United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)
Global  Environment Outlook-1 - The Web version

Chapter 3: Policy Responses and Directions

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National Initiatives

In recent years, nearly all countries in Africa have been engaged in strategic planning processes, either along with macro-economic reform policies or to implement international conventions and programmes. National Environment Action Plans (NEAPs), National Conservation Strategies (NCSs), National Plans of Action to Combat Desertification (NPACD), National Tropical Forestry Action Plans (TFPAs), Country Environmental Strategy Papers (CESPs), National Energy Assessments, and Country Programmes for the Phase Out of Ozone-Depleting Substances under the Montreal Protocol are playing significant roles in integrating environment and development in the countries. Among the more prominent of these activities in the 1970's were the preparation of desertification-control plans throughout Western Africa and NCSs elsewhere on the continent (Dorm-Adzobu, 1995). At present, about 80 per cent of the countries in sub-Saharan Africa are involved in the NEAP process and other countries are preparing or implementing similar kinds of environmental strategies (World Bank, 1995). Egypt, Tunisia, and Morocco have each completed a NEAP [Centre for Environment and Development for the Arab Region and Europe (CEDARE), personal communication, 1996].

One major imperative addressed by all strategic planning processes, particularly the NEAPs, is the need for institutional mechanisms: organizational structures, both Government and non-governmental, at national and subnational levels that have responsibility for general planning. As part of the strategic planning processes, countries are implementing institutional reforms: national environmental institutions (ministries, departments, commissions, and so on), non-governmental organizations (NGOs), advocacy groups, and private-sector institutions have been strengthened or established to take responsibility for the environment and to promote sustainable development policies and programmes.

In many countries, high-level co-ordination agencies for environmental management have been created. Decentralization of central Government functions is taking place, especially with respect to environmental planning. This has created opportunities for NGOs and grassroots participation in identification, planning, and implementation of environmental projects. Examples of the institutionalization of these measures can be found in Benin, Madagascar, Ethiopia, The Gambia, Uganda, and Ghana (Benin, 1993b; Ethiopia, 1995; Madagascar, 1993; The Gambia, 1995b; Uganda, 1995; Ghana, 1995).

In many countries, however, institutions are still weak and not adequately equipped to implement their functions. These shortcomings stem from many factors, including a serious shortage of skilled staff, the absence of adequate training facilities, lack of integration and co-operation among major institutions, and counterproductive Government policies and legislation. (Ethiopia, 1995b).

Important changes are also being made to the national constitutions of African countries, in order to incorporate the basic principles of environmental management. The individual's right to a clean and healthy environment and the State's duty to protect and conserve environmental and natural resources are recurrent themes in the new constitutions (Ogolla, 1995). For example, the Constitution of Mali (1992) notes: Every person has a right to a healthy environment. The protection and defence of the environment and the promotion of the quality of life are the duty of all and for the State.

Another example where the concept of sustainable development and intergenerational equity has been expressed is in the Constitution of Namibia (1990), which stipulates that the State shall actively promote and maintain the welfare of the people by adopting policies aimed at, among other matters, the maintenance of ecosystems, essential ecological processes and biological diversity of Namibia and utilization of living natural resources on a sustainable basis for the benefit of all Namibians, both present and future.

The elevation of environmental concerns to constitutional status has no doubt enhanced the priority conferred by Governments on sound environmental management and sustainable development (Ogolla, 1995). Some of the other countries whose constitutions also provide for environment, natural resources, and sustainable development are Ghana, Kenya, and Uganda. (NESDA, personal communication, 1996).

Some of the general policies and directions being planned and implemented, often within the strategic planning framework, include the formulation and enactment of new umbrella legislation on environment and natural resources management and the establishment of monitoring and regulatory systems (Cote d'Ivoire, 1996; Burkina Faso, 1994; The Gambia, 1995a; Ghana, 1994; Kenya, 1994; and Benin, 1993a). Increasingly, countries are preparing Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) guidelines and procedures as a followup to EIA legislation as found in Ghana and Kenya, for example (Ghana, 1992; Kenya, 1994).

In order to strengthen capacity in terms of human resources, African countries are emphasizing the need for environmental education, training, and information; the role of NGOs and the media; development and implementation of natural resource management projects; and the active participation of grassroots groups in the environmental management process. For example, The Gambia, Senegal, and Ghana have introduced environmental studies into school curricula, as well as population control programmes (The Gambia 1992; Senegal 1995; Ghana 1995). Countries are also establishing Environmental Information Systems (EIS) programmes and acquiring electronic mail systems to facilitate information exchange within and outside the region (Cameroon, 1996; NESDA, personal communication, 1996).

Several sectoral policy responses have been formulated and applied, many of which come up under NEAPs, macro-economic policy frameworks [such as Economic Recovery Programmes (ERPs)], and similar plans. It is impossible to report in detail on the plethora of environmental initiatives that have occurred, particularly given the diverse social, institutional, and environmental conditions of the region and even within each country. These differences are reflected in the focus and priorities as well as policy formulation and action implementation occurring in the region to address environmental problems. Only a brief account of some of the more common directions in and examples of policy responses and actions on some of the priority environmental concerns is provided here.

The environmental problems related to land are some of the most compelling issues in Africa. The need to reduce pressure on already overstressed land resources is one of the main challenges. Some of the policies and actions planned or implemented include review of tenurial rights, land classification, establishment of land resource information systems, soil conservation and improved farming practices, eco-farming, agro-forestry, and afforestation programmes. Examples of countries where these measures are implemented include Ghana and Senegal (Ghana, 1992; Senegal, 1995).

Traditional rights on land and access to land vary greatly from country to country. In some, these rights facilitate access to land for small farmers; in others, the opposite occurs. Relationships between the State and rural communities about landownership is also variable, from situations where most of the lands belong to the State to situations where most belong to traditional chiefs. The strong trend on the continent towards democracy and decentralization of civil powers apply particularly in the areas of land resources management and rural development.

Since the modest initiative of pilot villages at the time of the Cairo Conference in 1985, the concept of giving back to villagers full authority for their land has gained ground. Not only were the few pilot villages of the AMCEN programme a success (for example, in Senegal), but many bilateral and multilateral donors and African Governments adopted this grassroots approach (for example, Germany in Burkina Faso; the World Bank, with Natural Resources Management Projects in many countries; and the United Nations Development Programme [UNDP] in Senegal).

Research on traditional rural systems has been strengthened and the complex relationship between rural populations and their environments is better understood. Integrated plant nutrition systems, integrated pest management, and agroforestry are providing new packages for land rehabilitation and productivity increase. The Organization of African Unity (OAU) programme on the use of local minerals and organic resources as low-cost fertilizers and soil ameliorants (implemented by the International Fertilizers Development Centre) is bringing new solutions to soil fertility depletion (UNEP, 1996).

One important reason for the continued land-related environmental problems is that there are limited alternative industrial activities to reduce pressure on land. Furthermore, the declining terms of trade on agricultural commodities add pressure on land and contribute to continuing poverty. (See Box 3.6 on Trade Issues.) Governments have tried to expand and diversify the production structure throughout the industry sector. These efforts have focused on policies for developing institutional infrastructures that enable change. They include provision of the right atmosphere to do business involving fiscal, monetary, import-export regulations, and investment codes. They also aim at improving the education system to enable it to respond to the complex skill and staffing needs. Support to industry also includes establishing and strengthening industrial research and development institutions and other institutions that support small- and medium-sized industries as well as improving financing conditions for industrial projects by creating financial institutions, and so on.

Because of the pressure to develop fast, however, investments are often being made without due consideration to their impact on the environment. At the national level, there are also problems in reaching agreements among various stake-holders (Government, the local community, foreign investors, and international financing agencies) on investment activities. The means to appraise the degree of success of various actions and their accountability are urgently needed (UNEP, 1996).

Solving water-related issues is an important priority and includes providing sustained water and sanitation services to all people. Programmes for water supply and sanitation increasingly incorporate new ideas that focus on the assessment of needs and requirements of the beneficiaries and their participation. There has been a gradual move towards community participation and management, with the community itself setting priorities and assuming responsibility, authority, and control over improvements in and operation of services. Some examples of successful rural water supply and sanitation projects are found in Burkina Faso, Mali, and Togo, featuring drilled wells with handpumps. Two examples of the most successful rural sanitation programmes in the region can be found in Lesotho and Zimbabwe.

Under these programmes, the needs of the population and the constraints within the community to widespread adoption of improved sanitation and hygiene were first identified. Public awareness raising, promotion, and marketing resulted in successful provision of sanitation, the costs of which were met by receiving families. The Lesotho Sanitation Programme also maximized the private-sector involvement in planning, financing, and implementation, including involvement of local latrine builders, credit unions, and building materials suppliers (World Bank, 1996).

Countries such as Botswana and Namibia have developed master plans for effective use of available water, the provision of safe water, and treatment of wastewater. The Botswana National Water Master Plan is one of Africa's most realistic plans for sustainable use of water resources. It recognizes the limitations in water availability in the country and hence the inability to establish large-scale irrigation schemes. This has led to the adoption of a policy on food security instead of food self-sufficiency (Ohlsson, 1995).

Box 3.6.

Trade: Some Problems, Some Policy Responses

International trade is often a magnifier of existing environmental problems, with adverse local and regional impacts. Some of the major existing problems related to trade and environment are:

Market Distortions

  1. Import restrictions (e.g., escalating tariffs that rise with the degree of processing involved, tariff rate quotas, voluntary import restrictions, and other non-tariff barriers) are widely used by developed countries, often with the intention of benefitting domestic industries. They impact the environment in two ways: (i) they protect inefficient industries whose overproduction leads to excess pollution and resource degradation; (ii) when these restrictions are aimed at developing country exports, they perpetuate poverty in those countries by reducing options for employment and income generation-this in turn leads to environmental and health impacts that result directly from poverty.

  2. Use of subsidies for energy, water, pesticides, fertilizer, etc., distorts the price of traded goods and contributes, indirectly, to environmental problems. For example, the widespread and liberal use of energy subsidies encourages overuse of energy resources, discourages innovation and supports economically unviable energy-intensive industries. The energy overuse contributes to climate change. Removing such subsidies becomes difficult when imported goods (subsidized by exporting countries) compete directly with domestically produced goods.
Uninternalized Environmental and Social Costs

Traded goods usually do not include environmental and social costs in their prices. This results in the manufacture and sale of excessive quantities of under-priced goods and a lack of encouragement to develop and market environmentally preferable substitutes. It also leads to over-intensive exploitation of natural resources and production of wastes.

Fierce international competition in commodity markets means that producers cannot easily internalize costs unilaterally, for fear of losing market share, particularly for unprocessed commodities such as agricultural products, forest products and minerals. The buyers of their products will deal with whoever can offer the lowest price. Many developing countries depend on such primary commodities for export income and are trapped in a vicious cycle: poverty and debt force them to increase natural resource-based exports, without internalizing environmental costs; these exports then face barriers in developed countries and increased competition from other exporters following the same strategy. The resulting low revenues result in yet further exports and further environmental degradation, as well as continuing poverty and poverty-related environmental problems.

Policy Responses and Directions

To address trade-related hindrances to improved environmental stewardship, some examples of possible policies to be considered at the national level by all countries include:

  • ismantling escalating tariffs that discourage processing and diversification in developing country export sectors.
  • Accelerating the dismantling of import quotas and other non-tariff barriers to developing country exports, including multilateral protectionist deals.
  • Reducing subsidies for exports, or to export-competing goods, particularly in areas such as the agricultural sector;
  • Developing and applying economic instruments to promote internalization of external environmental and social costs in order for goods and services to be traded at prices that reflect their true costs, and at the same time, strengthening capacity in developing countries through, inter alia, bilateral aid programmes.

Given the international nature of trade and environment issues, the most urgent need for action is at the international level. Some examples of actions to be considered at the international level include:

  • Making concerted efforts to create new types of international environmental agreements, e.g., on minimum standards for certain types of processes, or in the harvest of certain types of resources, allowing for legitimate diversities of approaches to common problems. Convergence of disparate approaches can be assisted by equity improving measures.
  • Seeking agreements that also involve producers, consumer interests and specialized environment and development organizations. Voluntary sectoral agreements are increasingly used in various fields, and the sentiment that propels them could be harnessed in an effort to create international agreements that are between industry-driven voluntary measures and government-negotiated agreements.
  • Developing new types of commodity agreements. Traditionally, making commodity agreements more efficient contributed to lower consumer prices and more production, but could, under different circumstances, be used to fund cost internalization measures at the producer level.
    • Implementing measures to better integrate policy making across the trade and environment spheres, for example:
    • developing formal instruments to engage the international trade and environment regimes in cooperation and consultation;
    • establishing an intergovernmental panel on trade and sustainable development, so that experts from the trade, environment, and development communities can define, prioritize, and research the relevant issues; and
    • creating a high-level international forum responsible to both trade and environment concerns, with the mandate and authority to hammer out deals on cross-cutting issues.
  • Multilateral environmental agreements (MEAs) are becoming increasingly important in international environmental management and they evoke trade and sustainable development principles. There is consequently a need to strengthen them as an effective means of cost internalization and protection of environmental integrity.

The need for appropriate technology, facilities, and management to harness available water is an important issue in Africa, particularly because of the uneven distribution of freshwater resources and increasing demand for water for various activities such as agriculture, fisheries, mining, industry, and tourism. The rapidly growing demand for food, coupled with seasonal variations and unreliability of precipitation, make irrigation an important means to ensure sustenance of food supply. Experiences in Africa show that large-scale irrigation schemes are not always the most appropriate. Small- and medium-scale ones, involving water user associations in project planning and implementation, use of low-cost technologies, and less costly infrastructure and distribution schemes, have been successful overall. Examples can be found in Ethiopia, Madagascar, and Nigeria.

The Fadama Irrigation in Nigeria consisted of individually owned and maintained pump-tubewell systems to irrigate 1-2 hectares. The result was increased market crop production and widespread use of pumps, leading to the rise of a service industry to maintain the pumps. In Ethiopia, more than 40 water user groups were voluntarily formed for rehabilitation and construction schemes covering 4,400 hectares in total. These user groups are now fully responsible for operation and maintenance of the schemes that can ensure subsistence during droughts, and marketable surplus during normal rainfall years. In Madagascar, 116 medium-sized schemes of approximately 1,000 hectares each were established. This required regulatory changes to create an enabling environment that encourages production. Schemes that performed unsatisfactorily were located in areas with adverse environmental conditions or areas that lacked social cohesiveness (World Bank, 1996).

There are also examples of successful watershed protection and management programmes, including measures to enhance and control land use through water and soil conservation as well as afforestation. For example, a watershed protection programme in the Fouata Djallon Mountains of Guinea involved detailed studies and mapping of human and livestock densities, climate, land use, and susceptibility to soil erosion. With full participation offarmers and their confidence, afforestation was undertaken to rehabilitate the watershed (World Bank, 1996). Other examples can be found in the Zambezi and Nile river basins (UNEP, 1996).

Successful measures to prevent deforestation and to meet the need for fuelwood and other woodland products have been achieved through large-scale planting managed by Governments or companies for commercial timber production. Smaller, community-level forest management and tree planting schemes, often operated by forestry departments or municipal and village organizations, have also played an important role in some areas. For example, in Swaziland, one village that was given a plantation by the Government sold the timber with considerable returns. The village, now interested in tree planting, has reinvested in the woodlot (SARDC, 1994).

Tanzania has built on traditional views regarding tree rights to install legal instruments to protect tree ownership. Planting trees strengthens the rights to land. In Mamire village, for example, a law states that a person who deliberately destroys another person's tree will be fined and has to buy, care for, and plant 20 new seedlings wherever the injured party wishes. On the strength of this law, virtually every small-holder in the village planted trees along field boundaries, tempering escalating local conflicts over land access (SARDC, 1994).

Better management of natural forests is also being achieved in countries such as Namibia and Zimbabwe through annexing of as much as 2 hectares of common woodland to private homesteads. Villagers with such private woodlands usually manage them efficiently and are self-sufficient in poles and fuelwood (SARDC, 1994).

Attempts to reduce deforestation problems with fuel-saving stoves have, in general, not been successful in the sub-Saharan region. This is primarily because fuelwood use is not the major cause of deforestation and also because the stoves were not appropriately designed or promoted. In rural settings, the actual consumption of fuelwood was not significantly reduced because the stoves could not be used for other purposes, such as heating and lighting. In addition, the stoves were often promoted in areas where people were already using fuelwood as conservatively as possible (SARDC, 1994).

The region has several innovative wildlife management strategies, such as game ranching and community-based management schemes, offering promising and practical alternatives to the standard approaches to wildlife conservation. Many of these are pioneered in southern Africa, such as the Communal Areas Management Programme For Indigenous Resources (CAMPFIRE) in Zimbabwe, launched in 1987; the Administrative Management Design for Game Management Areas (ADMADE) in Zambia; and the Selous Conservation Programme in Tanzania (Makombe, 1993). Under these programmes, communities raise revenues through sport hunting management, for example. Hence less habitat is converted to agricultural land and poaching is prevented. The establishment of natural history museums and botanic gardens is also significant in conserving and documenting biodiversity.

With regard to coastal and marine areas, countries have various regulations in place to control activities in the areas of investments, fishing practices, oil spills, and withdrawal of coastal ground water. EIAs are mandatory for development proj-ects in coastal zones. In general, implementation of these regulatory measures has not been all that successful because of a lack of co-ordination among various authorities; overlapping mandates of various institutions; and a lack of resources, including skilled staff and financial and technical resources, to enforce the laws. Existing local and national environmental policies are often compromised for the sake of short-term economic benefits, resulting in the implementation of development projects without adequate environmental consideration (UNEP, 1996).

Conservation of marine environments has been lagging behind efforts on the land, for example, in southern Africa (SARDC, 1994), resulting in the proliferation of illegal fishing and the overexploitation of mangroves. However, there have been some successful efforts. In Namibia, for example, the conservation of marine resources has been brought about in part through quota systems, the prohibition of fishing in some areas during certain times of the year, and bans on the use of destructive fishing methods. This has been successful in Namibia because capacities exist to enforce the regulations (SARDC, 1994).

In the island States of Africa, an Integrated Coastal Zone Management (ICZM) Programme, a five-year project funded by the European Union, is being implemented. The goal of the programme is to enable sustainable development of coastal zones. Policies and actions under the ICZM include better land use planning and zoning, control of wastewater, control of fertilizer use, protection of dunes from sand mining, protection of aquifers from salinization through controlled pumping, monitoring of water quality in lagoons, conservation of a large variety of endemic plant species, and a complete environmental audit (UNEP, 1996). Also, appropriate inland measures are taken, such as anti-erosional measures using silt traps, controlling activities on slopes, vegetation planting on areas that are likely to be eroded, and prevention of land-based pollution (UNEP, 1996). Similarly, projects for solid waste management, embodying recycling of inorganic waste as well as composting of organic waste, are being prepared for implementation within the framework of the ICZM, in conformity with the Barbados Action Programme (UNEP, 1996).

Climate change and its potential to cause sea level rise is a serious concern, particularly in the coastal countries and the island States. At national and subregional levels, individual Governments have developed policy instruments and institutions to address climate issues (UNEP, 1996). Much of the action taken comes under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), including public awareness raising and preparing national inventories of the sources and sinks of greenhouse gases. It is expected that climate change would cause arid and semi-arid areas to become drier and prone to frequent and severe extreme weather events, like droughts and storms. Although Africa's contribution to the emission of greenhouse gases is relatively small, Governments there are combining their endeavours to secure greater energy self-sufficiency with an emphasis on energy efficiency and broader use of renewable energy sources (UNECA, 1992). Energy efficiency and conservation are the most efficient ways to combat energy-related pollution.

There are a series of brown environmental issues, such as ambient air pollution issues, workplace exposure, deposition of agrochemicals, and household exposure to particulates, that are known to occur in Africa but that have not been studied in sufficient detail to assess their magnitude and severity. There is a clear need to address these issues within strategic frameworks for action (IMERCSA, personal communication, 1996).

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