Africa’s natural resource wealth provides a broad range of ecosystem benefits on which many countries, including those in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region (i.e., Angola, Botswana, Comoros, Democratic Republic of Congo, Eswatini, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Seychelles, South Africa, Tanzania, Zambia, and Zimbabwe) depend heavily for their socio-economic development. This has resulted in increased pressure on the natural environment and calls for effective natural resources management (NRM). Environmental degradation and climate change, driven by anthropogenic causes, have compounded the instability of ecosystems, affecting their capacity to adequately provide necessary goods and services. Increased pressure on natural capital puts African development potential at risk, translating to barriers to realizing the SADC regional economic development agenda.

Effective engagement of Indigenous People and Local Communities (IPLCs) through community-based natural resource management (CBNRM) frameworks not only ensures adequate protection of natural resources but also improves the livelihoods of IPLCs. Despite the articulation of CBNRM approaches in the SADC Protocols on Wildlife Conservation and Law Enforcement and Forestry, Law Enforcement and Anti-Poaching (LEAP) Strategy, and the SADC Transfrontier Conservation Areas (TFCA) Programme, less progress has been made in promoting CBNRM approaches in terms of programmatic interventions at the regional level. Much of the resources have been directed towards strengthening law enforcement, building effective legal frameworks, and eradicating markets for illegal products.

The SADC region is characterized by poor waste management (WM) practices, particularly widespread dumping of waste in uncontrolled dump sites and water bodies, aggravating the problems of generally low sanitation levels across the region. Effective WM in the SADC region is hampered by a lack of resources, both financial and technical. There is a lack of qualified personnel to effectively deal with waste, as well as the necessary technology and infrastructure for waste management. There is an urgent need to improve WM in the SADC region, including through improved institutional and legal frameworks and funding. This will help SADC Member States (MS) effectively allocate resources for waste management based on facts and reliable information.

Improving WM through adopting a circular economy approach provides an opportunity to enhance regional value chains and minimize waste production. The application of a circular economy in SADC would facilitate economic growth by keeping materials circulating in the economy for longer periods, including redesigning industrial systems and intensive recycling and reuse of waste materials. This approach encompasses waste prevention and reduction and incorporates technology and innovation across relevant value chains.

The intervention “Strengthening Research and Innovation (R&I) in NRM and WM in Southern Africa Region” (RINaWa) is part of the ACP-EU Programme to strengthen R&I capacity in ACP (African, Caribbean, and Pacific) countries. It is financed by the EU under the 11th European Development Fund (EDF) and managed by the Organisation of African, Caribbean, and Pacific States (OACPS), which is the contracting authority of RINaWa. RINaWa targets four countries, namely Tanzania, Malawi, Mozambique, and Zambia. It is implemented by the SADC Secretariat, based in Botswana, through a Contribution Agreement with the OACPS, in partnership with the College of African Wildlife Management (CAWM)–Mweka based in Tanzania, and the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) branch in Mozambique.