Cape Town – On Tuesday, South Africa joined the world in celebrating 25 years of action for biodiversity during the International Day for Biological Diversity (IBD).
The IBD is celebrated annually in recognition of the importance of biodiversity, while also heightening awareness on the need to conserve and sustainably use natural resources.
“As one of the most biologically diverse countries, South Africa strives to conserve its biological diversity, promote sustainable use of its components, and ensure fair and equitable sharing of the benefits arising from the commercial utilisation of genetic resources,” said Environmental Affairs Minister, Dr Edna Molewa.
South Africa covers only 2% of the world’s surface but is home to 10% of the world’s plants, 7% of the reptiles, birds, and mammals, as well as 15% of known coastal marine species.
South Africa is also the only country to entirely house one of the world’s six floral kingdoms – called the Cape Floral Kingdom. The country shares two globally recognised biodiversity hotspots with its neighbours. These are the Succulent Karoo, which is shared with Namibia, and the Maputaland-Pondoland-Albany hotspot shared with Mozambique and Swaziland.
During the recent tabling of the Budget Vote policy statement in Parliament, Minister Molewa emphasised that Operation Phakisa: Biodiversity Economy is the most important multi-faceted approach to the management of South Africa’s rich natural heritage.
“It is an approach that focuses on an inclusive value chain approach to the development of the biodiversity economy,” Dr Molewa said.
South Africa’s natural heritage includes six Transfrontier Conservation Areas, nine World Heritage Sites, 21 national parks, two special nature reserves, 51 forest nature reserves, 12 forest wilderness areas, 25 marine protected areas, and 1 258 nature reserves.
The Department of Environmental Affairs plans to increase the supply of indigenous species by adding at least 500ha of land to be cultivated with high-value species during the current financial year.
“This will be complemented by ongoing implementation of a game donation and custodianship policy framework,” said the Minister.
Minister Molewa had also announced that the government will be launching the Biodiversity Economy Investment Catalogue that profiles investment-ready economy projects.