I Musokotwane Environment Resource Centre for Southern Africa (IMERCSA)


The environment resource centre is named in honour of the late IUCN regional director for southern Africa, India Musokotwane, a Zambian specialist in environment and development who inspired the founding of a visionary regional partnership of government and non-government sectors through Communicating the Environment Programme (CEP).imersca

The general objective of IMERCSA is to inform, motivate and empower people at all levels of environmental decision-making in southern Africa to take positive actions to counter environmental degradation and move towards sustainable development paths by providing them with accessible information and knowledge on the environment.

IMERCSA’s focus areas under the main broad thematic areas of environment and water are:

  • Climate change
  • Water resources management and sanitation
  • River basin development
  • Land and food security, and
  • Natural disasters management

In collaboration with the Zambezi Watercourse Commission (ZAMCOM) and the SADC Water Division, IMERCSA is implementing a major regional project to update its seminal booklength work, State of Environment Zambezi Basin 2000, produced in two volumes (English and Portuguese), with a Summary in both languages. The Zambezi Outlook projects is developing a new publication with contributors and reviewers from the region on several pertinent sectors in the Zambezi River Basin, supported by the Government of Germany through the GIZ regional office in Botswana. The Zambezi Outlook responds to the need to keep the state, trends and outlook of the environment under continuous overview.

The Zambezi River Basin, home to more than 40 million people from 30 different ethnic groups, is a key resource for economic development in southern Africa. The basin is rich in human, social, political, economic, natural and ecological diversity and has high potential for agriculture, fisheries, forestry, wildlife and power generation. Human activity and climate change and variability have brought drastic changes on the state of the environment in the Zambezi River Basin over the decade, impacting on socio-economic development. The Zambezi Basin Outlook project brings these issues into focus, so as to enable decision makers and general public to take positive steps in reversing negative environmental change.

The Zambezi River Basin is hard hit by climate change and variability. The Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change (IPCC) records indicate that temperatures in southern Africa have risen by 0.5 degrees over the last century and the 1990s deemed the warmest and driest decade ever. As a cross cutting issue, climate change and variability touches livelihoods, water resources and environment of southern Africa, and many other regions in the world. Ensuring food security is a major challenge in an area characterized by high variability in available water resources. Sustained efforts for economic growth in the basin countries are often interrupted by recurrent natural disasters, such as floods, droughts and fires, with considerable impact exacerbating poverty conditions in different parts of the region. The intensity of these disasters differs due to spatial and temporal variations of the physiographic and climatic conditions. Countries such as Mozambique are at the most downstream end of the basin and sustained efforts for economic growth are often interrupted by recurrent natural disasters with considerable impact on the welfare of local people and the environment.

Partners and Publications
SARDC IMERCSA works in partnership with the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and regional and national partners throughout southern Africa, to produce a number of publications including the Southern Africa Environment Outlook. Formerly called State of Environment reports, the Environment Outlooks are IMERCSA’s most sought after outputs.
IMERCSA has been the lead agency for environmental reporting since the Rio Earth Summit in 1992, working in partnership with SADC and UNEP.

IMERCSA is the regional collaborating centre for southern Africa for the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and UNEP GRID Arendal, contributing to all editions of the Africa Environment Outlook (AEO) and the Global Environment Outlook (GEO).

SARDC IMERCSA has produced many publications over the past 20 years, including most recently, in addition to the Southern Africa Environment Outlook:

  • Atlas of the Changing Environment in the Zambezi River Basin which gives a visual representation of the current environment in the eight riparian states; and
  • Responding to Climate Change Impacts: Adaptation and Mitigation Strategies as Practiced in the Zambezi River Basin which highlight the state of the environment, impact of climate change on people and the environment, adaptation strategies, and future prospects and scenarios;
  • The Zambezi newsletter is produced twice a year with the Zambezi Watercourse Commission (ZAMCOM) to highlight current issues in the Zambezi River Basin, and is published in a bilingual edition in English and Portuguese.

In addition to the reports, IMERCSA produces newsletters, fact sheets, policy brief and posters on specific thematic areas. It maintains databases of country profiles and indicators for state of the environment assessment and reporting in southern Africa.

Background and History
SARDC has worked with the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and other partners in the SADC region on related environmental initiatives for the past 20 years through its environment institute, the Musokotwane Environment Resource Centre for Southern Africa (IMERCSA), and has been the lead agency for regional environmental reporting since the Rio Earth Summit in 1992.

In 1994, SARDC, through its environment institute, IMERCSA, and in collaboration with SADC and IUCN-The World Conservation Union, published State of the Environment in Southern Africa, the first comprehensive environmental report on the sub-region from a cross-boundary perspective on eco-zones.
This was followed by thematic updates and related materials focusing on Water in Southern Africa, and Forests and Woodlands in Southern Africa, among others. Defining and Mainstreaming Environmental Sustainability in Water Resources Management in Southern Africa, launched at the World Summit on Sustainable Development in 2002, was another seminal work that remains current today in its assessment of related regional policy issues.

SARDC IMERCSA has, since 1994, published eight major reports and a host of support materials such as factsheets, posters, newsletters and policy briefs.

Following the Basin approach, SARDC IMERCSA and partners produced State of the Environment Zambezi Basin 2000 in English and Portuguese (Estado do Ambiente na Bacia do Zambeze 2000); seven series of three Zambezi newsletters on various river basin issues; several posters and fact sheets, including one in 2008 on climate change impacts in the Zambezi River Basin. SARDC IMERCSA had a strong working relationship with SADC’s ZACPRO 6.2 project, evidenced by collaboration on the production of publicity information materials and more than 20 issues of The Zambezi newsletter; has had a long association with the Zambezi River Authority; and is a knowledge partner of the permanent Zambezi Watercourse Commission, established recently in Harare, Zimbabwe.

Imercsa publications on environment, water and climate changes issues covering the past 20 years in southern Africa are available through the SARDC website, providing a contemporary and searchable online archive of regional issues through the Virtual Library for Southern Africa, currently under reconstruction.