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Source: www.unep.org, Publication: Sun 08 May 2016

Mozambique: Investing in Environment Pays off for the Poorest

Mozambique: Investing in Environment Pays off for the Poorest

Mozambique: Investing in Environment Pays off for the Poorest

The coconut trees along the coastline of Zambezia - a province in northern Mozambique - provide livelihood opportunities to an estimated 1.7 million people and are an important source of revenue for the government. A 2011 report by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimated that Mozambique produced approximately 62,000 tons of dried coconut meat for export, oil production, and local consumption.

Since 2003, as much as 1 million coconut trees have been lost, due to a lethal yellowing disease in the palms. At the present rate, more than 50 per cent of coconut palm trees are likely to be lost in the next years.

The loss of this vital resource has created a ripple effect as communities are now overexploiting local mangrove, which has exacerbated the problem of soil erosion in the area, causing floods that destroy crops and houses. As a result, most villages located by the river have been forced to relocate at least once.

The destructive effect of the disease and the resulting environmental damage have been felt beyond Zambezia, affecting Mozambique's economy, which is highly reliant on products and services derived from healthy ecosystems. It is estimated that nationwide, over 82 per cent of jobs depend on natural resources and that natural capital contributes up to 50 per cent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

In May this year, countries will meet in Nairobi for UNEA 2 – the world's de facto "Parliament for the Environment" – to discuss how to sustainably manage natural resources to benefit the health and wellbeing of people. Finding ways of valuing and sustainably managing natural resources will be crucial to achieving all three dimensions of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Since 2005 in an effort to achieve the national development goals and to reduce poverty, the joint Poverty-Environment Initiative (PEI) of the UN Environment Programme and UN Development Programme has supported the Government of Mozambique to mainstream environment related objectives into policy and budget processes at the national and provincial levels.

The first step was understanding how healthy ecosystems contribute to the country's economy and what the financial and environmental impact of their degradation would be. With PEI support, the Government commissioned an economic valuation of the environment and natural resources in Mozambique. The study showed that the yearly economic loss due to environmental degradation and inefficient use of natural resources was 17 per cent of the GDP, equivalent to $1.5 billion lost each year.

By contrast, the estimated cost to address environmental degradation issues was calculated at only nine per cent of GDP, yet between 2007-2010 the government only allocated around 1.4 per cent of GDP towards the environment.

Such paradoxes go to the very core of the poverty-environment problem. For example, the economic valuation in Mozambique estimated that illness and death caused by lack of access to clean water result in an annual cost of more than $100 million a year. Agricultural soil degradation leads to an estimated annual damage of $108 million, due to reduced productivity.

These findings clearly demonstrate the importance of having sound ecosystem services and the sustainable management of natural resources.

Communities that depend on natural resources for their livelihoods need increased government and development partners' investments in sustainable natural resource management to help them improve their livelihoods opportunities.

To overcome such challenges the communities living in the Zambezia province adopted a different strategy to tackle the riverbank flooding and erosion. Instead of re-locating, they took advantage of an ecosystem-based adaptation approach through a programme jointly developed with local authorities and PEI.

This programme has put in place measures, such as planting trees, reforesting the mangroves, using sandbag blocks and more sophisticated concrete walls to protect fields and homes from inundation by the river.

Thanks to this programme, the community of Madal did not have to relocate and is now able to concentrate on income-generating activities inspired by sustainable agricultural practices. Providing the right support to communities and local governments to deal with riverbank erosion has proven crucial to ensuring food security and conditions for sustainable development.

Even though the lost coconut trees of Zambezia are gone, the gains made by communities there, and elsewhere in Mozambique, offer hope for the future in a country where environment mainstreaming is becoming business-as-usual in decision making processes. 

As the world's ministers of environment meet in Nairobi for the UN Environment Assembly next month, Mozambique's experience will serve as an example of the kinds of benefits that including the environment into development planning can bring.

For communities on the frontlines of the fight against climate change and environmental degradation this can mean the difference between losing their homes and gaining new sources of livelihood.

About UNEA

In May, hundreds of key decision makers, businesses and representatives of intergovernmental organizations and civil society will gather in Nairobi for UNEA-2 at the United Nations Environment Programme headquarters in Nairobi.

The assembly will be one of the first major meetings since the adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Paris Climate Agreement. The resolutions passed at UNEA-2 will set the stage for early action on implementing the 2030 Agenda, and drive the world towards a better, more just future. - See more at: http://www.unep.org/stories/Mozambique/Investing-in-Environment.asp#sthash.Qcg5jhrg.dpuf





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