19 March 2003
The World Bank has committed about R62-million towards the creation of a massive transfrontier conservation and development programme encompassing areas in the Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal, Free State and Lesotho.
The five-year old Maloti-Drakensberg Transfrontier Conservation and Development Programme incorporates existing parks and conservation areas and aims to preserve the important biodiversity of the region while contributing to community development through ecotourism initiatives.
The project will be steered by the KwaZulu-Natal conservation management agency, Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife. Says Ezemvelo’s Derek Potter: “This is a very large conservation programme. Not only does it coordinate the management of several conservation areas of global significance across two countries, but it also guides the use of the buffer zones around them.”
The conserved areas include the Ukhahlamba world heritage site, Golden Gate National Park, Qwa Qwa National Park, Sterkfontein Dam Nature Reserve, and conserved areas within Lesotho.
“Although there are several conserved areas included in this region, there are large stretches between them that are under huge threat,” says project coordinator Kevan Zunkel.
“On one hand we have the magnificent Drakensberg/Maloti mountain range with its vitally important catchment, its eco-systems, its fauna and flora and its rock art; and on the other, outside the parks, we have a degraded environment, invasive alien plant species, soil erosion and rural poverty,” says Zunkel.
The programme aims to put a management strategy in place for the whole region, as well as create sustainable economic activity for the people who live there, enhancing current land use in a way that addresses both biodiversity threats and socio-economic growth requirements.
“Apart from the short-term job-creation component, we are also striving to create linkages with rural communities so that they can appreciate the value of a healthy ecology,” says Zunkel.
The conservation bodies from all four regions, along with South African National Parks, will be involved in the project and will contribute portions of their operating budgets to augment the World Bank funds. This will bring the total to about R264-million over the next five years.
The departments of public works, environmental affairs and tourism, and water affairs and forestry, along with the corresponding departments in Lesotho, will also play a role in the project.