The Sunday News
Sifelani Tsiko, Sunday News Reporter
The new Zimbabwe Biodiversity Economy (ZBE) Report has found that Zimbabwe could unlock billions of dollars in value by 2030 if it accelerates the creation of a natural capital accounting framework to account for the contribution of biodiversity to the economy.
Biodiversity is the variety of plant and animal life in the world or in a particular habitat, a high level of which is usually considered to be important and desirable. The Ministry of Environment, Climate and Wildlife in collaboration with the African Wildlife Foundation (AWF), Anchor Environment, Zimbabwe
Environmental Law Association (ZELA), consultants and other key stakeholders started working on the ZBE report in 2021 to collect data and information about the country’s biodiversity and develop strategies on how it can be harnessed for economic growth and the realisation of Vision 2030.
This was after the Ministry of Finance and Investment Promotion had requested a report that could guide policies to maximise the country’s inclusive wealth and long-term sustainability of its biological resource base.
The first ever ZBE report showed that four key sectors – wildlife, bio – prospecting and bio-trade, fisheries and forestry sectors could contribute millions of dollars to the Zimbabwean economy by 2030 if a natural capital accounting framework is adopted.
In 2019 alone, total tourism receipts were around US$1,25 billion while tourism accounted for 6,3 percent of Gross Domestic Product and 3,7 percent of national employment, according to the report. Sport hunting generated an average of US$29 000 per hunter and US$33 million in GDP, for the wildlife sub-sector.
The fisheries sector which employed 3 500 people generated US$250 million over the same period. From 2014 to 2018, timber harvests in indigenous state forests generated between US$164 000 and US$275 000 while sawmilling in state forests generated between US$190 000 to US$445 000, with 15 000 people employed.
Non-timber forest products are a major component of Zimbabwe’s rich biodiversity resources and the report estimated that the total subsistence value was US$500 million per year.
The biodiversity inventory study covered all ecosystems including critical sectors such as capital accounts, investments, policy and legislation.
Zimbabwe has an impressive biodiversity collection with 5 930 plant species, 670 bird species, 270 mammal species, 156 reptile species, 120 amphibian species and 141 fish species found inside and outside of protected areas.
Before the study, there was no detailed analysis of the country’s biodiversity and the mechanisms for promoting the integration of biodiversity and ecosystem values in policy development and implementation.
“The biodiversity economy will play a major role in achieving the National Development Strategy 1 (NDS1) and the realisation of Vision 2030 of becoming an empowered and prosperous upper-middle income country,” said Ms Tariro Musonza, acting secretary in the Ministry of Environment, Climate and Wildlife at the launch of the report.
“The Zimbabwe Biodiversity Economy (ZBE) Study Report recognises the key role of nature in Zimbabwe’s economic development and will therefore provide a foundation to harness opportunities and long-term growth of a biodiversity economy, including harnessing investments in this critical economic asset as we endeavour to attain vision 2030.”
Dr Olivia Mufute, AWF country director for Zimbabwe said: “I am overwhelmed with excitement as I stand in front of all gathered here to witness the launch of the first ever Zimbabwe Biodiversity Economy (ZBE) Report. As AWF Zimbabwe, we are optimistic that the ZBE report is a huge milestone for Zimbabwe towards economic development that is consistent with sustainability objectives of social well-being, environmental health and an equitable economy.
“The roadmap for Natural Capital Accounting, illustrated in the report, provides a framework that would help Zimbabwe to mainstream the value and contribution of nature into development planning, policy development and decision-making on public and private investment.”
The ZBE Report’s Investment Blueprint highlights opportunities and steps that the Government and stakeholders could take to realise the potential of the country’s biodiversity heritage.
Dr Mufute said the ZBE Report will play an important role in addressing challenges underpinning biodiversity loss in Zimbabwe and to position biodiversity economy as a key economic sector to invest in.
Zimbabwe has an impressive biodiversity collection that includes 5 930 plant species, 670 bird species, 270 mammal species, 156 reptile species, 120 amphibian species and 141 fish species found within and outside protected areas.
“I would like to point out that this Report will bring a paradigm shift in the way biodiversity is viewed in Zimbabwe by individuals, citizens, the corporate sector, communities and policymakers. The government is in full support of Natural Capital Accounting which will provide building blocks for developing the biodiversity economy.”
Biodiversity is now under threat from various drivers that include overexploitation, land use change, pollution and invasive alien species.
Bio-piracy is now rampant in most African countries resulting in huge losses of benefits that come with the utilisation of plant and animal genetic resources.
A study by the African Union estimated that the continent was losing close to US$10 billion from the theft of its biodiversity. Zimbabwe hopes to plug the gaps through recommendations from the ZBE report and map out strategies to harness biodiversity for long term economic growth.