Southern African Sub Global Assessment (SAfMA)

Southern Africa (SAfMA)

Geographical coverage

Geographical scale of the assessment Regional,National,Sub-national
Country or countries covered Angola, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Tanzania, South Africa, Zambia, Zimbabwe
Any other necessary information or explanation for identifying the location of the assessment, including site or region name

Africa. The assessment was approached as an experiment with studies conducted through assessments at three spatial scales: the entire SADC region, two major river basins (the Gariep and Zambezi), and local communities (Gorongosa-Marromeu in Mozambique, Lesotho, Great Fish River basin, Richtersveld and Gauteng in South Africa).

Conceptual framework, methodology and scope

Assessment objectives

SAfMA assessed the services provided by ecosystems in southern Africa and their impacts on the lives of the region’s people. The assessment explored 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. A priority for SAfMA is to develop and test methods to integrate across these scales. SAfMA also focused on ways to collate multi-scale assessment results for use by decision-makers.

Mandate for the assessment

Conceptual framework and/or methodology used for the assessment

Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MA)

URL or copy of conceptual framework developed or adapted

The conceptual framework was derived directly from the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment conceptual framework, but adapted to local needs. The link between ecosystems and human well-being was explained clearly for decision makers.

System(s) assessed

  • Marine
  • Coastal
  • Inland water
  • Forest and woodland
  • Cultivated/Agricultural land
  • Grassland
  • Mountain
  • Dryland
  • Urban

Species groups assessed

Ecosystem services/functions assessed


  • Food
  • Water
  • Genetic resources
  • Medicinal resources
  • Energy/fuel
  • Raw materials


  • Air quality
  • Climate regulation
  • Moderation of extreme events
  • Regulation of water flows
  • Regulation of water quality
  • Waste treatment
  • Erosion prevention

Supporting Services/Functions

  • Primary production
  • Maintainence of genetic diversity

Cultural Services

  • Recreation and tourism
  • Aesthetic Enjoyment
  • Inspiration for culture
  • Art and design

Scope of assessment includes

Drivers of change in systems and services


Impacts of change in services on human well-being


Options for responding/interventions to the trends observed


Explicit consideration of the role of biodiversity in the systems and services covered by the assessment


Timing of the assessment

Year assessment started

Pre 2000

Year assessment finished


If ongoing, year assessment is anticipated to finish

Periodicity of assessment

One off

Assessment outputs


Biggs, R,. Bohensky, E,. Desanker, P.V,. Fabricius, C,. Lynam, T,. Misselhorn, A.A,. Musvoto, C,. Mutale, M,. Reyers, B,. Scholes, R.J,. Shikongo, S,. van Jaarsveld, A.S. (2004). Nature Supporting People The Southern African Millennium Ecosystem Assessment. Council for Scientific and Industrial Research Pretoria, South Africa.

Bohensky, E,. Reyers, B,. van Jaarsveld, A,. Fabricius, C,. (Editors) (2004). Ecosystem Services in the Gariep Basin.

Scholes, R & Biggs, R,. (Editors). (2004). Ecosystem Services in Southern Africa: A Regional Assessment. Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, Pretoria, South Africa

Communication materials (e.g. brochure, presentations, posters, audio-visual media)

Bohensky, E,. Reyers, B,. van Jaarsveld, A,. Fabricius, C,. (Editors) (2004). Ecosystem Services in the Gariep Basin, A contribution to the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment prepared by the Gariep basin team of SAfMA, the Southern African Millennium Ecosystem Assessment.

Nature Serving People A pilot assessment of southern African Ecosystems. (Brochure).

Journal publications

Training materials

Other documents/outputs

Tools and processes

Tools and approaches used in the assessment

  • Indicators
  • Scenarios
  • Economic valuation
  • Social (non-monetary) valuation
  • Ecosystem mapping
  • Stakeholder consultations
  • Response options
  • GIS

Process used for stakeholder engagement in the assessment process and which component

Stakeholder involvement was an important element of the assessment, perhaps most dramatically in the Gariep livelihoods assessment, which derived its information directly from the people involved. A user advisory group was established for each component study, thereby giving a wide range of stakeholders a means of participating in the assessment.

Key stakeholder groups engaged

The number of people directly involved in the assessment process

Incorporation of scientific and other types of knowledge

Supporting documentation for specific approaches, methodology or criteria developed and/or used to integrate knowledge systems into the assessment

Assessment reports peer reviewed



Accessibility of data used in assessment

The data used by the assessment came directly from the institutions involved and the peer-reviewed literature. In addition, other forms of knowledge were also involved, collected from direct interviews with individuals living in the ecosystems being assessed. Generally speaking, as the scale of assessment moved from regional to local, the balance of information shifted from more scientific sources towards more informal sources, with information often transmitted by oral tradition.

Policy impact

Impacts the assessment has had on policy and/or decision making, as evidenced through policy references and actions

Independent or other review on policy impact of the assessment


Lessons learnt for future assessments from these reviews

The policy impact appears to have been reasonably effective, though no independent assessment is currently available. Each component study was published separately, along with the integrated report; the component studies were designed to have particular policy relevance to the region or topic considered. For example, the assessments at the basin level (Gariep and Zambezi) were designed to contribute primarily to the needs of the catchment management authorities in the respective basins, in addition to relevant government bodies dealing with conservation, agriculture and development. At the regional level, the assessment sought to influence the Southern African Development Community, national Governments, non-governmental organizations working in the region, the media and the public.

Capacity building

Capacity building needs identified during the assessment

Actions taken by the assessment to build capacity

How have gaps in capacity been communicated to the different stakeholders

Knowledge generation

Gaps in knowledge identified from the assessment

How gaps in knowledge have been communicated to the different stakeholders

Additional relevant information

The Southern African Programme on Ecosystem Change and Society (SAPECS; is a research initiative that partly builds on SAfMA and aims to provide information for a future assessment.