Water in 2015. Since that time, the Government of Uganda has participated in GDSA events as an Associate Member country and this week’s visit by the GDSA Secretariat adds to momentum for Uganda to join as a Signatory Country.

“The Gaborone Declaration is a Commitment of like-minded people in the quest for realizing sustainability in the implementation of global and regional commitments,” said Mr. Paul Mafabi, Director Environment Affairs, Ministry of Water and Environment. The last two days have provided the platform for further discussion on how Uganda can participate, and also provide information on opportunities it can pursue in terms of partnerships and financing.

The GDSA approaches sustainability through incorporating the value of natural capital in public and private policy decision-making, generating data, sharing best practices, and building capacity to support policy networks as well as pursuing inclusive sustainable production in such areas as agriculture, fisheries, and extractive industries. The Government of Botswana is the designated Secretariat for the GDSA but works closely with Conservation International (CI), having delegated the Secretariat functions to CI in December 2014.

“The GDSA Secretariat works to mobilize resources and build new partnerships that help our member countries achieve their sustainability targets,” said Mr. Ruud Jansen. “We look forward to working with the Ministry of Environment and Water, as well as with other Ugandan ministries, to help build momentum around key priority areas for the Government – providing a critical value add to Uganda’s ongoing efforts in this realm.”

“The last two days have been a good opportunity to increase dialogue between our countries,” said Mr. Disikalala Gaseitsiwe of the Government of Botswana who serves as the GDSA Deputy Executive Secretary. “It has been very constructive to hear about the areas where Uganda has been made progress and think about how other countries can learn from the Ugandan experience.”

Members of the GDSA Delegation included representatives from Vital Signs and the Sustainable Coffee Challenge. Vital Signs is a monitoring platform that provides support to the Government of Uganda on several projects including strengthening reporting on greenhouse gas emissions under the Paris Climate Agreement and an integrated national resource management initiative in Karamoja. Regarding the Sustainable Coffee Challenge, this is an industry-wide coalition to drive transparency as well as increase investments and collaborative efforts in the sector. “Recognizing the government’s ambitious targets to quadruple production by 2025, there is an opportunity to bridge the link between the public and private sector interests in coffee to achieve these targets in a sustainable manner,” said Mr. Niels Haak, Senior Manager for Sustainable Coffee from Conservation International.

The Directorate of Environment Affairs, of the Ministry of Water and Environment, working with key Ministries, Agencies and Civil Society participated in the consultative process.

A number of regional and global platforms have endorsed the GDSA. These include the African Ministerial Conference on the Environment (AMCEN), the United Nations Environmental Assembly (UNEA), and the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting. 

A year in review: the GDSA Secretariat 2017 activity report

January 2018: The GDSA Secretariat is pleased to release our 2017 activity report, highlighting the activities and progress made by the Secretariat last year in serving our member countries. The Secretariat had a productive year, key highlights of which included:

  • Producing USD$43.5 million in funding proposals, and securing USD$7.5 million in resources, together with partners.
  • Working together with CI and the U.S. NASA to initiate a four-country project on ecosystem accounting.
  • Organizing the first GDSA South-South exchange together with CI and IUCN
  • Hosting the inaugural Forum of Ministers meeting as well as a GDSA Focal Points meeting.
  • Releasing 19 GDSA publications, increasing our Facebook likes by 660%, and increasing our number of unique website visitors by 48%

The coming year promises to be just as busy as 2017; as always, we look forward to working together with our member countries and partners to promote sustainable development across Africa!

Cover page for the 2017 GDSA Secretariat Activity Report.

Cover page for the 2017 GDSA Secretariat Activity Report.

A snapshot of the report's summary page.

A snapshot of the report's summary page.

Lesotho joins the GDSA as an Associate Member

January 2018: The GDSA Secretariat is pleased to announce that the Kingdom of Lesotho has joined the GDSA as an Associate Member. Associate Members are countries that have formally requested to join the GDSA and have identified a Focal Point for Secretariat communications.  

With Lesotho joining the GDSA, the number of member countries rises to thirteen member states. This number is expected to rise in 2018, following the approval of joining guidelines by the GDSA Forum of Ministers in 2017. Five additional African countries have expressed interest in joining.

Looking forward, the GDSA Secretariat will work together with Lesotho's Ministry of Tourism, Environment and Culture to kickstart work under the GDSA. A visit to Lesotho by the Secretariat is tentatively planned for later this year.

Grasslands in southern Africa. ©Rod Mast

Grasslands in southern Africa. ©Rod Mast