MPONELA, Malawi, June 19, 2021 (AEJ) - Malawi Environmental Protection Authority (MEPA) at the weekend courted parliament’s Natural Resources Committee to lobby passing of access benefit sharing regulations of genetic resources on biodiversity and appraised legislators on other frameworks in the sector.
The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) defines biodiversity as, “the variability among living organisms from all sources including, terrestrial, marine and other aquatic ecosystems and the ecological complexes of which they are part; this includes diversity within species, between species, and of ecosystems.
In his presentation when he introduced access benefit sharing regulations to the committee MEPA’s Chifundo Chinyama explained that the benefits of biodiversity to humanity are enormous but they can generally be summed up as regulating erosion for instance, provisions such as medicine, cultural such as aesthetic and supporting in the case of nutrient recycling in ecosystems.
Recent plant systematic studies in Malawi have revealed that Mulanje Mountain Forest Reserve and Nyika National Park, the country's first site to be gazetted as a protected area are two sites endowed with diverse plant species.
However, the two sites now bears the brunt to overcome a new external enemy that is threatening the ecology of both Mulanje and Nyika as biodiversity hotspots. This emerging new threat is the spread of Invasive Alien Species.
“Access benefitting sharing is a concept that emerged during the development of CBD. So sustainable use of biodiversity came in as a key consideration especially to ensure bio-prospecting and resources exploitation would not cause harm to conservation and surrounding communities,” Chinyama explained, adding that the subsidiary Nagoya protocol supports fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising from utilization of genetic resources globally.
According to Chinyama, once the regulations are passed by Malawi parliament as a law. A competent national authority will be put in place and will negotiate benefits on biological resources under a signed contract called mutually agreed terms.
“In this case providers, where the biological resources are located and are being managed. Once regulations pass in parliament as law, they can receive something in return for allowing users to take and use their resources. This is where benefit sharing is coming in this initiative,” said Chinyama.
Werani Chilenga, Chitipa south parliamentarian and committee chair asked for more clarity from MEPA officials to explain the regulations in clear language that parliamentarians will comprehend easily.
“Please the committee would also like to know how these regulations are different from those that governed issues of forestry, fisheries and wildlife which are also part of the sector of environment too in Malawi,” he explained at the onset.
Hillary Namainja, Director of Administration in the Ministry of Forestry and Natural Resources hailed the regulation as long overdue and important to the country. He stressed the that passing of this regulation, will result in local communities to get a share of benefits for conserving these biological resources.
“We know that some of the resources are taken for research and for commercial purposes. A very good examples are resources that are used in pharmaceuticals in the production of drugs. These drugs come back here and are sold back to our people, who are caring for these resources. What are we now saying is that time has come for benefit sharing to the people who are conserving these resources?” Namainja said while hailing the efforts taken by MEPA.
Namainja sentiments were corroborated by Kamlepo Kalua, Rumphi East parliamentarian who said “These regulations are indeed long overdue. Some of the developments taking place in Europe and Asia are as a result of biological resources that are actually from Malawi,” he said on the sidelines of the events
Others important developments that the parly committee was appraised with include progress in the implementation of the Cartagena Protocol, Malawi revised Nationally Determined Contribution and the National Meteorological Policy.
The meeting was attended by specialists in the field of genetics, gene management, biodiversity conservation and the academia. It was supported by Shire Valley Transformation Project, a World Bank and Global Environment Facility programme that is constructing an irrigation canal in the Lower Shire valley districts of Chikwawa and Nsanje.