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International Day for biological diversity

May 22 marked 25 years of the entry into force of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). The convention has a near universal membership of 195 countries. It entered into force on December 29, 1993. Zimbabwe ratified the convention on 11 November 1994 and became a party to the convention on February 9, 1995.

The day was proclaimed to increase understanding and awareness of biodiversity issues. This year’s commemoration was done in the form of a discussion forum organised by UNESCO Regional Office for Southern Africa in partnership with United Nations Information Centre (UNIC) and Ministry of Environment, Water and Climate, under the theme “25 years of Action for Biodiversity”.

The Convention on Biological Diversity was inspired by the world community’s growing commitment to sustainable development. It represents a dramatic step forward in the conservation of biological diversity, the sustainable use of its components, and the fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising from the use of genetic resources.  Since entering into force, the Convention has been implemented through the vision and leadership displayed by countries, non-Governmental and inter-Governmental organisations, indigenous peoples and local communities, the scientific community and individuals alike.

Zimbabwe is rich in biodiversity in its varied landscapes and aquatic ecosystem. It has about 5 930 vascular plant species, of which 214 are endemic, 670 bird species, 270 mammal species, 256 reptile species, 120 amphibian species, and 151 fish species. These species are found within and outside protected areas.

Our biodiversity is, however, under various threats and these need to be ameliorated to preserve our biodiversity. Poverty is a major factor in biodiversity loss in Zimbabwe’s ecosystems because it has led to unsustainable exploitation of the country’s natural resources.

Deforestation has been occurring at alarming levels since 2011 in peri-urban areas due to commercialisation of fuel wood by desperate urban residents in the face of frequent power outages. The current deforestation rate is 330 000 ha/ year. Change in land use has been the main driver for ecosystem change, especially through expansion of agriculture.

In recent years, the effects of climate change in Zimbabwe have been seen in severe droughts, floods in low lying areas and shifts in seasons. This has led to habitat loss, high mortality of wildlife and livestock and poor calving, kidding and lambing rates.  Veldt fires are a major threat to biodiversity. In the 2017 fire season, 3,29 percent of total land area was burnt. This translated to a cumulative total of 1 268 534 hectares which were burnt from 2 705 fire incidences.

Zimbabwe has successfully developed policies and strategies to conserve biodiversity, but implementation of identified actions has been slow due to inadequate financial resources, a lack of technical skills, the need to compromise for accelerated economic development in the case of projects of national importance, increased stress on natural resources, unsustainable mining activities, limited livelihood options, lack of environmental awareness, the high dependency of the economy on natural resources and rapid urbanisation.

The biodiversity sector actions and initiatives in Zimbabwe have generally made a positive contribution toward Sustainable Development. Biodiversity conservation in protected areas and CAMPFIRE areas has enhanced livelihoods of communities, and co-management arrangements have improved the standard of living of communities living next to protected areas.

The sector is encouraging value addition for natural resources and creating job opportunities in the hospitality, arts and crafts, fisheries and timber industries. Most natural resource management programmes have encouraged the active participation of women by involving them in decision making positions on natural resource management committees and community ownership trusts.

Traditional medicinal plants continue to supply treatment options for poor and vulnerable households and are critical in management of communicable diseases. There has been an increase in protected area network coverage through proclamation of Ramsar sites, expansion of trans-frontier conservation areas and the establishment of the Mid-Zambezi biosphere reserve. Cleaner production technologies have been adopted and there is increased cooperation in renewable energy technology.

The Convention on Biological Diversity recognises that biological diversity is about more than plants, animals and micro organisms and their ecosystems — it is about people and our need for food security, medicines, fresh air and water, shelter, and a clean and healthy environment in which to live. It is therefore our responsibility as a country, to work towards biological diversity conservation for the benefit of present and future generations.

SOURCE : THE HERALD

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