Title: Conserve Biodiversity while Creating Jobs
Keywords: biodiversity, water resources, agriculture, South Africa
Summary: Political and economic actors might think preserving biodiversity and developing an economy are two notions that cannot easily coexist, let alone contribute to social integration. Scientists in South Africa, home to a unique political history and an immense biodiversity, successfully convinced politicians to launch a program that is removing invasive tree species while also helping restore water supplies, create jobs, and alleviate poverty. The Working for Water Program now has 300 projects nationwide.
Challenge. Invasive plants are the single biggest threat to biodiversity, present in 10 million hectares of South Africa?s territory. If left unchecked, the problem will double within 15 years. The plants waste 7 percent of the country?s water resources, reduce its farming potential, intensify flooding and fires, harm rivers, silt dams, and can cause mass extinction of indigenous plants and animals.
Solution. The Working for Water Program was created after South Africa's first democratically elected government took power. The program employs people who were disadvantaged under South Africa's apartheid system to clear away invasive plants in bodies of water across the country.
Policies and actions. In 1994, a government-funded study developed a computer model to predict the growth and spread of invasive plants. The study found that invasive plants would increase in density and extent over the next half century, resulting in reductions in stream flow between 30 percent and 60 percent. Ecologists then designed a 'road show' to present the findings to the Minister of Water Affairs, provincial officials in Western Cape Province, and other key politicians, emphasizing that the problem's solution would also bring economic and employment benefits.
The presentation helped to sell the program to the government. Once Working for Water was launched in 1995, the management team established a communications program to ensure maximum exposure for the project's results. Doing that helped to secure further funding from local governments, the private sector, foreign aid groups, and the national government's poverty alleviation fund.
South Africa's legislature played an important role in supporting the program by revising legislation like the Conservation of Agricultural Resources Act to deal with different categories of invasive plants. The reforms included novel approaches for allowing plants with commercial value to be cultivated provided that the landowners accept responsibility for clearing costs in surrounding areas. The new laws also phased out popular ornamental invasive plants by banning further sales from nurseries.
Where and when: South Africa, 1995-present
Initiated by: Various
Effectiveness: Working for Water now runs over 300 projects in all of South Africa's nine provinces. In 2004, it employed nearly 33,000 people, more than half of them women. That same year, 194,000 hectares of invasive plants were cleared, and another 600,000 hectares were maintained with follow-up clearing.
Mainstreaming Biodiversity in Development: Case Studies from South Africa (World Bank report)
Idea posted by: World Bank The
Date posted: 2005-11-24
Contact to learn more:
World Bank Development Policy Dialogue Team
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