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The population of one-and-a-half million people living in the Kruger to Canyons Biosphere area is predominantly black (97%), unskilled, and rurally based. Huge social and economic differences and inequalities exist.


The Man and the Biosphere (MAB) Programme and the World Network of Biosphere Reserves (WNBR) apply an integrated approach in addressing biodiversity and climate change challenges.



The economy of the Biosphere roughly divides the region into three districts, with a focus on ecotourism and agriculture around Hoedspruit, mining around Phalaborwa, and forestry and more traditional mass tourism-based activities in the Pilgrims Rest and Graskop area


The K2C Biosphere Region has been the focus of a long history of environmental research, which is actively growing. Today, the Region is one of the major focal areas for research in the fields of rural livelihoods, biodiversity conservation and global climate change.



The right to restitution is contained in section 25(7) of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa Act 108 of 1996 - and is being implemented across the land.



Education is stated to be one of the priorities of the current government.  At present, Education in South Africa is the responsibility of two national governmental departments ie Basic Education and Higher Education & Training


Conservation policies in the new millennium are evolving towards the involvement of local people, through and holistic ecosystem approach as well as incorporating global conservation strategies.

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The majority of the population lives under poor-rural conditions: a low percentage of functional literacy (around 50%), high levels of male absenteeism, low direct incomes and a high percentage of youths.

Ninety percent live outside urban areas compared with a national average of 35%. Twenty percent of the population is under the age of four, and half are under fifteen years old.

Population growth is significantly above that of South Africa as a whole with annual increases of 3.5% in total size (nationally the rate is 2.4% p.a.).

A high proportion of the population is not economically active, with households relying on subsistence farming, old age pensions and remittances from relatives working outside the area to survive.

Limpopo Province has the lowest per capita income of the provinces in South Africa and also the highest unemployment rate: almost 51% of the rural population is jobless.

Additionally, there is a steady leaching of people who do develop skills and qualifications to urban areas.

Finally, the province also shows a great deficiency in the distribution of necessities such as water and electricity.   

With these kind of statistics in the region, pressure on the natural environment is intense and thus increases the needs for, and the  responsibility of the custodians of the greater region.


Like the rest of the sub-continent, the Central Lowveld and Escarpment has been shaped to a great extent by the 19th Century. The rise of military chiefdoms and the establishment of the Zulu Kingdom in particular, led to waves of migration throughout the region.

This combined with the advance of European colonists and their systematic dispossession of locals of their land and undermining of chiefly authority, led to irrevocable changes in the cultural landscape.

Present land use utilisation in the Central Lowveld and Escarpment region is dominated by the historical allocation of titled land to settler communities; the allocation of state land to trustimonial communities; and the removal and relocation of communities to expand and consolidate protected areas and “white” agricultural zones in the apartheid era.

Although diverse land claims have been registered in the region, they will not necessarily, even if successful, impact on the established protected natural areas. Precedents are emerging of the negotiation of partnerships between dispossessed communities and current land users, particularly in the ecotourism arena, where empowerment is directly involving the communities in the commercial and economic benefits accruing from existing operations in reserves.

In some cases the ownership of protected areas is being returned in full to the descendants of its original inhabitants, albeit with restrictions on the use of protected areas.

However, until these restitution processes are complete and uncertainties removed, the ability of these communities to engage in a meaningful and sequential manner in the tourism benefits derived from these Protected Areas will continue to be limited.

Resources to begin to address social and economic needs already exist in the sub-region. Small business can rapidly catalyse further economic development in the area, particularly in the realms of nature- and culture-based tourism.

Community participation in decision-making processes are leading to increased social responsibility. Greater availability of, and access to, information will enhance the opportunities available to local communities to participate in the profits of the land.


With such an intensively “needing” population in the area, it is also a constant challenge to focus on the conservation of the region as a whole.   Conservation within patched mosaic scenarios within the public and private reserves is happening to a greater or lesser extent within the region, however, as such a larger portion of the community is reliant on natural resources for their survival, it is crucial for development of the region, to be constantly matched with conservation of the natural environment, the biodiverisity and the surrounding landscapes in order to ensure the resilience of the regional environment and its ability to continually supply the much needed natural resources to ensure the survival of the resident community.


All of the above needs and objectives are only possible to be successfully achieved if they are accompanied by sound research and background information together with intensive and realistic education and awareness campaigns.   Thus in its entirety K2C as a Biosphere Region, is constantly engaging in and supporting the successful implementation of projects that will look at conserving our biodiversity, while also assisting in the development of and improvement of lifestyles in all resident communities, based on a principle of continual research, capacity building and other educational processes.


Connectivity conservation is a new, socially inclusive approach to addressing conservation on a large-landscape scale and is well suited to implementation in the K2C Region


The economy of the Biosphere roughly divides the region into three districts, with a focus on ecotourism and agriculture around Hoedspruit, mining around Phalaborwa, and forestry and more traditional mass tourism-based activities in the Pilgrims Rest and Graskop area.


We all live in an inter-connected landscape. The Kruger National Park, private nature reserves, rural and peri-urban communities and the agricultural sector in the Lowveld all rely on the great Drakensberg Escarpment where grasslands, forests and wetlands form the headwaters of the rivers that flow through the K2C Biosphere region.

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