Developing Capacity for Implementation for Ecosystem-Based Adaptation in South Africa

By Candice Arendse and Sarshen Scorgie

Ecosystem -based Adaption (EbA) integrates conservation of biodiversity and enhancement of ecosystem services as adaptive responses to the impacts of climate change. The concept aims to decrease climate change vulnerabilities of people and the ecosystems in which they live, and on which they depend through the conservation and restoration of vital ecosystem services thereby also addressing socio-economic development, climate change impacts and biodiversity conservation. The implementation of a EbA s is thus an important element of a country’s response to climate change impacts and to assist in moving us towards more sustainable development.

South Africa has developed a Strategic Framework and Overarching Implementation Plan for Ecosystem -based Adaptation (EbA Strategy) under the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) and the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI). The Strategy aims to use existing initiatives in the country to support the implementation of EbA and to streamline the concept as a vital component in developing and sustaining work on climate change and biodiversity.

Conservation South Africa (CSA), as an affiliate of Conservation International (CI), works to mainstream and implement EbA and climate change into local and district policy in South Africa through a range of tools which in turn also support their demonstration and implementation of EbA in the landscapes where they work. In addition to a supportive policy and strategy environment, the current EbA tools in use are the Let’s Respond toolkit, the Vulnerability Assessment and the EbA Priority Mapping processes.

Additional tools have however been developed both nationally (Department of Rural Development and Land reform Climate Change Training Tool and the DEA/SANBI EbA guideline, which is still under development) and internationally (IIED, GIZ and CI tools) With a wealth of tools available, it is important to review them in order to assess their current usefulness and appropriateness in South Africa, and the possibility of the using additional newly developed tools. Within this context, CSA and CI hosted and facilitated a national EbA stakeholder workshop on Developing Capacity for Implementation of Ecosystem-Based Adaptation (EbA). The workshop aimed to inform a process through the use of EbA toolkits to enable future implementation and support capacity development around EbA.

The workshop was held in Pretoria on 07 June 2017 and was attended by representatives from key sectors including disaster management, rural development and land reform and biodiversity and ecosystems. The objectives of the workshop were to reflect on existing climate change toolkits both nationally and internationally and discuss how they can be applied to further support EbA in South Africa; promote discussion on how the application of tools can contribute to the implementation of the EbA Strategy and the National Adaptation Strategy and identify opportunities for collaboration.

Representatives from DEA, gave a broad overview of the Policy and Strategy environment for EbA in South Africa. Mr Sibonelo Mbanjwe spoke about the National Adaptation Strategy and the nine strategic priorities within the Strategy. He noted that EbA elements is visible in many of the priority areas due to the cross cutting nature of EbA. Mr Ntando Mkhize informed the participants of the key aspects of the Strategic Framework and Overarching Implementation Plan for EbA. He noted that the National Climate Change Response Policy recognizes the Biodiversity and Ecosystems Sector as a climate change priority sector. Mr Ntando Mkhize added that adaptation plans for nine South Africa Biomes has been developed and EbA has been identified as one of the key adaptation actions.

Toolkits used within South Africa and internationally were discussed. On a national level, these tools included the Lets respond Toolkit, the EbA Guideline Document and the climate change training program toolkit, developed by the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform (DRDLR). GIZ, International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) and CI gave an overview of the international tools that has been developed including, Mainstreaming EbA into Development Planning which was developed by GIZ; Ecosystem-based Approaches to Adaptation: Strengthening the Evidence and Informing Policy developed by IIED and the Resilience Atlas which was developed by Conservation International.

The Resilience Atlas is a spatial analysis tool, which provides users with a data-based tool for decision-making and funding decisions. This global mapping tool is divided into three categories: livelihoods, production systems, and ecosystems; climate stressors and shocks; and factors influencing vulnerability.

A group session in the form of a world cafe was held to discuss each tool presented. The groups had specific questions to consider in their discussion, which included assessing the benefits of the tool for participants’ areas of work, gaps and challenges and how to address these and how to feature EbA more in the tool (if this was not already the case). Another group session was held to identify key steps on the way forward and to identify and prioritise key stakeholders and partners to support the process.

Some of the key messages from the workshop included the need to simplify the tools and integrate resources to avoid ‘tool fatigue’; the need to strengthen tools that are existing and link with other tools, rather than creating new ones; and the need to provide more training on tools and accredit these trainings where possible. There was also a great emphasis placed on the need to visualise the application of the tools, making them interactive with options such as online videos.

Overall the meeting was productive and provided the team with insights into capacity development for EbA. CSA plans to have a follow-up meeting with DEA, DRDLR and SANBI to discuss some of the next steps indicated during the workshop.