With the generous support of the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA), the African Union's Interafrican Bureau for Animal Resources (AU-IBAR) organised a National Workshop with the goal of strengthening the Kingdom of Eswatini's resolve to protect aquatic biodiversity, combat climate change, and improve environmental stewardship. This took place in Mbabane, Eswatini, on September 27th and 28th, 2023. The primary objective of this workshop was to provide assistance to Eswatini in its efforts to harmonise its national policies, rules, and instruments with internationally and regionally recognised biodiversity conservation and environmental management frameworks.
The specific objectives encompassed:
1. Delivering an exhaustive report spotlighting pertinent national regulatory and policy documents culled from various government ministries, departments, and agencies responsible for environmental management and aquatic biodiversity preservation.
2. Engaging in deliberations and discussions centered around the in-depth findings of a consultancy report, elucidated by a National Consultant.
3. Scrutinizing the identified gaps within national instruments pertaining to aquatic biodiversity conservation and environmental management, with a grounding in prioritized global frameworks.
4. Fostering collaborative group sessions to pinpoint priority concerns and action items for domestication, while concurrently devising guidelines to align national instruments with prioritized global frameworks.
The workshop convened 25 participants who represented a diverse spectrum of stakeholders committed to Eswatini's environmental and aquatic biodiversity conservation endeavors. Participants included: Kingdom of Eswatini National Trust Commission (ENTC); Ministry of Agriculture (Fisheries Section, Economic Planning Section, Land Use Department, and Legal Office); Ministry of Natural Resources and Energy (Department of Water Affairs and Energy Department); Ministry of Tourism and Environment; Eswatini Environment Authority; Joint River Basin Authorities-Project Board; Ministry of Foreign Affairs; Non-State Actors: Eswatini Aquaculture Association, WaterAid, Aquaculture Feed Suppliers, and AU-IBAR
The inaugural session was adeptly moderated by Mr. Henry Madawe, the Programme Director and Principal Economist. Dr. Huyam Salih, Director, AU-IBAR, was represented by Mr. Eric Nadiope, gave welcome remarks and extended a warm welcome to the participants and underscored the significance of aligning international instruments with AU Agenda 2063.
Mr. Sydney Simelone, the Principal Secretary of the Ministry of Agriculture, expressed gratitude for selecting Eswatini as the workshop's venue and emphasized the importance of synchronizing national policies with global instruments. Mr. Eric Nadiope, an Aquatic Biodiversity Conservation Policy, Legal, and Institutional Expert from AU-IBAR, presented an overview of the workshop and the project "Conservation of Aquatic Biodiversity in African Blue Economy." The meeting's agenda was presented by Mrs. Phumzile Mhlanga from the Ministry of Agriculture-Fisheries and was unanimously adopted by the participants.
During Technical Session 1, the following presentations were delivered:
• Dr. Patrick Karani, a Technical Expert from AU-IBAR, elucidated the Africa Blue Economy Strategy and its alignment with Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
• Mr. Nadiope Eric presented the findings of the consultancy report on global instruments concerning aquatic biodiversity conservation and environmental management.
Participating ministries and departments also presented their insights, including: Eswatini National Trust Commission (ENTC); Ministry of Tourism and Environment; Ministry of Agriculture (Fisheries Section); Department of Water Affairs; and the Department of Energy;
To foster deeper engagement, participants were divided into working groups, each focusing on specific areas: Group 1: Environment and Tourism; Group 2: Agriculture; and Group 3: Water
The workshop yielded a series of vital recommendations, including:
• Aligning national policy and regulatory frameworks with international instruments.
• Establishing and reinforcing institutional structures to facilitate cross-sectoral coordination.
• Initiating a multi-sectoral technical coordination committee under the aegis of the Ministry of Agriculture.
• Enhancing the implementation of climate change and environmental policies to ensure sustainable resource utilization.
• Raising awareness at both local and national levels about ratified international and regional instruments.
• Streamlining the ratification and domestication of pivotal global instruments.
• Galvanizing technical, financial resources, and capacity-building efforts to execute global instruments.
During the discussions, participants articulated several overarching requests for additional support. These included seeking AU-IBAR's guidance and involvement in the formulation and development of the National Blue Economy Strategy, as well as a strong desire for AU-IBAR's support in conducting a comprehensive assessment of aquatic and biodiversity resources. Additionally, participants emphasized the importance of AU-IBAR's role in facilitating the establishment of a cross-sectoral coordination mechanism to effectively implement global instruments related to aquatic and biodiversity conservation and management. These requests underscored the participants' collective commitment to harnessing the potential of the blue economy while ensuring sustainable practices and global cooperation.
The participants reached a consensus on several actionable items to advance their shared objectives. They collectively pledged to nurture ongoing collaboration, aiming to strengthen existing mechanisms, foster synergies, and facilitate the free flow of information among stakeholders. The responsibility for finalizing the National and Comprehensive Technical reports for submission was entrusted to the National Consultant, reflecting their commitment to timely completion. Furthermore, the Ministry of Agriculture, specifically the Fisheries Section, made a commitment to initiate the implementation of the meeting's recommendations within a swift two-week timeframe, demonstrating their dedication to turning discussions into concrete actions.