Information in the SADC Region:


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Status of Environmental Data and
Information in the SADC Region:
Legal and Institutional Frameworks

Presentation by C. Mafuta at the
Strategies for Permanent Access to Scientific
Information in Southern Africa: Focus on Health and Environmental
Information for Sustainable Development


7 September 2005


Geographical scope of the presentation is
the Southern African Development

Angola, Botswana, the DRC, Lesotho,
Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique,
Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania,
Zambia and Zimbabwe

Region has a population of around 215


All SADC countries have in place environmental
policies which directly or indirectly subscribe to
the right to live in a clean and healthy
environment, which in turn carries with it the right
to be informed about environmental issues, and
calls for the development of appropriate
information system

The need for information and reliable data is
further emphasized in the region’s key
development initiatives, including the MDGs,

and the RISDP.

EIS Developments

The development of southern Africa’s
environmental information systems (EIS) can be
traced to the late 1980s when the then SADC
Environment and Land Management Sector
(ELMS) organised a series of meetings and
workshops, in collaboration with a number of
partners such as UNEP, IUCN, UNITAR and

The region’s

programme was boosted with the
establishment of

training and education sub

and the
technical and networking sub

EIS Developments

The training and education sub
programme was
implemented by the University of Botswana under
an initiative called the SADC EIS Training and
Education (SETES) initiative

he technical and networking sub
programme was
implemented by the then SADC Food Security
Technical and Administrative Unit in Harare,
through the SADC EIS Technical Unit (SETU)

EIS Development

SADC SETU took the lead in pursuing the
development of the EIS Network in the region,
through partnerships with, amongst others, IUCN



The collaborative effort coordinated by SADC

resulted in the development of the region’s
initial EIS databases

Bibliographic databases

Contacts databases

spatial biodiversity meta

EIS Developments

A number of other

nitiatives were taken,
including the development of the Biodiversity
Information System in the SADC region

The Southern African Biodiversity Support
Programme (SABSP)’s Regional Biodiversity
Information Systems (RBIS) buil

on the national
environmental information systems

Biodiversity Information Centres

EIS Developments

he World Network for Exchange of Information
(INFOTERRA), considered one of the world’s largest
networks for the exchange of environmental information
and whose objective is to stimulate and allow the exchange
and flow of technical and scientific environmental
information between the countries, is key to the
development of southern Africa’s EIS World Network for
Exchange of Information (INFOTERRA)

INFOTERRA network is coordinated by UNEP and is a
country affiliation, including most SADC countries.

The Southern African Sub Regional INFOTERRA
Network (SASIN) coordinates activities in southern Africa

EIS Developments

Another initiative supportive of the region’s EIS process is the
SADC Water Resource Database (WRD), which evolved from
the need to estimate the potential of small
water bodies fisheries

This database integrates information on surface water bodies,
watersheds, rivers, fish species distribution and related data, in a
Geographic Information System. The WRD has a number of
databases, including:

Surface water body database

Watershed database

River database

Aquatic species distribution database

EIS Developments

The EIS process in southern Africa also includes the
identification, agreement and development of indicators used in
trend analysis in state of environment reporting in the SADC

This regional collaborative initiative is being undertaken by the
Communicating the Environment Programme (a partnership of
SADC, IUCN ROSA and SARDC IMERCSA), with support
from the Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism of
South Africa and UNEP

Under the initiative a core set of indicators for state of
environment reporting has been developed, based on
internationally accepted criteria for indicators of sustainability,
and is being tested for relevance and data availability in the

EIS Developments

A process to collect socio
economic driving
forces data and integrate these into a GIS
was also undertaken jointly by the HSRC
and SARDC as part of efforts to strengthen
the region’s EIS

EIS Developments

Following the realisation that data resources for environmental
management are segmented, tending to be application
originating from different organisations that collect and maintain data
for their own particular purposes, and very often designed and
operated independently of each other, a comprehensive Africa
initiative called the Africa Environment Information Network is being
implemented by UNEP through a network of collaborating centres and
pilot countries

UNEP’s collaborating centre for southern Africa is SARDC
IMERCSA, while the two pilot countries which recently concluded the
first phase of the AEIN are Lesotho and Zambia

One of the key outputs of the AEIN is the Africa Environment Outlook
EIS, through which a comprehensive electronic database of
bibliographic, experts and contacts, statistics, and map information
available on

Key constraints

Southern Africa suffers from lack of regionally generated
statistics, depending largely on international organisations
for data and information

In some cases the data and information from such
international sources is disputed as it is based on
projections and is not ground

There are many reasons which force the region to depend
on data from international sources, including lack of up
date statistics, lack of comparability of data across
countries, and limitations in dissemination mechanisms
such as databases, networking and connectivity

Key constraints

Commonly raised issues in as far as access
to environmental data is concerned are

data ownership or proprietary;

technical issues; and

institutional issues

Data Ownership

Concerns about protection of property intellectual
rights result in a wide range of information
materials being classified as confidential

Data sharing and access are further hampered by
the growing shift towards commercialisation,
which puts a monetary value to all sorts of
products, including information and data

Technical Issues

Government, academic and research institutions
across the SADC region, dealing with
environmental information, have important
environmental datasets and databases.

Most such datasets and databases are available on

However, most of these databases have little
spatial reference information, and the datasets and
databases are of varying quality and are scattered
and not well networked

Institutional Issues

The institutional set
up varies among the different SADC

In the majority of countries statistics are handled by many
institutions, so much that it is common to find overlaps and
gaps in their work.

For example, in Zimbabwe environmental data can be
found mainly in the Ministry of Environment and Tourism,
although information and data on driving forces for
environmental change tends to be located in the Central
Statistics Office. Further still, information and statistics
about pollution tends to be located in the Ministry of
Health and Child Welfare, while maps and other spatial
data tends to be found in the Surveyor General’s office.

Institutional Issues

The situation in Lesotho is interesting and unique.

The National Environment Secretariat (NES)
coordinates environmental issues in the country
and is supported by the Committee on
Environmental Data Management (CEDAMA).
The committee was established in 1999, has a
sectoral membership and is chaired by the
Bureau of Statistics. Its functions include
production of data access and exchange
guidelines, as well as development of
sustainability indicators.

RISDP and Statistics

SADC, through the RISDP, considers statistics a
priority intervention area, which aims to provide
relevant, timely, accurate and comparable statistical
information for planning, policy formulation,
implementation, and monitoring and evaluation of
SADC integration activities.

The development of the SADC statistics is guided by
the strategy document approved by the SADC
Council of Ministers in 1998, which stipulates that
SADC statistics is critical in the monitoring and
evaluation of the SADC Programme of Action and the
regional integration process.

RISDP and Statistics

The strategy highlights the following challenges:

inadequate resources allocated to statistics in some
Member States;

disparities in capacities among countries;

inadequate statistical capacity at the SADC secretariat
to coordinate statistics in the region;

absence of the legal instrument for regional cooperation
in the area of statistics;

lack of dissemination mechanisms, including databases
and internet connectivity; and

long time lag between collection of data and
dissemination of statistics.

RISDP and Stats

The strategy document focuses on

developing a legal framework for regional cooperation
in statistics;

harmonisation of statistical information;

collating, processing and disseminating official

developing indicators for monitoring and evaluating
regional integration; and

building capacity for national and regional statistical

RISDP and Statistics

RISDP Targets for Statistics

Development of a legal framework, 2004

Harmonisation of SADC statistics by 2015

Development of integrated regional statistics database in all
priority areas, including poverty, gender, informal sector, HIV and
AIDS, by 2015

Development of indicators for monitoring and evaluation, 2004

Enhancement of statistics capacity in SADC by 2015

Development of economic models and forecasting mechanisms for
statistics, 2004

RISDP Targets for Statistics

Establishment of a multi
sectoral forum of users and
producers of statistics, 2004

Enhancement of utilisation of co
effective ICTs in
sharing information in the priority areas, 2015