Significant resources are required to conserve South Africa’s landscapes and their associated biodiversity and ecosystem services. These include freshwater, fresh air, carbon sequestration, healthy soil, healthy insect populations for pollination, and healthy grasslands for freshwater conservation and abundant grazing. All are critical for our health and survival.
‘An effective way to practically and affordably achieve this is for all the role-players – communal and private landowners, conservation organisations, government, universities, business and industry – to collectively manage our landscapes, expand the protected areas footprint countrywide and achieve impact at scale,’ says WWF-SA’s Senior Manager of Land and Biodiversity Stewardship, Angus Burns.
Formally protected areas include declared nature reserves, contract national parks and protected environments. They are legislated under the National Environmental Management Protected Areas Act and are afforded a high level of formal protection. Implementation of the Act on private and communal land is guided by the country’s biodiversity stewardship programme and implemented via provincial stewardship programmes.
Since the early 2000s the WWF Nedbank Green Trust has funded the expansion of protected areas throughout South Africa, both the declaration process and the post-declaration management support. The latter is essential for all protected areas to be appropriately managed and environmentally and economically sustained to maintain the biodiversity values for which they were secured.
A post-declaration management support project that the WWF Nedbank Green Trust is currently funding, spans large tracts of communal and privately owned protected areas in the greater Kruger National Park (KNP) and KwaZulu-Natal. The project is being managed by the KZN-based conservation NGO, Conservation Outcomes.
‘Essentially, we are supporting the landowners to continually improve the management of their protected areas,’ says Conservation Outcomes director, Greg Martindale. ‘This includes veld condition assessments, assisting landowners draw up an annual plan of operation, which includes veld rehabilitation, water conservation, fire management, alien invasive vegetation control, sustainable cattle or game management, and then supporting their application for the tax benefit and exemptions. In addition, a key activity is to support these landowners in the development of value add businesses to boost income streams for financial sustainability. This includes a game and livestock meat programme, and, down the line, the potential of selling carbon credits.’
The project is currently supporting approximately 25 declared communal and private protected areas in KZN, including the Mabaso community, Nambiti Private Game Reserve, Blue Crane Nature Reserve, the Gcumisa community, Babanango Game Reserve, Somkhanda Game Reserve, the Ingwehumbe Nature Reserve and the Sappi-owned Clairmont Nature Reserve. In KNP, Conservation Outcomes and a number of other NGO partners are supporting several communal and private protected areas.
‘In the greater KNP we are busy setting up meat inspection protocols for a brand that we hope to launch by the end of the year – it will most likely be called Harvest Kruger,’ says Martindale. ‘The game meat will predominantly be impala, from required offtakes to maintain ecological limits in wildlife areas where impala numbers are generally the highest. This is an example of the support we are developing in creating financial sustainability for protected areas.’
They are collaborating with KNP and a number of private protected areas on its western boundary, some of which already have registered abattoirs, and two traditional authorities, including the Gidjana and Bevhula communities, also on the western boundary. The private reserves will provide abattoir access to these communities for offtakes to be processed.
‘This part of the project, funded by GIZ Employment for Development Africa, complements the WWF Nedbank Green Trust project, and includes training abattoir staff and culling teams, and developing community butchers and caterers,’ says Martindale.
‘We want to create small businesses in each area, including community butchers and caterers who sell meat, pies and processed products such as biltong and dry wors. It widens socio-economic opportunities for everyone in the area. ‘Qualified meat inspectors will inspect all the meat in the abattoirs to make sure it’s safe, which is standard for all types of meat throughout the country. We are busy finalising the game and livestock meat inspection protocols.’
In protected environments outside of KNP where communities have livestock the project is partnering with the NGO Conservation South Africa and a social enterprise called Meat Naturally that holds mobile auctions for livestock, opening up the meat value chain for communal livestock farmers.
Conserving South Africa’s work with livestock farmers includes implementing sustainable, rotational grazing practices. Livestock is the currency for many rural families, and a key component of this project is to produce good, resilient grazing that leads to healthier livestock and better prices at the mobile auctions.
‘This is precisely the kind of project that Nedbank advocates through its “See money differently” brand identity, which is all about recognising and achieving value for the benefit of people and the environment,’ explains Yvonne Verrall, Nedbank Marketing Manager for Green Affinity, Green Leadership and Sustainability.
In KZN, in addition to the veld assessments and annual plans of operation, Conservation Outcomes is partnering with the government’s Natural Resource Management Programme (NRMP), which is part of its Expanded Public Works Programmes, to assist the protected areas with alien invasive plant control and fire management. At the communally owned Babanango game reserve, for example, forty people are being employed for this purpose.
Through the NRMP, protected areas in KZN are also being provided with herbicide to control alien invasive plants, which is a huge cost saving. The invasive aliens include black wattle, eucalyptus, American bramble, lantana, chromolaena and famine weed. In addition to their ability to subsume indigenous vegetation, alien invasive trees like black wattle and eucalyptus are vast consumers of water.
‘Our intention,’ says Martindale, ‘is to make a success of the projects in KZN and the Kruger area, and then to replicate the post-declaration management support model throughout South Africa.’