PRETORIA– The 15-nation Southern African Development Community (SADC) has reached agreement that the implementation of protocols in the sectors of environment, wildlife, forestry, aquaculture and fisheries and tourism are key to fast-tracking the development of the sub-region.

The consensus was reached when Cabinet Ministers responsible for the Environment and Natural Resources, Fisheries and Aquaculture, and Tourism met here this week to review the overall state and performance, as well as new developments in the environment, wildlife, forestry, fisheries and aquaculture, and tourism sectors.

All SADC member States, with the exception of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Malawi and Seychelles, attended the meeting on Thursday and Friday co-chaired by South African Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa, Tourism Minister Tokozile Xasa and Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Senzeni Zokwana.

Xasa said the meeting fleshed out issues affecting the sectors of environment, wildlife, forestry, aquaculture and fisheries and tourism. The commitments made at the meeting would strengthen the SADC’s contribution to sustainability, inclusive growth and the realisation of the Sustainable Development Goals and Africa’s Agenda 2063 50-year development initiative, she added.

Speaking on the progress made towards the SADC Industrialization Strategy, SADC Deputy Executive Secretary Thembinkosi Mhlongo said apart from managing the region’s natural resources, various value chains must be explored to derive the full benefit these resources provide.

According to the Ministers, limited resources had impacted the implementation of programmes in the areas of fisheries, forestry, tourism and wildlife conservation and law enforcement and to combat this stagnation, a charter establishing the SADC Fisheries Monitoring Control and Surveillance Co-ordination Centre in Mozambique was signed.

In addition to establishment of a co-ordination centre, Ministers approved the establishment of the Regional Financing Facility for SADC Trans-Frontier Conservation Areas (TFCAs).

In the areas of environmental management, members were urged to speedily ratify the Environmental Management protocol, which has not entered into force. South Africa, as the host country for 17th Conference of Parties to the United Nations Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES COP 17), was commended for a job well done.

Discussions at the meeting also highlighted the need to implement the Multilateral Environmental Agreements (MEAs), which member states are party to. These include the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC), United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and United Nations Convention Combating Desertification (UNCCD).

In a bid to increase tourism within the region, the SADC Secretariat and the Regional Tourism Organisation of Southern Africa (RETOSA) were directed to increase marketing of conservation areas.

Ministers directed the SADC Secretariat, in collaboration with Member States, to fast-track the review of the Protocol on Tourism Development in SADC, the RETOSA Charter and the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the SADC Secretariat and the RETOSA Secretariat to incorporate changes.