Millennium Ecosystem Assessment
Strengthening Capacity to Manage Ecosystems Sustainably for Human Well-Being

Southern African Sub Global Assessment (SAfMA)


The assessment is being approached as an experiment with studies to be conducted at three spatial scales: the entire SADC region, two major river basins (the Gariep and Zambezi), and local community assessments (Kafue basin in Zambia, Gorongosa-Marromeu in Mozambique, Lesotho, Great Fish River basin, Richtersveld and Gauteng in South Africa). The assessed area includes industrial production systems, urban, agricultural, livestock and forestry production areas as well as natural vegetation and conservation systems.

Lead institutions

SAfMA is a formal assessment at the sub-global scale, with its own stakeholders and authorizing environment. The SAfMA Technical Advisory Group is responsible for the design and implementation of the assessment, while the regional stakeholders are represented on the SAfMA Advisory Committee.

Contact information:

  • Dr Constancia Musvoto
    SAfMA Coordinator
    Institute for Environmental Studies, University of Zimbabwe
    Tel: +263 4 302603
    Fax: +263 4 332853

Focal issues

SAfMA aims to assess the services provided by ecosystems in southern Africa and their impacts on the lives of the region’s people. The assessment explores how local, informal management systems and conventional, formal management systems can be combined to manage ecosystems in ways that ensure the continued provision of ecosystem services in the region. Ecosystem services are provided by a variety of processes that occur across a range of spatial scales. A priority for SAfMA is to develop and test methods to integrate across these scales.

Ecosystem services being assessed

Freshwater, wood fuel energy, production of stable cereal crops, air and water quality, fisheries, grazing, biodiversity, medicinal plants and wetlands.

Key features of assessment

SAfMA is being carried out at a number of spatial scales. This makes it possible to investigate processes at the scales at which they take place, and to take account of links between scales. A multi-scale assessment is able to meet the needs of different users (e.g. local communities and SADC), ensuring that the perspectives at any given scale are reflected in the conclusions at other scales. SAfMA plays a leading role within the MA in developing ways to integrate results from different scales.

A pilot integrative assessment was conducted to test different assessment approaches, the integration of results from different scales, and the usefulness of outputs to key users.

In some areas, the regional-scale ‘view’ was found to differ from basin- or local-scale ‘views, mainly’ due to averaging over local differences. For example, on average everyone in the region may have enough water, but people within a specific area may have more than enough water, while others may experience water shortages. In other cases, local communities have adapted in ways that overcome the shortages predicted at larger scales. Shortages apparent at the local scale but not predicted at the regional scale may be due to localized high demand activities (such as irrigation systems in the lower Gariep Basin) not included in the larger scale models.

The SAfMA pilot assessment explored the implications for regional ecosystem services under a NEPAD (New Partnership for Africa’s Development) scenario and a scenario in which current regional trends persist (Patchwork Africa). Responses under both scenarios highlighted the need for transparent and responsive governance. Countries that show a marked difference in ecosystem conditions under different scenarios suggest that appropriate policy intervention could prevent the degradation or loss of ecosystem services. In the Patchwork scenario, local or endogenous responses dominate while central government actions dominate under the NEPAD scenario.

Timeframe, budget

Compilation of final SAfMA report and summary for policy makers: March 2004. Funding was obtained from the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment as well as the Norwegian government through UNEP. The current level of funding secured by SAfMA is about $900,000.