During her recent visit to Botswana, Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf told the Summit for Sustainability in Africa that there is need to access the best technologies for sustainable agriculture and renewable energy to avoid languishing in poverty.
Johnson-Sirleaf said unless Africa puts a value on the contribution biodiversity makes to the global environment, people will struggle to protect it. She added that until people are compensated for the ecosystem services the forests provide the world, they will be worth more dead than alive.
The Liberian leader highlighted that development and conservation can go hand in hand provided people develop a framework for action around a shared vision. She added that there must be partnerships at local level, second level between developing nations and the international marketplace.
“As we deliberate on nature, the ecosystem and resources, let us not overlook the issue of sustainability in urban areas, and how to make our cities more eco-friendly and nurturing rather than oppressive and hazardous,” she said.
Sustainable management of natural capital is not a new challenge, she said, adding that it is one every African village has faced since time immemorial. She further stated that as governments go from referring to their commodities as resources to calling them capital, they are placing a monetary value on everything that exists in the ecosystem from trees to water to sand and rocks.
“Our agenda is to redefine the relationship that exists between us, our ecosystem, our development imperatives, and what we leave for future generations,” said Johnson-Sirleaf.
Highlighting the challenges Liberia is facing, she said they include tropical rain forest deforestation, soil erosion, loss of biodiversity, coastal erosion and pollution waters from oil residue as well as a myriad of climate change related issues. She added that the challenges have the potential to derail the nation’s development initiatives and impact on its ability to achieve MDGs.
For his part, President Ian Khama said there is no option but to embrace sustainable development as a way of life.
“We need to pay more attention to getting the balance right between what is economically feasible, socially desirable and environmentally sustainable,” he said.
Khama said the meeting on “Sustainability in Africa Summit” is for all on the continent and as leaders to reaffirm their commitment to sustainable development. He added that it shall be evident in addressing development challenges and in recognition of the significant role played by the natural resources capital. He observed that, currently, the contribution of natural resources in development is not well accounted for.
“The value of natural resources in sustaining development and livelihoods should be clearly incorporated as an asset for development,” he said.
Other keynote speakers and featured participants who attended the summit included Heads of State and government from the nations of Botswana, Rwanda, Liberia, Namibia and Mozambique and Ministers from Ghana, Kenya, South Africa, Tanzania and Norway.