Environment & Climate Change

The Southern African Development Community (SADC) recognises the importance of sustainable use and management of the environment in the fight against poverty and food insecurity. Sustainable development means that Economic Development integrates concerns about the people of the region and the environment that many depend upon for their livelihoods. The effects of climate change that are occurring are widespread and significant, affecting agriculture, infra-structures, human health, terrestrial and marine ecosystems, water resources, and other sectors across the region. These climate extremes can erase years of investment and progress in national development while addressing disaster risk and recovery, relief programmes and other responses to climate disasters may require nations to redirect limited resources intended for other development priorities.

SADC Member States have committed themselves to integrated and sustainable development, and climate change adaptation and mitigation. This commitment is reflected by the SADC Treaty establishing the organisation, and active participation in the negotiations and ratification of major Multilateral Environmental Agreements. To this end, the SADC Region has endeavoured to put in place mechanisms for the implementation of MEAs such as the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC); United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD); United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD); Basel Convention, Rotterdam Convention and Stockholm Convention ; Migratory Birds Convention; UNESCO World Heritage Convention; Ramsar Convention and Regional Seas Conventions (Abidjan and Nairobi). The Environment and Climate Change Programmes seek to achieve the implementation of the Regional Indicative Strategic Development Plan (RISDP), Africa Agenda 2063 and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

While encouraging progress is being made in environmental management in the region, climate change impacts, land degradation, deforestation, loss of biodiversity, pollution, inadequate access to clean water and sanitation services, and poor urban conditions continue to threaten sustainable development. These environmental challenges and social conditions undermine sustainable socio-economic development in the region. These factors are linked to the high levels of poverty, whereby the poor are victims and agents of environmental degradation. Environmental degradation threatens economic development and directly affects peoples’ livelihoods.

In order to address sustainable development, SADC has established four main environmental policy goals:

  • Protect and improve the health, environment and livelihoods of the people of southern Africa with priority to the poor majority;
  • Reduce greenhouse gas emissions and increase resilience of ecosystems and people in the region;
  • Preserve the natural heritage, biodiversity and life supporting ecosystems in southern Africa; and
  • Support regional economic development on an equitable and sustainable basis through Blue, Green and Circular Economy approaches

The Environment and Climate Change Programme, under the Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources Directorate, was established to ensure the equitable and sustainable use of the environment and land based resources for the benefit of the present and future generations and to build resilient economies .

Mainstreaming Environment and Climate Change

Mainstreaming environmental issues means that that SADC integrates environmental considerations into policies, strategies and programmes. This is in line with the priorities outlined in the Regional Indicative Strategic Development Plan. To achieve environmental mainstreaming in the region, a Protocol on Environmental Management for Sustainable Development has been developed and approved by summit. The Protocol aims to promote sustainable utilisation and trans-boundary management of the environment and natural resources. The Protocol covers environmental issues such as climate change, waste and pollution, management of chemicals, biodiversity and natural heritage, sustainable land management, marine and inland resources, as well as cross-cutting issues on gender, science, technology, trade and investment, all of which are critical for sustainable development of the region. The Protocol is important in that it reminds that environmental issues and social conditions if not managed sustainably undermine socioeconomic development.


SADC Region is bestowed with forest resources as 41% of the SADC total land area is covered by natural forests that provide timber and non-timber forest products, as well as domestic wood energy. Furthermore, these forests provide habitat for wildlife and other forest biodiversity and economic benefits such as proceeds from tourism. Forests are also important for the provision of environmental goods and services including soil protection, water conservation, food, and climate change mitigation through carbon sequestration.

In promotion of the SADC Regional Economic Agenda, forests provide vital ecological services which are critical in development of the other sectors such to include Hydropower production, Agri-food systems, Water security, wildlife conservation, Tourism development, Fisheries, public health, resilient cites, global warming and Disaster risk reduction. Importantly, natural forests contribute significantly to the livelihoods and wellbeing of the majority of SADC population in rural areas.

Southern Africa’s abundant and valuable forest resources continue to face increasing pressure and threats from, among others, large scale illegal harvesting and trade in timber and non-timber forest products, deforestations, and Climate Change. Generally, the sustainable management and utilization of all types of forests and tree has not been effective in the region, leading to accelerated deforestation. Forest management requires technological improvements as well as management of pests and diseases in order to increase productivity and counter the effects of deforestation.

The Protocol on Forestry

The 2002 Protocol on Forestry provides a policy framework for sustainable forest management in the SADC region. Objectives addressed in this protocol include increasing public awareness of forestry and capacity building. More specifically, the framework addresses research gaps, laws, education and training, the harmonisation of regional sustainable management practises, increasing efficiencies of utilisation and facilitation of trade, equitable use of local forests and a respect for traditional knowledge and uses.

Forestry Programmes

SADC objectives for forestry sector management are integrated with the revised Regional Indicative Strategic Development Plan (RISDP 2020 - 2030) as well as into the priorities of the Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources (FANR) Directorate. The revised SADC Forestry Strategy (2020-2030) which operationalizes the Protocol on Forestry (2002) provides strategic framework for national and regional cooperation in addressing challenges facing management of the forest resources in the SADC region. The Strategy identifies the following as major challenges that forest sector is faced: - conversion of forest lands to other uses; Encroachment into forest areas both inside and outside forest protected areas; demand for energy from fuel wood and charcoal; limited capacity of government institutions responsible for forest management; Inadequate participation of local communities in productive forest management; Inadequate formal intra-regional trade in forest products between most Member States and climate change.

The SADC Forestry Strategy (2020-2030) designates the following strategic intervention areas in addressing aforementioned challenges:

  • Forest Institutional capacity and governance;
  • market and trade in timber and other forest products; 
  • Financial investments and private sector engagement;
  • Protection, Restoration and Sustainable Management and Use of Forest Production Systems.

It is against this background that SADC currently focuses on the implementation of the above programmatic areas in collaboration with International Cooperating Partners (ICP). Through the SADCJICA Project on Conservation and Sustainable Management of Forest Resources in Southern Africa, the following guidelines for sustainable forest management were developed: 

  • Regional Forestry Information System (RFIS)
  • Forestry Fire Management (FFM)
  • Participatory Forestry Management (PFM)