To enhance the opportunities available from Africa’s natural resource endowments, current patterns of unsustainable resource management must be changed. Development now, environment later is not a sustainable option for Africa.

Harvesting of natural resources that has limited regard for regeneration capabilities and focuses primarily on meeting growing demand and ensuring continued supply will have long-term implications for economic growth and the ability to reduce poverty. Agricultural land is being degraded due to overutilization and hence productivity is generally going down, demanding more use of inorganic fertilizers and pesticides which pollute the environment. Chapter 3: Land discusses the state-and-trends related to land and its management.

Many extractive activities of non-renewable natural resources, such as mining, are done in an environmentally damaging manner through, for example, the clearing of vegetative cover in sensitive water catchment areas and forests. These activities can be undertaken in a more environmentally responsive way, through the use of environmental impact assessment (EIA) systems which give greater attention to restoration and rehabilitation. Chapter 8: Interlinkages: The Environment and Policy Web discusses the value of EIAs. Many human activities are also polluting the environment through the use of hazardous chemicals, such as mercury and cyanide in the case of gold mining. These heavy metals and chemicals respectively go on to contaminate the water, which is a habitat for aquatic life and enters the human food chain with deadly effect. Chapter 11: Chemicals discusses the challenges related to the increased use of chemicals. Forest clearing for either farm expansion or other development also harms the environment through habitat destruction, which in turn contributes to biodiversity loss. The conflicting objectives and uncoordinated strategies by different sectors contribute to the degradation of natural resources. Revising management and utilization strategies and practices, and bringing them in line with sustainable development objectives, is a good starting point for realizing Africa’s development objectives.

Figure 7: Constraints to market development The equitable sharing and use of water resources and its efficient and sustainable management present numerous challenges as Africa tries to meet growing demand from industry, agriculture and human use in managing the available water resource, issues of its efficient allocation and use must be considered. The existing situation is that in some quarters water is inefficiently allocated and utilized, potentially leading to increasing water-use conflicts across the region. Chapter 4: Freshwater discusses Africa’s freshwater resource. Environmental impact assessment is one tool that can be used to effectively include the environment in this and other spheres of and planning.

The valuation of environmental goods-and-services is another opportunity to understand the value of the natural environment outside the conversional markets, which may not fully be able to access the rate of and consequences of degradation. Creating markets for environmental services could create new opportunities for enhancing the value attributed to such resources. In the forest sector, markets could also be used for biodiversity conservation, watershed protection, and landscape beauty. The Kyoto Protocol, which introduced carbon markets and trading, creates opportunities for countries and their inhabitants to engage in forest conservation and/or reforestation, providing a carbon sink function of forests.

Although entry into the market can create new opportunities, the high levels of inequity in global markets potentially undercut the opportunities available to poor people. Markets may also place new threats on assets and the range of values available at the local level. A major challenge in developing environmental markets is how to ensure that such development is pro-poor and contributes to growth with equity objectives. Markets transform environmental services into private commodities, creating new sources of income for sellers, improved service delivery for buyers, improved efficiency of resource use and allocation and new investment (Landell-Mills and Porras 2002). To ensure poor people benefit from market access is essential, and support may be necessary to help poor people participate effectively. This can be supported through secure tenure, skills development and education, access to finance and market information, better commodity design (Landell-Mills and Porras 2002), and improved transportation and communications infrastructure. Since markets are multi-stakeholder – incorporating the public and private sectors, communities, nongovernmental and local organizations, donors and individual entrepreneurs – it is important for there to be clear governance systems.

Table 3: Impacts of markets on environmental services
Economic benefits Economic costs
  • Income/profits from sale of environmental service
  • Diversified production base lower risks of shocks
  • Employment gains new jobs associated with emerging markets
  • Efficiency gains associated with removal of market failure
  • Improved infrastructure associated with market development egresearch facilities, transport, communications
  • Technological transfer
  • Achievement of environmental target at least cost cost savings vis--vis command-and-control approaches
  • Costs of supply forest protection, certification
  • Transaction costs searching for buyers, negotiations, contracting,establishing new intermediaries, monitoring and enforcement
  • Opportunity costs eg markets replace existing payments, lostagricultural output when forests planted in agricultural land, lostvalues when protected, eg timber and NTFPs
  • Social benefits Social costs
  • Increased land/resources tenure security where deals result in theformalization of land tenure to minimize risks to buyers
  • Improved health investments in medical facilities, environmentalimprovements (eg reduced water and air pollution), more diversediets, etc.
  • Social institution strengthening eg local cooperative arrangementsto support evolving markets may provide a basis for cooperation in other areas
  • Knowledge and research environmental research and educationthrough support for local schools, universities and research bodies
  • Skill development in related fields, eg sustainable forestry, forest-based industries, ecotourism, carbon monitoring, certification, globalwarming, project management
  • Improved recreational and cultural opportunities more pleasantenvironment for recreational activities and protection of culturalheritage and religious sites
  • Loss of rights to forest resources, especially for poor people whereprojects involve forest protection or lead to privatization of rights tocommon lands
  • Reduced health where loss of access to forest-based foods thatprovide variety in local diets. Also where projects involve fast-growingplantations and reductions in water supplies
  • Risks of domination by the wealthy since they have highest weight ina system based on ability to pay
  • Land acquisition schemes may push up local land prices andundermine local communities
  • Negative cultural impacts associated with monetizing environmental services
  • Environmental benefits Environmental costs
  • Improved supply of marketed services: biodiversity conservation,carbon sequestration, watershed protection services and landscapebeauty
  • Positive spin-offs for the non-marketed services
  • Negative spin-offs for non-market services eg reduced biodiversityor water supplies where monoculture plantations for carbon sequestration
  • Source: Landell-Mills and Porras 2002