German Federal Agency for Nature Conservation (BfN)


Promoting the SDGs in Southern Africa through UNESCO Biosphere Reserves

Strengthening capacities, supporting processes for the implementation of new biosphere reserves and fostering regional networking

Drakensberg, South Africa (© Bettina Hedden-Dunkhorst)
In the photo you can see the partially snow-covered Drakensberg in South Africa. In the foreground a stream between grass and bush land can be seen.

The UNESCO-programme „Man and the Biosphere“ (MAB), founded in 1971, is a suitable instrument for the implementation of the global sustainability goals (SDGs) of the United Nations. Model regions for sustainable development are established through the nomination of UNESCO-Biosphere Reserves in the context of the programme. Here, nature conservation, socio-economic development, as well as science and education play crucial roles. Balancing different interests helps to achieve sustainable interactions of humans and nature.

In total, UNESCO has included 714 Biosphere Reserves from 129 states in the World Network of Biosphere Reserves. Thereby, the MAB-programme - through its World Network of Biosphere Reserves - contributes significantly to the conservation of global biodiversity, while at the same time promoting regional development, contributing to poverty reduction and the safeguarding of peace.

Goal 17 of the SDGs requests all member states to form partnerships for implementing the sustainability goals. In this regard the MAB-Programme is particularly useful, since all member states committed themselves to support the Worldwide Network of Biosphere Reserves. BfN and the German commission for UNESCO supported the development of new Biosphere Reserves on the African continent for many years. 

This project builds on the results of the BfN-project “Supporting the Implementation of UNESCO’s „Man and the Biosphere“ Programme including the Concept of Biosphere Reserve in Southern Africa” which was carried out from 2013 to 2016.

Environmental information and education, Namibia (© Bettina Hedden-Dunkhorst)
The picture shows a man looking at the information panels on environmental information and environmental education.

The Project and its Goals

The project encompasses the following objectives:

Contribution to the establishment of new Biosphere Reserves

Strengthen the institutional capacities of key actors in the respective countries in Southern Africa for the realisation of the MAB-Programme

Better implementation of the MAB-Programme’s ‘Lima-Action plan’ (2016) in Southern Africa

Further improved cooperation between Germany, the African Biosphere Reserve Network AfriMAB, and individual African partner countries

Regional networking of the MAB-stakeholders in Southern Africa


The activities and measures in the various partner countries as well as the results of the project are described in detail in this project report.

Kwa Zulu-Natal, South Africa (© Bettina Hedden-Dunkhorst)
In the photo you can see a village in Kwa Zulu-Natal with grassland and grazing cows.

Project details

Duration: 12/2017 – 12/2020

Programme: Research and Development 

Target Countries: Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Zambia, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Eswatini

Project partners: DUK (German Commission for UNESCO) together with responsible authorities in the target countries; especially the local UNESCO-Commisions, MAB-National Committees and the African Biosphere Reserve Network (AfriMAB).

Project management at BfN

Dr. Bettina Hedden-Dunkhorst, FG I 2.3, International Nature Conservation

Further information


DUK project Report (in German)


Last Change: 25/01/2021