Food security, climate change and energy topped concerns at the recent Southern African Development Community (SADC) Summit, but leaders failed to recognize the role of the environment in poverty reduction, according to IUCN.
Achieving food security amid concern over rising food prices, increasing capacity to respond to the impacts of climate change and increasing power generation and transportation were highlighted as requiring priority attention.
However, with the real complexities of poverty overruled by economic development objectives, Southern African leaders failed to recognize the importance of environmental goods and services in poverty reduction and development.
The talks came as the Heads of State of the 14 countries in the SADC signed the Mauritius Declaration on Poverty and Development on April 20 in Pailles, Mauritius.
“While we are pleased that adapting to and mitigating impacts of climate change have been highlighted here as key issues to address, we are concerned and disappointed that the potential role of the environment in overall poverty reduction and development planning is not being highlighted,” said Sue Mainka, acting Regional Director for IUCN’s East and Southern Africa Region, and head of the IUCN delegation at the meeting. “Only by including broader ecosystem management and accounting for environmental goods and services in national and regional planning can longer term, sustainable solutions be found to poverty reduction and development in the region.”
The Conference deliberated on issues including trade, agriculture, infrastructure, gender, HIV-Aids, and capacity building. The increasing levels of poverty across the SADC region and a lack of progress toward the Millennium Development Goals were highlighted. This is a region where 40% of the total population lives on less that US$ 1 a day, and in 6 of the countries, undernourishment ranges between 44% and 72% of the population.
“Poverty is the greatest problem of our time,” said Navinchandra Ramgoolam, Prime Minister of Mauritius in his opening speech. “Soaring food prices, energy prices and climate change add even more complexity to the problem and undermine any progress we make in development.”
Increased agricultural productivity, more irrigation schemes, improved seeds and subsidies for fertilizers were called for. None, however, commented on the importance of healthy ecosystems in achieving food security, for climate change adaptation and mitigation, and for providing renewable resources for sustainable energy.
As an International Cooperating Partner, IUCN is following up with the SADC Secretariat to consider the best way to ensure better integration of environmental issues and biodiversity in SADC strategies and deliberations in the future. In particular IUCN’s current work on food security, energy and climate change will be of direct relevance.