The International Day for Biodiversity is celebrated each year on the 22nd of May worldwide, dedicated to raising global awareness about the importance of protecting biological resources and the global biodiversity that shapes our environment. UNDP Namibia in collaboration with the Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Tourism (MEFT), GIZ and Gobabeb Namib Research Institute (Gobabeb), Topnaar community, and other participants joined their hands together to educate, observe and create awareness on the importance of preserving biodiversity in Namibia. The biodiversity action weekend took place at Gobabeb from 21st until 25th May under the global theme “We’re part of the solution, Namibia #ForNature”. With the COVID-19 situation, the Namib desert was ideal for the commemorations. Despite the Covid-19 pandemic, the event was successful, and participants were happy to be part of the solution, as they took part in different activities, learned more about biodiversity, and to explore the beautiful Namib desert.
Next, we provide key highlights demonstrating how the commemorations sought to enhance the solutions #ForNature.
!Nara (Acanthosicyos horridus) mapping and traditional meals preparation led by Gobabeb Researchers and the Topnaar Community
!Nara is a melon-bearing plant that is endemic to the Namib Desert. Participants were invited to conduct a population survey of !Nara in an area close to Gobabeb that had not yet been mapped. Participants used GPSs and recorded the population of male vs female plants, distance to the opposite sex, the size of the plants, the number of melons and the number of animals around the plants. The mapping was followed by a discussion of why it is important to map the plants, as well as a discussion around the socio-economic and ecological importance of the !Nara (e.g. as a food source, a source of traditional medicine and a source of income for the Topnaar community). During the event, Topnaar elders prepared meals for participants. They also demonstrated how the community uses the pulp and seeds, showing participants how biodiversity sustains livelihoods under extreme harsh conditions (such as in the arid Namibia desert).
iNaturalist Bio-blitz Project and alien bashing led by Gobabeb Researchers
iNaturalist is a social network of naturalists and citizen scientists used for sharing observations of biodiversity across the globe. It is accessed via its website or from its mobile applications. It allows people everywhere to share observations and discuss, identify, and create research-quality citizen science data for science and conservation. Participants took photos and shared the interesting flora and fauna seen within the vicinity of Gobabeb, using Gobabeb's iNaturalist profile as the tool for recording these observations. Gobabeb also encouraged the participants to create their own profiles, so that they can upload and share the species they observe in their everyday lives. While at Gobabeb, participants were also given first-hand experience with how to identify and remove plants that do not belong in the ecosystem (alien plants). Even young children took part in this activity. At the end of the weekend, several thousand alien plants had been uprooted.
SDG Games and Quizzes by the UNDP team
The UNDP team organized two quizzes to interactively assess the participants awareness and knowledge on biodiversity, set at different levels of difficulty. The quizzes resulted in lively discussions which continued even after the quizzes were handed in. The winning team received a prize, and prices were also given for active participation. In addition to the quizzes, the team also introduced the participants to an "SDG Jenga" game, designed to educate and familiarize participants with the SDGs. Moreover, the game also demonstrated the interconnectedness of the SDGs and the need for people, institutions and communities to work together #ForNature.
Roundtable discussions – Themes: Sustainable living; Biodiversity & Health, Biodiversity loss, Food Security & Poverty.
Roundtable discussions were facilitated by UNDP, MEFT and GIZ on Sunday and Monday. These discussions encouraged participants to share their knowledge on key issues related to biodiversity, and to come up with potential solutions to the biodiversity loss. Furthermore, the facilitated roundtable discussions encouraged participants to jointly come up with ideas related to ‘how Namibians can live more sustainably’, ‘identify potential consequences if resources are not sustainably harvested’, and more philosophical questions around ‘whether developing countries such as Namibia should care about sustainable living, and why’. The solutions offered by the participants included creating more awareness and educating people to adopt sustainable living practices in their daily lives (e.g. carrying their shopping bag when they are going to malls instead of buying plastic bags). Participants agreed that sustainable living is vital for a developing country like Namibia, because Namibians depend on natural resources for their livelihoods. On Monday, the facilitated discussions revolved around the link between biodiversity loss, food security and poverty. In the Namibian context the participants gave examples of the Topnaar community that feeds on the !Nara plant, the San people who depend on harvesting wild and forest resources, and Ovahimba people from Kunene who solely depend on cattle for survival. This means that when the resources they have at hand are threatened, then their food security is threatened.
All in all, the Biodiversity Action Weekend was a great success. The Gobabeb team hosted and took great care of all participants, including learners from the Walvis Bay Junior Council and Topnaar community members. Biodiversity is vital to human survival, and every human being should be committed in restoring the balance of the ecosystem. We’re part of the solution #ForNature. Namibia #ForNature.