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Economic valuation of ecosystem services in African biosphere reserves

22 May 2019

News from the UNESCO Liaison Office in Addis Ababa

A cross-fertilizing workshop on Economic valuation of ecosystem services in African Biosphere Reserves, organized by UNESCO, brought together experts and biosphere reserve managers from 10 countries in Bahir Dar on 13-17 May 2019. The workshop benefited from the participation of Mr Francois Dumont, Ambassador of Belgium to Ethiopia and Mr Fikadu Beyene, Commissioner of Environment; Forest and Climate Change of the Federal Republic of Ethiopia.

It was organized in the framework of the EVAMAB project aiming to facilitate the transition to a green economy in Africa. EVAMAB, or “Economic valuation of ecosystem services in Man and Biosphere reserves: testing effective rapid assessment methods in selected African MAB Biosphere Reserves”, is funded by Belspo (Belgian Science Policy) to support research activities in Biosphere Reserves, which promote solutions reconciling the conservation of biodiversity with its sustainable use. The World Network of Biosphere Reserves is managed by UNESCO’s Man and Biosphere (MAB) programme.

The results of case studies conducted in Benin (Pendjari Biosphere Reserve), Ethiopia (Lake Tana Biosphere Reserve), Tanzania (Manyara Biosphere Reserve), and Uganda (Mount Elgon Biosphere Reserve) were presented, as well as the outline of a manual designed to help biosphere reserve managers to implement their own valuation of ecosystem services.

In her opening speech, Ms Ana Elisa Santana Afonso stressed that evaluation of ecosystems services in man and biosphere reserves is one of the action needed to “strengthen the links between nature and sustainable development to further support the goals of greater food security, healthier populations, and improved livelihoods”. She highlighted that “Biosphere Reserves are not only of a conservation value but also offer a great cultural dimension and offer great potential for sustainable tourism and income-generation for local communities”.

During the workshop, included field trip on Lake Tana to visit the sites infested by water hyacinths, an invasive species that is harming ecosystems. The experts discussed sustainable solutions, such as unsing the flower as biofuel, as was done in Lake Victoria, Uganda. They also visited the Ura Kidane Mehret Monastery on the Zege peninsula, and went bird watching, one of the sustainable tourism activities developed in this important bird area.
A draft of the manual on the valuation of ecosystem services in Man and Biosphere will be presented to the AfriMAB network at their next meeting, in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire, in September 2019.