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Growth of the Wildlife Economy

During 2016, SA Hunters participated in the government-led Biodiversity Economy Lab that formed part of the results-driven Phakisa (hurry-up) programme aimed at addressing poverty, unemployment and inequality through accelerated economic growth. Three focus areas received attention, namely Marine and Coastal Tourism, Bioprospecting, and the Wildlife Economy. This report focuses on the wildlife economy that contributed approximate 3% to the national GDP, growing annually by an average of 9,3% from 2008 to 2014, which is much higher than the meagre 1,8% per annum for the general economy during the same period. This demonstrates that wildlife and the hunting sector as one of the largest contributors to the wildlife economy, can contribute substantially to socio-economic development in the country.

All major industry roleplayers participated in the Lab and developed the following vision: “A thriving, inclusive and sustainable wildlife economy for the well-being of all South Africans”. Several key initiatives (21) were identified to address challenges and opportunities to fast track growth in the sector (Figure 1 & 2). National and provincial heads of departments and relevant entities discussed these initiatives and developed action plans for each initiative.

Figure 1: Challenges identified in growing the wildlife sector.

Figure 2: Initiatives identified to fast-track growth of the Wildlife Sector.

During the intense discussions and negotiations, SA Hunters strived to capture the Association’s core value of responsible, sustainable wildlife utilisation. Concerted efforts were made to highlight the importance of aspects that are important to our members such as excessive and inefficient permitting and an unsupportive legislative regime; promotions of extensive wildlife systems that form the basis for conservation, ecosystem services and hunting destinations; development of mechanisms to address risks to the sector; and the development of industry standards and incentives for responsible wildlife enterprises.

SA Hunters, through the offices of the managers for Conservation and Hunting, participates in some of these initiatives as one of the key delivery areas for the Association for 2017. Below, for the benefit of members, is a summary of some of these initiatives. We will keep members informed of progress in this regard.

Initiative 5: Operationalise biodiversity economy nodes.
Biodiversity Economy Nodes, a concept developed by SA Hunters in partnership with Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife, could accelerate socio-economic development in poorly integrated rural economies through an integrated land-use strategy. Geographic areas suitable for wildlife activities are identified where government and industry support programmes that are focussed and aligned to fast-track delivery on land reform, transformation, rehabilitation of productive wildlife areas, conservation and economic growth targets.

Through clustered development of wildlife activities, benefits of economies of scale are harnessed and viable entrepreneurial and enterprise development opportunities are created throughout multiple value chains of the wildlife industry. This include wildlife-based tourism; meat-processing plants; tanneries; wildlife products; and support industries such as logistics, marketing, training and extension services.

The development of biodiversity nodes is part of SA Hunters’ strategy to secure extensive wildlife areas for conservation and responsible hunting, while demonstrating how these nodes can accelerate inclusive, rural socio-economic development. These nodes provide a vehicle to deliver most of the initiatives identified to grow the industry in figure 2. The uMfolozi Biodiversity Economy Node (UBEN) in KwaZulu Natal, on which SA Hunters, EKZN Wildlife and project partners have been working for the past two years, has been identified as a pilot node in this initiative. Government prioritised this area for strategic interventions.  

Strategic interventions by government in the Node include:

  • Dropping fences between protected areas such as Hluhluwe-Imfolozi and communities with their private sector partners to expand protected areas and secure areas for wildlife economy enterprises, including tourism and hunting;
  • Prioritising the area to clear alien plants under DEA’s Natural Resource Management Programme;
  • Infrastructure support to new entrants, especially restituted land;
  • Donating game to communities that allocate land for the wildlife economy;
  • An initiative where government train unemployed youth to work in wildlife enterprises;
  • Funding of feasibility studies and business plans for potential new projects;
  • Facilitating processes to unblock challenges of the various projects in the UBEN; and
  • Co-ordinating and aligning existing government initiatives in the area to fast-track delivery and support.

An inaugural steering committee meeting for the UBEN will be convened in the next few weeks where the MEC for the Department of Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs in KZN will take leadership in facilitating co-ordination between all role players in the UBEN.

Figure 3: SA Hunters, EKZN Wildlife and DEA are the drivers of the uMfolozi Biodiversity Economy Node.

Initiative v: Develop appropriate mechanisms to manage risk.
The Manager Conservation is part of a task team that will identify risks in growing the wildlife sector, including hunting, and develop mechanisms to address these risks. Risks include environmental risks e.g. climate change and alien invasive vegetation, to risks associated with specific activities such as intensive and selective breeding. Mounting pressure from animal rights groups have also been identified as a risk to the hunting sector.

Initiative 9: Creating an enabling legislative environment.
The wildlife sector raised concerns that government is over-regulating certain activities, while the processes for other activities are not efficient and consumer-friendly. One example is the regulations affecting the hunting sector and in particular the discrepancy in obtaining hunting licences and permits, and hunting proclamations in the various provinces. This initiative will attempt to address some of the challenges through the amendment of NEMBA.

A task team has been established and a series of stakeholder engagements are planned to engage with industry roleplayers on required changes. One example is to create opportunities for the industry to administer activities that do not require permits. This aligns with SA Hunters’ efforts in the Wildlife Forum task team to investigate the potential of self-administration of hunting licences.

Initiative 10: Development and implementation of industry standards.
The lack of industry standards has resulted in activities that are harmful either to the reputation of the wildlife industry or to the conservation of the resource base that underpins it. Industry standards will reduce or remove the damage caused by such activities in the following ways:

  • Incentivising good practice and reward these through economic gain;
  • Maintain and enhance the value of the wildlife economy by giving product assurance to consumers;
  • Improve reputation (both domestic and international) and reduce revenue loss caused by reputational damages;
  • Ensure sustainability of the resource base and the sustainability of the wildlife economy;
  • Reduce negative impacts on ecosystems services; and
  • Reduce the regulatory burden of the state.

The intention of this initiative is to facilitate the development of industry standards as a means of regulating wildlife activities through both state regulation and industry oversight. Although some standards already exist (such as codes of conduct for some industry organisations), and some are in the process of being created (such as codes of best practice by WRSA), there are some necessary standards missing for contentious activities (such as intensive and selective breeding).

SA Hunters is part of the task team that will facilitate the development of these standards that will encompass the following:

  • Codes of conduct (e.g. SA Hunters code of conduct) – sets of rules and responsibilities determined by an organisation for its members;
  • Codes of best practice- sets of guidelines determined by an organisations for its members (e.g. SA Hunters rules for shooting events);
  • Disciplinary codes: codes defining how members will be disciplined if found guilty of transgressing codes of conduct or best practice – determined by an organisation for its members;
  • Industry standards for management practices that wildlife industry stakeholders must meet to conduct certain activities – determined by the state.

Initiative 11: Develop a national wildlife economy certification scheme.
This initiative is intended to augment both existing and potential future incentives to encourage the wildlife industry to act responsibly, sustainably and ethically in the management of wildlife, wildlife habitats, utilisation of wildlife, and commercial practices. Through product labelling discerning consumers will be able to select those opportunities, products and services that meet a required standard. For example, hunters would be able to select the hunting destinations based on a set of criteria that aligns with their philosophy of responsible hunting. Similarly, this initiative will enable the wildlife and associated industries to be rewarded for achieving the desired standard.

The product labelling mechanism will enable the product to be tracked using a ‘cradle to grave’ approach to ensure authenticity and ensure consumer and public confidence in the standard that is being advertised. For example, the property on which the game occurs as well as any associated facilities (e.g. lodges) will enable consumers to display and augment their marketing with the certification standard, similar to the ‘star’ system implemented by the Tourism Grading Council of South Africa. Finally, enterprises and associated activities that achieve better sustainable and ethical practices across environmental and social criteria would receive higher ratings and access to a bigger market or incentives.

As part of this task team, SA Hunters will promote the development of a cost-effective system that broadens stakeholder participation towards implementing a successful certification scheme with market-based incentives. Over regulation through unnecessary permits will reduce the efficiency of a certification scheme.

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