More than 25 delegates representing 19 African countries gathered at SANBI’s Pretoria National Botanical Garden from the 25th to the 27th of March 2014. The purpose of the meeting was to implement an innovative and collaborative project aimed at ensuring that relevant biodiversity information is available to support efficient policy formulation and decision-making in Africa.
The project, entitled, Mobilising Africa’s policy and decision-making relevant biodiversity data, is generously funded by the JRS Biodiversity Foundation and co-ordinated by the Biodiversity Information Management (BIM) Directorate of SANBI in partnership with African Participants of the Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF).
Convening a group of leading African biodiversity informaticians presented new opportunities for networking, mentoring and knowledge exchange. The momentum generated by such interactions will serve to accelerate the mobilisation of policy-relevant biodiversity data. In doing so, it is anticipated that the business case for biodiversity informatics will become more self-evident and, consequently, this important field will draw greater financial, human and technical resources.
The overarching aim of the project is to develop and implement a strategy for mobilising African biodiversity data while strengthening regional collaboration and capacity in biodiversity informatics. The strategy will set priorities for capturing, digitising and publishing biodiversity data with a view to reinforcing the knowledge base on which policies and decisions concerning biodiversity are made.
To this end, delegates to the workshop in Pretoria were asked to:
• Decide what biodiversity data is required for making evidence-based policies and decisions in their respective countries;
• Map institutional landscapes to determine the significant sources and repositories of required biodiversity data;
• Determine the current availability and accessibility of required biodiversity data;
• Set priorities for the mobilisation (collection, digitisation and publication) of required biodiversity data; and
• Identify regional capacity constraints in biodiversity informatics and, accordingly, agree on the type of training to be provided at subsequent workshops.
In biodiversity conservation, natural resources management and, indeed, many other sectors, biodiversity data is essential for evidence-based policymaking. For example, economic policymakers require data on traded biological products like timber, food and medicine; agricultural policymakers require data on pollinators, pests, crop diversity and genetically modified organisms (GMOs); water policymakers require data on biological indicators and invasive alien species; and health policymakers require data on pathogens and disease vectors.