On the 22nd, May 2020 the world observed the International Day for Biodiversity. A day proclaimed by the United Nations to increase understanding and awareness of biodiversity issues. The year 2020 was marked as a “Super year” for nature and Biodiversity- a major opportunity to bring back nature from the brink. Nature-based solutions offer the best way to achieve human well-being, tackle climate change and protect our planet. Yet nature is in crisis, as we are losing species at a rate 1,000 times greater than at any other time in recorded human history and one million species face extinction (IPBES, 2019).
The year 2020, is however also battling COVID-19 pandemic, which still remain without either a vaccine or cure since its outbreak was reported in China in December 2019. The “race” to find a cure by scientists and world pharmaceutical companies have turned to nature for solutions. Indeed, the solution to the COVID-19 pandemic and other future pandemics might come from nature. Undisturbed nature provides a buffer between humans and diseases, and emerging zoonotic diseases are often the results of encroachment into natural ecosystems and changes in human activity. Increase in the rates of Malaria in the Amazon has been linked to deforestation since the deforested land is the ideal habitat for Mosquitoes. Deforestation has also been linked to outbreaks of Ebola and Lyme disease, as humans come into contact with wildlife species. Research has shown that altering nature in unsustainable ways can have devastating human implications.
Of course, the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic is first and foremost an issue of human health and safety. But as people have changed their everyday behaviours and patterns to contain or avoid the virus, we have seen some positive impacts on the environment. The extreme social distancing implemented by countries around the world to fight coronavirus has had rapid and profound impacts on the environment. The question that we should be asking ourselves is how can we use this opportunity to learn from these positive impacts and build back better? A focus on nature can help us understand where pandemics come from and how the socioeconomic fallout from the crisis could be mitigated. The quest to rebuild economies post COVID-19 should be coupled with quest to fund and protect biodiversity and incorporate nature as insurance for future natural solutions to future pandemics. It is no coincidence that the destruction of ecosystems has coincided with a sharp increase in diseases.
Natural habitats are being reduced, causing species to live in closer quarters than ever to one another and to humans. Changes in land use, over dependency on natural resources, poverty and food insecurity and other factors force people to search for alternatives for survival. These disturbances or damage to ecosystems in some instances results in viruses from animals finding new hosts – the human population. The coronavirus pandemic has demonstrated our socioeconomic system’s inherent vulnerability to shocks. It is, therefore, critical that efforts by governments to assess and develop strategies to kickstart the economy, should place nature at the centre of the solutions. These stimuli and responses to the COVID-19 pandemic will determine the future health, wellbeing and stability of the humankind and the planet.
"As we encroach on nature and deplete vital habitats, increasing numbers of species are at risk. That includes humanity and the future we want. UN Secretary-General António Guterres
Botswana like many other countries, is faced with several biodiversity conservation challenges including those of a financial nature. This is despite a strong case for investment in biodiversity and ecosystem services management and enhancement. Botswana has made commendable strides to ensure that wider reforms are complimented by finance solutions that have the potential to unlock additional resources for the Botswana biodiversity agenda. UNDP is supporting the Ministry of Environment, Natural Resources Conservation and Tourism (MENT) to implement a project financed by BIOFIN, which is a United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) managed partnership that support countries to develop innovative ways to mobilize resources for Biodiversity and conservation. The Initiative provides an innovative methodology enabling countries to measure their current biodiversity expenditures, assess their financial needs in the medium term and identify the most suitable finance solutions to bridge national biodiversity finance gaps.
The Botswana Biodiversity Finance Plan adds to the existing efforts of the biodiversity sector and its partners by supporting alignment with both biodiversity sector and wider socio-economic development planning and sectoral development. It provides guidance to the implementation of the prioritized biodiversity finance solutions and propose lead implementing authorities. The plan is a resource for the process of developing and encouraging biodiversity finance in Botswana, and may be updated as circumstances, needs and opportunities evolve. Implementation will require a coordinated effort the bulk of which will fall to MENT using existing collaboration frameworks. It is, however, recognized that commitment and financing by the public sector should increasingly be complemented by the private sector, NGOs and donors. The Current version of the plan contains solutions that focusses on the three main areas mainly Protected Areas (PA), Sustainable Utilization and Ecological Management and Restoration. The plan further outlines solutions proposed under these broad areas. An analysis of three of the eight priority finance solutions featured in this Plan estimated a cumulative net financial gain of P474 million over 10 years, which would make a significant contribution to reaching the country’s biodiversity conservation goals as stipulated in the National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan (NBSAP). In addition, the CBNRM solution would contribute to increased benefits sharing with local communities.