In commemorating the World Environment Day (WED) for 2020 the UNDP through the GEF/SGP recognizes the role of the local communities particularly at the grassroot level as “stewards of nature’. The WED is the most renowned day for environmental action and since 1974, it has been celebrated annually on the 5th of June with the purpose of raising awareness and getting stakeholders to focus their efforts on a pressing environmental issue. The theme for this year is, “Biodiversity”-Time for Nature. We implore everyone to raise their voices and contribute to building back better for our society and “mother nature”. Although the global community is currently under siege from the novel corona virus commonly known as COVID-19, which is first and foremost a human health and safety issue, we would like to call upon all stakeholders to continue efforts aimed at protecting and conserving nature.
Nature continues to be the cornerstone of human sustenance, from the foods we eat, the air we breathe, the water we drink and the climate that makes our planet habitable. Nature is the main driver of economic sectors ranging from mining, agriculture, tourism, energy and manufacturing of goods and services, all depend on nature for provision of the required raw materials. To ensure continued flow of the goods and services that our economics are so heavily dependent on, it is now more critical than ever for the global community, governments, communities and individuals to invest in initiatives aimed at conserving, preserving and restoring nature. No effort is too small, if we all try, we could contribute to a better planet for generations yet to come.
For centuries, local communities have played a key role in nature conservation through sustainable utilization of natural resources. This was done through various cultural practices passed on from one generation to the other. In Botswana, some of the practices adopted include; taboos, folklores, totems, migratory/nomadic lifestyle and other cultural practices. Through these cultural practices and the rich Indigenous Technical Knowledge (ITK) that the local communities possess, natural environments have been sustainably managed and conserved through a coherent system which must be preserved.
Conservation efforts by communities are recognized and supported by the donor community and governments. This has been through enacting legislative frameworks such as; conventions, treaties, protocols, acts, policies and other statutory instruments all aimed at creating an enabling environment for implementation of efforts aimed at conservation of nature. Amongst these initiatives is the Global Environment Facility - Small Grants Programme (GEF/SGP). Established in 1992 at the Rio Earth Summit, the Programme is implemented by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) on behalf of other partners such as; GEF, United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), World Bank, UNDP and executed by United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS). The GEF Small Grants Programme embodies sustainable development by "thinking globally, acting locally". Through this, the Programme supports local communities at the grassroots level to undertake projects that are aimed at restoring and conserving the environment while at the same time enhancing people’s wellbeing and livelihoods. The projects supported are within the GEF focal areas of; biodiversity, land degradation, climate change, sustainable forest management, international waters, chemicals and Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs).
The Botswana chapter commenced in 1992 and has since supported 185 projects to a tune of <USD 5, 000, 000. Through the technical and financial support provided by the Programme, the local communities have led initiatives that have significantly contributed to the restoration and conservation of nature as well as enhancing people's well-being and livelihoods particularly in rural areas.
To date, majority of the projects supported by the Country Programme fall within the biodiversity focal area. Through these community led initiatives; the programme has demonstrated the great value that local communities uphold for nature. These initiatives have resulted in key accomplishments of mainstreaming biodiversity conservation and sustainable use into production landscapes and sectors through community initiatives and actions. Furthermore, these initiatives resulted in improving flow of agro-ecosystem and forest ecosystem services to sustain livelihoods of local communities and enhancing livelihoods and well-being of the local communities.
UDNP through the GEF/SGP will enhance its efforts by supporting community led interventions aimed at biodiversity conservation and contribute to the attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals. To this end, this will be guided by the commitment echoed in its Country Programme Strategy for Operational Phase 7 (2020 to 2024). This will be driven by the overall goal of, promoting and supporting innovative, inclusive and scalable initiatives, and foster multi stakeholder partnerships at the local level to tackle global environmental issues in priority landscapes. As the country and the whole world is in the process of fully adopting the fourth industrial revolution tools, the programme will also explore and support the use of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in empowering local communities to develop good quality, innovative and bankable proposals as well as support implementation of impactful projects. Together we can act #ForNature.
By: Abigail Lillian Engleton