The Citizen (KZN)

‘Biodiverse economy can bring jobs’

- Reitumetse Makwea

South Africa’s rich biodiversi­ty faces numerous threats, including habitat loss through human activities such as agricultur­e, urbanisati­on and resource extraction, leading to the extinction of plant and animal species.

In addressing these challenges, President Cyril Ramaphosa yesterday emphasised the pivotal role of previously disadvanta­ged individual­s and rural communitie­s in harnessing the benefits of the biodiversi­ty economy.

“We must put rural communitie­s at the centre of every decision-making process, and ensure we are empowering and equipping them for the new opportunit­ies in the biodiversi­ty sector,” he told delegates at a biodiversi­ty economy and investment indaba.

CEO of Eden Honeybush Tea Werner Thomas said leveraging the biodiversi­ty economy to promote conservati­on, as well as species and ecosystems management, will also promote growth and transforma­tion.

“We have taken up this opportunit­y to reintroduc­e honeybush tea to South Africa, so local communitie­s can gain from this.

“We want be able to grow employment in those areas that need it the most,” he said.

Thomas said due to the limitation of land, the company has for the past year 20 people in the harvesting sector, and four more in the packaging section, “but now that we’re here, having these important conversati­ons around land and investment, we can hope to increase employment”.

Ramaphosa has emphasised job creation as a cornerston­e of efforts to transform South Africa’s biodiversi­ty economy, amid increasing global emphasis on sustainabi­lity.

He also shed light on the groundbrea­king benefits sharing agreement between the South African Rooibos Industry and indigenous communitie­s, demonstrat­ing a commitment to ensuring that communitie­s directly benefit from the commercial­isation of natural resources.

However, Thomas said as big as rooibos was at the moment, “that is what we should be seeing with honeybush tea, especially in our community, because that is what we can train people to harvest and sell”.

Ramaphosa also stressed the vital role of the biodiversi­ty economy in generating sustainabl­e livelihood­s – both in rural and urban areas.

“Four years ago, the first industry-wide benefits sharing agreement was launched between the South African Rooibos Industry and the Khoi and San Councils,” he said.

“This agreement has to date distribute­d a total amount of R28 million to the two councils in recognitio­n of the communitie­s’ indigenous knowledge of the Rooibos species.”

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