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Market-based Wildlife Economy Certification Sche

Development and implementation of a voluntary, market-based Wildlife Economy Certification Scheme

Draft Concept Note and Roadmap – 30 November 2020

1.    Introduction

The Wildlife Economy is underpinned by complex and multi-faceted agro-ecological farming systems. The primary objective of the wildlife rancher is to run a profitable enterprise across a range of four broad types of activities: 1) game ranching and live sales; 2) hunting (trophy and biltong); 3) game products (including game meat production) and 4) ecotourism. Wildlife ranches are managed along a continuum from more intensive to extensive systems, with some production units also including other agricultural practices and land uses. Open ranched lands may also have wildlife areas with free ranging wildlife populations.

The exceptional biodiversity of South Africa provides a wide range of benefits to the country’s economy, society and human well-being. The sustained benefit flows that nature provides are dependent on functioning ecosystems, healthy species populations and high genetic diversity.

Increased investment in effectively managing, conserving and sustainably utilizing biodiversity by the public and private sector in South Africa has led to 13,2% (14,9 million hectares) of South Africa coming under conservation (including declared Protected Areas, Biosphere Reserves and World Heritage Sites). Additionally, approximately 9,000 privately owned game ranches account for a further 17,7% (20 million hectares) of wildlife habitat in the country. Significant tracts of land under the custodianship of communities, land reform beneficiaries and new entrants to the sector will potentially make a further substantial contribution if sustainable land management is practiced. There is a meaningful opportunity for the sector to yield inclusive rural economic growth and the creation of new biodiversity-related jobs and enterprises.

The development of a voluntary, market-driven certification scheme for the wildlife industry has been identified as a potential intervention to recognize and reward the contribution of wildlife custodians to the biodiversity economy and biodiversity conservation, while at the same time, adequately mitigating reputational and ecological risks and reducing negative impacts on ecosystem services, thereby improving the industry’s image in a competitive international market.

2.    South Africa’s Development Trajectory and the National Biodiversity Strategy Action Plan 2015-2025

South Africa’s development trajectory is articulated in the National Development Plan 2030 (NDP 2030), which emphasizes economic growth and development but recognizes the “need to protect the natural environment in all respects, leaving subsequent generations with an endowment of at least equal value”. By 2030, South Africa should be well on the way to a low carbon resilient economy. The NDP 2030 therefore recognizes the linkages between protection of biodiversity, ecosystem health, water management and creating decent jobs as many vulnerable communities are dependent on biodiversity for livelihoods. Furthermore, biodiversity is identified as one of the sectors to contribute to addressing the triple challenges of poverty, unemployment and inequality.

Recognised as one of the most biodiverse countries, with 9 biomes and approximately 95 000 species, South Africa aims to protect these natural resources, whilst restoring degraded ecosystems and utilising biodiversity resources for benefit of all. In this regard, the vision for the country as outlined in the National Biodiversity Strategy Action Plan 2015-2025 (NBSAP), is ‘to conserve, manage and sustainably use biodiversity to ensure equitable benefits for the people of South Africa now and in the future’. This vision is supported by the following six (6) goals:

  1. Management of biodiversity assets and their contribution to the economy, rural development, job creation and social well-being is enhanced.
  2. Investments in ecological infrastructure enhance resilience and ensure benefits to society
  3. Biodiversity considerations are mainstreamed into policies, strategies and practices of a range of sectors.
  4. People are mobilized to adopt practices that sustain the long-term benefits of biodiversity
  5. Conservation and management of biodiversity is improved through the development of an equitable and suitably skilled workforce.
  6. Effective knowledge foundations, including indigenous knowledge and citizen science, support the management, conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity.

Key in meeting these goals is the adequate resourcing and financing of biodiversity and conservation, protection and management efforts. South Africa, therefore, considers issues relating to biodiversity finance as the practice of raising and managing capital and using financial incentives to support sustainable biodiversity management.

3.    The Biodiversity Economy Strategy

South Africa has developed a Biodiversity Economy Strategy (BES) that serves as a guide for the sustainable growth of the wildlife economy, ecotourism and bioprospecting/biotrade sectors. The BES provides a basis for addressing constraints for growth, ensuring sustainability, identifying clear stakeholder responsibilities, and monitoring progress of the enabling actions identified in the strategy. A key focus of the BES is on providing an enabling environment for communities and entrepreneurs to participate in the biodiversity economy, while contributing to poverty alleviation, sustainable development and conservation of the country’s biodiversity.

South Africa’s wildlife sector has been growing consistently faster than the general economy for several years, contributing R3 billion to GDP in 2014 – almost double the contribution made by the sector in 2008. The Biodiversity Economy Strategy estimates that the sector’s GDP contribution could be R14 billion by 2030.

The National Biodiversity Assessment (NBA) 2018 estimates that the total biodiversity-related employment was approximately 418,000 jobs, of which 71,987 jobs were in the ‘conserving biodiversity’ category, 90,252 jobs in non-harvest based use of biodiversity activities such as ecotourism and 256,298 jobs in the harvest based use of biodiversity activities such as the game ranching and hunting (65,000 jobs), fisheries, trade in traditional medicines and indigenous tea production. Total biodiversity-related employment of approximately 418,000 jobs compares favourably with 434,000 jobs in the mining sector.

As part of developing a national implementation plan for the BES, the (then) Department of Environmental Affairs hosted the Biodiversity Economy Phakisa (a fast results delivery programme) in May 2016 to engage the wildlife sector in identifying the challenges and opportunities for sustainably growing the biodiversity economy of the country. A vision of a thriving, inclusive and sustainable wildlife economy for the well-being of all South Africans was formulated. Subsequently, several initiatives have been implemented to support the aspiration of an inclusive, sustainable and responsive wildlife economy that grows at 10% per annum until at least 2030, while providing a foundation for social well-being and maintaining the ecological resource base. Three broad objectives relating to facilitating transformation, driving economic growth and creating an enabling environment for the wildlife sector were identified.

4.    The Wildlife Economy Certification Scheme

The overall objective of the Wildlife Economy Certification Scheme is to design and implement a sector-wide voluntary market-based certification scheme that is supported by key sector stakeholders and that incentivizes environmentally and socially sustainable practices that contribute to biodiversity conservation. The intention is for this system to be cost effective while maintaining a high standard, rewarding exemplary practices. It should be recognized by national and international markets, and ideally be an international benchmark for the sector.

Certification is a mechanism which indicates that certain agreed-upon standards have been met in a production system. It is a non-government, market-driven, voluntary approach to incentivize environmentally sustainable practices, adequately mitigate risk or environmental impacts of production and optimize business operations and practices. Benefits could include aspects relating to easing the regulatory burden at the provincial and national levels with potential cost savings or operational efficiencies made possible through a fundamentally more cooperative approach between key parties. Given the growing influence of anti-sustainable use global and domestic lobby groups, the proposed Wildlife Economy Certification Scheme could support the to re-positioning and strengthening of the principle of sustainable use of natural resources as a critical driver of inclusive rural economic development and biodiversity conservation in South Africa. Benefits could include premiums for certified products, access to international markets and increased impact investment and other financial flows into the Wildlife Economy sector.

The certification scheme is envisaged to support the creation of a more efficient enabling environment that includes a sector-level consideration of the full range of regulations governing and impacting the wildlife economy sector. Harnessing adaptive management, and continually improving practices and industry-wide advocacy could lead to significantly increased outcomes for natural capital stocks on privately held land. Tailored extension services and mentorship programs driven by the public and private sector should be designed to ensure emerging and established wildlife ranchers are supported and have access to opportunities in the sector. Increased investment in restoring and maintaining ecological infrastructure should be incentivised, as these investment and support initiatives to secure the natural capital of rural landscapes.

The scheme is being developed under the auspices of the Wildlife Forum. The Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries (DEFF) is the convenor of the initiative to develop the Wildlife Economy Certification Scheme, with key contributing stakeholders drawn from national and provincial conservation agencies, industry associations, environment sector civil society and other national and provincial departments.

The proposed voluntary market-based certification scheme for the wildlife industry will provide a verifiable mechanism to accurately quantify and evaluate the sector’s contribution to natural capital, biodiversity conservation and sustainable development. The scheme is envisaged to be based on sustainability standards that are developed jointly through extensive consultation between government departments with different mandates, the established private sector, new entrants such as communities and emerging game ranchers, research institutions and civil society.

The scheme will seek to ensure that the objectives of economic growth, transformation and sustainability are met and thereby create an evidence-based framework to evaluate the sector’s performance across the triple bottom line of environment, economic and social indicators.

A stakeholder workshop was held in November 2017 to provide an overview on current and relevant certification schemes and to establish a multi-sector working group to drive the development of the voluntary market-based certification scheme. There was broad consensus that the certification scheme should be informed by a base sustainability standard comprising environmental, economic and social indicators in addition to specific activity standards.  Environmental standards are minimum requirements that ensure the sustainable use of resources and/or minimize negative impacts on the environment and natural resource. Economic standards ensure that the operational aspects of the enterprise are financially optimal. Social standards ensure that treatment of people working in the sector is fair and inclusive.

The following vision was developed by the working group: “To promote and demonstrate voluntary stakeholder contributions to the biodiversity economy through responsible and sustainable natural resource management for the benefit of the people of South Africa and the natural environment”.

Throughout 2018 and 2019 feedback on the progress of the literature review and feasibility study was provided to the Wildlife Forum. At its meeting in September 2019 several principles were agreed to frame the next phase of engagement in the development of a voluntary market-driven wildlife industry certification scheme. These principles include:

  • The phase 1 literature review and feasibility report is a starting point for further engagements;
  • The ownership of the certification scheme will need to be determined in the next phase of its development;
  • The certification scheme should aim to support and enhance the sustainability of wildlife ranching operations and not be a barrier to entry for new entrants into the sector;
  • The base standard of the certification scheme should be based at the level of the game ranch, with a focus on custodianship practices of both land and species. Separate activity standards, such as for hunting, game meat harvesting and other value chain activities in the wildlife industry would be developed to complement the base standard;
  • The scheme should focus on providing positive incentives to encourage increased uptake of sustainable practices;
  • The scheme should be voluntary, market-driven and not be used as a fund-raising mechanism by the public sector;
  • The wildlife ranching industry is primarily run on a similar basis to commercial agricultural enterprises and should not be expected to be run as a nature reserve that has biodiversity conservation as its primary objective; and
  • The views of consumer groups should also be considered in the further development of the scheme.

Several initiatives related to the development of this certification scheme are underway. The following are examples of these initiatives:

  • Conservation Outcomes, through an initiative funded by the Green Trust, has started work on developing a game meat harvesting protocol linked to the development of a brand for game meat that has been harvested from Protected Areas.
  • Wildlife Ranching South Africa (WRSA) has developed a suite of best practice guidelines that their members are required to comply with. Similarly, other associations have developed standards or guidelines for their respective activities within the broader wildlife economy.
  • Assessment of the extent of Other Effective Area-Based Conservation Measures (OECMs) in South Africa

5.    Strategic objectives of the development of a voluntary, market-driven Wildlife Economy Certification Scheme

SO1: To ensure active stakeholder engagement throughout the development of the Certification Scheme

Opportunity Statement

One of the biggest risks of developing a certification scheme is that the supplier stakeholders (i.e. the wildlife ranchers/landowners) will not participate. This could be for a number of reasons, one of which might be that the stakeholders were not consulted during the development of the scheme and that they believe that the end product does not represent their needs, or that they do not fully understand the benefits of such a certification scheme. The best way to avoid this outcome is to actively engage with representatives of all stakeholders at all stages of the development process, listen to their perspectives and either incorporate their needs into the scheme or reach a compromise that is satisfactory to both parties.

The stakeholder engagement process should also include stakeholders who are representative of the demand side, i.e. consumers of Wildlife Economy products and services. Such an approach might produce a fully inclusive and widely supported certification scheme. The establishment of a Certification Scheme task team with a clear mandate and with representation of key stakeholders provides an opportunity to develop a broad-based consensus as to how the Certification Scheme will be structured and operators.

Regular progress reports to the Wildlife Forum and broader membership base of the Wildlife Forum stakeholders ensure the required transparency and inclusivity to the Scheme development process.

Activities and Timelines

1.1Formally constitute the Certification Scheme Task Team (CSTT), convene regular meetings and provide feedback to the quarterly Wildlife Forum2020-2022
1.2Prepare a stakeholder map2020 Q3/4
1.3Appoint a communications expert to develop a stakeholder engagement strategic plan and communications tools such as short videos, social media graphics, flyers and brochures to communicate the objectives, processes and key concepts related to the development of the Certification Scheme 2021 Q1/2
(Funding secured: BIOFIN)
1.4Conduct a learning exchange with industry representatives to investigate practical and operational aspects of other sector certification systems2021 Q1/2
1.5Engage with the team developing a game meat harvesting protocol linked to the development of a brand for game meat that has been harvested from Protected Areas, and which is being piloted in the Greater Kruger landscape, to ensure close collaboration and alignment with the development of the certification scheme.2021 Q1/2
1.6Conduct provincial workshops to present and discuss the results of the development case and business case of the Certification Scheme, including the pilot survey monitoring results and the draft sustainability standards2021 Q3/4
1.7Conduct a national road show of the proposed certification scheme2022 Q1/2

SO2: To improve the understanding of the market dynamics and potential Certification Scheme incentives of the wildlife economy

Opportunity Statement

The wildlife sector incorporates large areas of private land, substantially contributes to the national economy and provides an opportunity for meaningful economic growth and development. However, despite its size and importance, there is limited knowledge and understanding of the overall social and economic contributions and how these are broken down into the different subsectors. Also, while we know that the wildlife economy is growing and changing, we do not understand these dynamics well. Development of a certification scheme will require a detailed understanding of the market dynamics as well as the different social and economic contributions of different subsectors and this will facilitate effective long-term planning for the sector.

Well-structured consultations with provincial conservation entities and private sector associations will inform a detailed development case and business case for the Certification Scheme. Such consultations will need to take place by holding a series of targeted workshops and interviews. Various factors such as the extent and capacity of support to the wildlife ranching sector, potential for permitting and regulatory oversight efficiencies and streamlining, Biodiversity Economy support opportunities within the context of the District Delivery model, identification of opportunities to support the transformation of the sector and an exploration of what kind of extension support could be made available to new sector entrants are necessary.

Activities and Timelines

2.1Commission a report that clearly articulates the development case and the business case for the certification scheme2021 Q1/2
(Funding secured: BIOFIN)
2.2Commission a demand study to determine what factors would support a certification scheme from a user (client) perspective with inputs form national and international industry representatives.2021 Q1/Q2
(Funding secured: BIOFIN)
2.3Develop a model for staged financial incentives through continuous improvement under the certification scheme, such as market premiums to carbon markets, to ensure long-term financial viability2021 Q1/Q2

SO3: To develop a monitoring framework for continuous land management improvement on agro-ecological game ranching production units

Opportunity Statement

Data on the biodiversity and ecosystem functioning value of wildlife ranches is scarce, resulting in a lack of recognition of the contribution of this sector to biodiversity conservation. Furthermore, the improvement of ecosystem functioning since conversion to wildlife ranching has not been adequately documented. A concerted effort is required to develop an objective mechanism to provide evidence that the agro-ecological farming systems of game ranchers keep carbon in the ground, support biodiversity, rebuild soils and sustain yields, providing a basis for secure livelihoods in rural economies.

With new technologies such as remote sensing, it is possible to determine general habitat productivity and fragmentation trends, but there is little empirical evidence on how different management regimes impacts rangeland ecological infrastructure such as productive and biodiverse grasslands. Sustainable land management, as measured through local veld condition and habitat quality assessments are needed to calibrate remotely sensed data to create a robust monitoring and evaluation system.

Activities and Timelines

3.1Develop of a spatial database for game ranches in South Africa in partnership with industry and public sector stakeholders.2020 Q3/Q4 – 
(Funding secured: SANBI)2021 Q1/2
3.2Develop an integrated assessment form with industry and public sector stakeholders that is interoperable between DEFF and DALRRD mandates (biodiversity stewardship and veld condition assessments respectively), that clearly discerns certifiable from non-certifiable properties, and that can be used by the landowners for self-monitoring and reporting with periodic audits by extension officers.2021 Q1/Q2
(Funding secured: SANBI)
3.3Pilot the use of the integrated assessment form by conducting surveys of approximately 100 game ranches determine a baseline.2021 Q1/Q2
(Funding secured: SANBI)
3.4Conduct assessments of approximately 20 candidate sites to determine eligibility in various existing conservation frameworks such as Biodiversity Stewardship and Other Effective Area-Based Conservation Measures (OECMs).2021 Q1/Q2
(Funding secured: BIOFIN)
3.5Mobilize veld condition data from the Agricultural Research Council (ARC) and DALRRD) to corroborate and calibrate the thresholds and develop an integrated monitoring system for agricultural productivity and biodiversity on rangelands. A stakeholder workshop will be conducted to peer-review this system.2021 Q3/Q4
3.6Organise a stakeholder workshop to design a wildlife economy satellite account for the Natural Capital Accounting project and agree on monitoring methods to quantify the relevant stocks and flows of ecosystem services.2021 Q3/Q4

SO4: To pilot and improve the certification scheme

Opportunity Statement

Many certification schemes fail, either in the short- or long-term. Given the substantial amount of time and money that will be required to develop a certification scheme (and the considerable effort that has already been made), and given the likely benefits for the economy and conservation, a successful outcome is highly desirable. Piloting the scheme will be a critical step in ensuring a robust certification scheme that is supported by local and international markets and recognised by the international community.

The activities listed below are dependent on the outcomes of activities in Strategic Objectives 1,2 and 3. If stakeholders agree that a sufficient development and business case has been established for the Certification Scheme, the following activities relating to the piloting of the Scheme will be undertaken.

Activities and Timelines

4.1Develop draft sustainability standards for the landscape management, population management (and various sector activities such as hunting and game meat preparation) and socioeconomic contribution.2021 Q3/Q4
4.2Assess the relationship between ranching management intensity and rangeland condition to set empirical thresholds of potential concern to guide certification status.2021 Q3/Q4
4.3Develop a game ranch management plan template that addresses the criteria defined in the sustainability standards including a template for a periodic sustainable land management performance report that includes conservation outcomes (measured results of conservation actions), lessons learned (shared experiences on addressing threats and realizing opportunities), and adaptive management (revisions of the conservation programmes).2021 Q3/Q4
4.4Appoint a consultant to develop the Certification Scheme and oversee the pilot and improvement thereof.2021 Q3/Q4
(Funding Secured: BIOFIN)
4.5Pilot the assessment of several game ranches based on the standards developed, and refine standards where necessary.2022 Q1/Q2
4.6Refine the detail on the proposed certification scheme design and start up processes with the help of input from a certification specialist with experience in developing schemes in South Africa. The scheme should include a clear outline of the third-party auditing process to provide additional assurance to stakeholders.2022 Q1/Q2
4.7Establish the structures that will oversee the implementation of the market-based voluntary certification scheme2022 Q3/Q4

SO5: To raise awareness of the Certification Scheme as a trusted mark of sustainable use of wildlife resources

Opportunity Statement

A certification scheme will only be successful if it is widely known and adopted; it will only be used if people see value in it. Demonstrating that the scheme genuinely supports better land management, ecosystem services and economic growth in an ecologically sustainable way, and making this widely known will help promote the widespread use of the scheme. Improved domestic (e.g. game meat) and international standing (hunting) to facilitate market access and development

Demonstrating the benefits of agro-ecological game ranching production units to biodiversity conservation and ecosystem functioning, and clearly advertising these benefits in the scientific literature and popular press (i.e. raising awareness) will be a critical step in encouraging support from conservation organisations and government departments, and may lead to wider recognition of the benefits of the sustainable use model in other countries across Africa. It might even lead to the adoption of sustainable use principles in other countries that currently only allow non-consumptive use of wildlife, thereby showing South Africa as a global south leader in the development of biodiversity economies.

Activities and Timelines

5.1Develop of a Biodiversity Economy brand that would be linked to this certification scheme and develop a PR campaign2021 Q3/Q4
(Funding Secured: BIOFIN)
5.2Market Development through promotional campaigns and private-public partnerships with suppliers and tourism agencies.2022 Q1/Q2 – 2022 Q3/Q4

6.    Expected Outcomes of the Wildlife Economy Certification Scheme

  1. Greater financial returns for wildlife ranchers through improved sustainable practices and increased access to benefits and markets.
  2. Verifiable and recognised contribution to biodiversity conservation.
  3. A systematic means of improving the reputation of the Wildlife Economy industry reputation.
  4. Development of a finance mechanism that supports sustainable wildlife ranching and incentivises the private sector to support the recovery of threatened species or landscapes.
  5. Increased land area under the wildlife sector and increased conservation and economic value of that land.
  6. Greater collaboration amongst all stakeholders at a local, regional and national level.
  7. Extension services institutionalized to mainstream sustainable wildlife ranching practices, especially for new entrants.
  8. Increased profile of the industry as an internationally recognised sustainable use advocate.
  9. Inclusive growth in the industry stimulated

7.    Task Team

A Terms of Reference has been drafted to outline the composition, structure, scope of work and reporting lines of the Certification Scheme Task Team. Members of the Wildlife Forum have been invited to nominate representatives to sit on the Certification Scheme Task Team.

To date, the following members have participated in Certification Scheme meetings, or have indicated their availability to serve on the Certification Scheme Task Team.

Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries (DEFF)Roland Vorwerk
Tondani Kone
Flora Mokgohloa
Mpho Tjiane
Magdel Boshoff
South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI)Dr Jeanetta Selier
Matthew Child
Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT)Dr Andrew Taylor
Wildlife Ranching South Africa (WRSA)Gerhard Heyneke
Richard York
Alternate members of the Task Team:
Nico Lerm, Thinus Jurgens, Willem Prinsloo
SA Hunters and Game Conservation Association (SAHGCA)Lizanne Nel
African Game Ranchers Association (AGRA)Mike Gcabo
Professional Hunters Association of South Africa (PHASA)Dries van Coller
Confederation of Hunters Associations of South Africa (CHASA)Stephen Palos

8.    Budget

DEFF has secured US$ 240,000 through the Biodiversity Finance Initiative (BIOFIN) that is managed by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to support the development of the Wildlife Economy Certification Scheme. Various activities outlined above will be funded through this allocation.

The vision for BIOFIN is sustainable flow of resources for effective management of biodiversity. The BIOFIN approach includes private and public financial resources used to conserve biodiversity and investments in commercial activities that produce positive biodiversity outcomes. BIOFIN provides an important opportunity to develop people centred developmental approaches for the sustainable use of biodiversity, ecosystem restoration and resourcing biodiversity and conservation.

DEFF and SANBI have allocated additional resources to implement some of the activities outlined in the 5 Strategic Objectives. Stakeholders will be required to support the various stakeholder engagements that are planned by providing meeting venues where possible, and ensuring participation of members at own, or association, costs.

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