We, as the K2C BR Team and Key Implementation Partners, are proud to share our stories of the last quarter with you, our reader/partner.

Cross cutting in our stories is how people can have a collective impact if they work together. As Charles Darwin said, It is the long history of humankind (and animal kind, too) that those who learned to collaborate and improvise most effectively have prevailed.

We are aiming to be the ones that have learned to collaborate and improvise most effectively!

The K2C Team

Intention to Declare Published for Blyde River Canyon Nature Reserve

By Nicholas Theron,  Senior Programme Manager

An Intention to Declare has been published which will expand the iconic Blyde River Canyon Nature Reserve by an additional 20 157 ha. This is the culmination of many years of work that has been driven by the Mpumalanga Tourism and Parks Agency (MTPA) and supported by the Kruger to Canyons Biosphere Region as part of the SANBI Biodiversity and Land-use Project, over the past 4 years.

The true champions of this process are the four communities surrounding the Blyde River Canyon Nature Reserve that have claimed the reserve. The communities are constituted as part of 4 Communal Property Associations (CPAs) and together with MTPA form part of an interim co-management committee. The CPAs believe in the role they play and responsibility they have as custodians of the land for future generations and have therefore taken the decision to incorporate adjacent areas that form part of the former lowveld plantation areas into the reserve.

These areas are also the site of a concerted restoration effort that includes the clearing of alien invasive plants, but also the application of fire, to restore this landscape and improve ecological functioning especially from a water provisioning perspective. These efforts are also contributing to job creation in the region with the CPAs involved with and supporting these processes.

We should celebrate the role local communities play in supporting the conservation of this iconic landscape which is regionally and nationally important, not only from a tourism perspective but also for the  ecosystem services that originate here and that all of us in the lowveld rely on.

For further information on the intention to declare and/or to submit any comments please email brian.morris@mtpa.co.za

View from Mariepskop over the area of community claimed land to be incorporated into the Blyde River Canyon Nature Reserve. PHOTO CREDIT: Jacques Marais, Beyond Lockdown Expidition

This work is funded by the GEF 5 Biodiversity and Land Use Project implemented by the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI) with partners 


Re-opening of the Hoedspruit Farmers Market

By Cindy Koen, From the Region For The Region Project Manager

The Hoedspruit Farmers Market had been closed for 5 months, resulting in a massive gap for many of the stallholders. The average market hosts 55 stalls and brings in an average of R175 000.00 per market. As a result, the SMMEs participating in the market lost a combined total of R875 000.00. That, on its own, has a massive impact in our local economy. The From the Region For the Region team members tried everything in their power to host virtual markets or find alternatives, however, nothing compared to the well supported, actual market.

When President Ramaphosa announced the downgrade to Level 2 lockdown, we had hope again. We could finally reopen our little market and allow our stallholders back to earn some much-needed income.

On Saturday the 5th of September 2020 we finally reopened our market. It was clear that with the financial pressure people felt from Lockdown, great innovation was born! Hosting 58 stallholders, the Hoedspruit Farmers Market was one to be remembered for great new products. There was something for everyone to enjoy, from healthy foods to indulging fudges and treats for the little ones. Great new clothing and jewelry items and some toys for the bigger boys.

First Hoedspruit Farmers Market since Lockdown

Treasure Mushwana entertained the crowds with his guitar skills and smooth voice, and we were honoured to host the local soccer boys performing the Jerusalema dance for all to enjoy as a fundraising effort to purchase new soccer gear.

Everyone was overwhelmed with the amazing support we received with a constant flow of visitors to the market. We are proud to say that our market was a roaring success, even with all the masks on, we could see the joy in everyone’s faces.

We look forward to hosting you all again next month!

The from the Region for the Region pilot is sponsored by the Government of Flanders

Greater Kruger Strategic Development Programme Mini-Lab

By Wehncke van der Merwe, Kruger Bufferzone Coordinator

The development of the Greater Kruger Strategic Development Programme (GKSDP) has been ongoing for over a year now, with the initial planning process close to being finalised. Extensive engagements have taken place over the last few months, with multiple inputs delivered by key stakeholders that have been incorporated into the final products. On the 15th and 16th of September the final ‘mini-lab’ took place, which brought together key stakeholders within the landscape. This was a great opportunity to discuss progress under key environmental-; land use-; socio-economic-; safety and security-; and institutional- themes. It was highly encouraging to see the Greater Kruger partners (community, government, NPO and private sectors) all working incredibly hard towards an improved landscape. At the workshop it was reported that hundreds of programmes currently occur in the broader landscape. Kruger 2 Canyons (with its projects) is one of the organisations that is playing a key role in both socio-economic and environmental projects through its unique partnership approaches.

GKSDP Mini-Lab held in Skukuza, September 2020.

The GKSDP has shone a bright light on the landscape, helping to create recognition all the way up to Ministerial level, with the process currently being reported on directly to the Minister of Environment.  Some of the most exciting elements emanating from the GKSDP process up to this point include:

  • Initiation of the establishment of the Greater Kruger Strategic Development Fund
  • A database of all the projects within the Greater Kruger Landscape
  • An online information platform that will help increase awareness and provide improved access to information
  • A decision makers maker summary document
  • A stakeholder engagement and communications strategy
  • An implementation framework
  • A GKSDP reference document containing all relevant information captured through the process up to this point
  • Various implementation guidelines based on key anchor programmes

Map: The Greater Kruger landscape

Whilst the planning phase is now coming to an end, the focus will now shift towards implementation in order to ensure that an enabling environment is achieved in which all partners and stakeholders can participate in and contribute towards the vision of creating environmentally sustainable, socio-economically inclusive, growth within the Greater Kruger region.

This work is funded by the  GEF 5 Protected Areas Programme implemented by South African National Parks (SANParks) with partners 

Restoring Mariepskop's Wetlands

– By Romy Antrobus-Wuth, Stewardship Ecologist

The slopes of the magnificent Mariepskop complex, along the Mpumalanga escarpment often receives more that 1300mm of rain annually. As a result, many of the remaining natural wetland systems running down the mountain hold water throughout the year. Recent investigations have shown that many of these high-altitude wetlands also contain peat, allowing them to act like sponges holding and filtering water, before releasing it into the various streams making their way down to feed the iconic rivers the lowveld.

Example of a wetland on Mariepskop.

The Mariepskop area has a long history of commercial forestry with state forests being established as far back as the 1920s. While forestry is not as active in the area anymore, this legacy still has an impact on the natural wetland systems on the mountain. The “creeping” of pines and gums from historic plantations has resulted in some of these invasive species establishing themselves within the wetlands. These wetlands have, therefore, been priority sites for the Blyde Custodian’s Clearing Team (currently sponsored by SANBI through the GEF Biodiversity and Land Use Project and previously funded by USAID), who have worked to remove any invasive trees establishing themselves within the wetlands.

Similarly, the clearing of historic unmanaged plantation areas immediately surrounding these wetland systems has also been prioritised by the team to hopefully reduce the amount of water these trees are extracting from the system. With the assistance of South African Earth Observation Network (SAEON), two stream flow loggers have been installed downstream of the clearing sites, and more loggers are currently being installed. This will allow us to quantify the increase in runoff in the mountain streams as a result of the deliberate alien invasive clearing measures as well as burning.

the clearing of historic unmanaged plantation areas immediately surrounding these wetland systems has also been prioritised by the team to hopefully reduce the amount of water these trees are extracting from the system.

The legacy of forestry activity in the area has also meant that fire has been excluded from these wetland systems for decades, as measures were put in place to protect plantations form wildfires. High-altitude grassland and wetland systems, however, require occasional fires to burn off accumulated moribund (dead) material and stimulate growth. Many of the wetlands had also become heavily encroached by curry bush (Hypericum revolutum) due to the absence of fire. It was, therefore, very exciting that in early September, after the first rains on the mountain, a team representing Mpumalanga Tourism and Parks Agency, SEAON, DEFF (Foresty) and K2C implemented a burn on three of the Mariepskop wetlands, for the first time in over 20 years. Patch Mosaic Burning (PMB) techniques were used ensuring the fires were lit under cool conditions and with sufficient soil moisture present. This meant that the fires were not hot enough to burn into and damage the wetlands’ peat soils. The cool fires also stopped when they reached the boundary of the wetlands on the forest margin.

The team implemented a burn on three of the Mariepskop wetlands, for the first time in over 20 years.

The Intention to Declare the Mariepskop area as part of the greater Blyde River Canyon Nature Reserve has recently been published, emphasising the need to actively manage this important area for biodiversity conservation and water security into the future. These initial management actions are just the start and, along with our partners, we look forward to seeing the results of our actions on the biodiversity and water production in the months and years to come.


This work is funded by GEF/UNDP Funded SANBI BLU Project and co-funded by the USAID Resilient Waters Program. Partners on this project include MTPA, DEFF, SEAON and AWARD.


Dinkwanyane Tourism Development with Ecosystem Custodians

By Roselina Selahle, Site Coordinator for the Dinkwanyane Water Smart Project

I am writing this note with pride, being a part of the tourism activities taking place in my very own village.

As part of the from the Region for the Region (fRfR) component of the DWS Project in the village of Phiring, Ecosystem Custodians (ECs) are currently undergoing Tourism Development and Guide training. The need for tourism development came up during the visioning exercise that was done with the Phiring community and has since been addressed though this component.

The young ECs have been learning about rock formations, climate change, ecology, taxonomy, animal behavior, fauna, and flora. There has been a great focus on culture and heritage guiding which has been an opportunity for the ECs to learn more about the history of the people of Phiring.

The bird and wildlife books that have been generously donated to the team, have been a great resource to help the ECs become more knowledgeable and enlightened with the different bird species, alien plant and indigenous plant identification in the area. The books have been very informative with a lot of facts on birds, identifying trees, and wildlife.  It has also been much easier to make notes and refer to information with the books on hand.

ECs Recieving their books kindly donated by BirdLife South Africa and Struik Nature to assist with their Tourism Training.

As an additional upside, the ECs have also grown more interested in reading since receiving the books, which will also contribute to the comprehension of the language used. “The pride of owning our own books has inspired us to want to read more, not only for the content in the books but to also improve our understanding of the language.” An EC said.

The books that have been generously donated to the team, have been a great resource to help the ECs become more knowledgeable and enlightened with the different bird species.

The pride of owning our own books has inspired us to want to read more.


Thank you to BirdLife South Africa & Struik Nature /Penguin Random House for the generous donation of Bird Guides for the ECs. 

RESEARCH: Threats to African Vultures and the effectiveness of conservation efforts in the Kruger to Canyons Biosphere.

 By Mbali Mashele, Sabie Water Stewardship Project Manager

In 2017, I was awarded a Mapula Scholarship Award by Green Matter ZA to fulfill a MSc in Ecological Sciences with the University of Kwa-Zulu Natal to Assess the threats to African Vultures and the effectiveness of conservation efforts in the Kruger to Canyons Biosphere.

African vulture populations are currently undergoing severe declines. Seven of the eleven vulture species that occur in Africa are now classified as Endangered or Critically Endangered.

My thesis comprised of 3 data chapters.  In the first data chapter, we assessed community perceptions of vultures, the communal threats to vultures and the uses of vultures for traditional beliefs and customs in communities bordering protected areas in Bushbuckridge.  248 structured questionnaires were administered, and the study results revealed that all participants had positive attitudes towards vultures.  In addition, vultures are valued by community members and traditional healers for ecosystem services, as a cultural resource and as a means of generating income. This chapter has recently been accepted to be published by the Journal of Raptor Research.

Vultures are valued by community members and traditional healers for ecosystem services, as a cultural resource and as a means of generating income.

51 traditional healers were interviewed for the second data chapter to determine and evaluate the uses of vultures for traditional beliefs and customs, methods of harvesting, and quantities used. Vultures used for traditional beliefs were sourced from protected areas and communal rangelands.  Vultures are used mostly for clairvoyant properties, appease ancestors, good luck, and to cure illnesses amongst other uses. Traditional healers expressed their concerns of the massive poisoning events of vultures, as this poses a risk to cultural heritage. This chapter has also been submitted to the Journal of Raptor Research.

The last data chapter, submitted to the Journal of African Zoology identified trends on the threats to raptors by using raptor admission records at the Moholoholo Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre, Limpopo.  Poisoning was the main devastating threat, especially to vultures.  The study showed the importance that rehabilitation centers play as most raptors admitted in 1996 – 2018 were released.

Hooded vulture (Necrosyrtes monachus). The study showed the importance that rehabilitation centers play as most raptors admitted in 1996 – 2018 were released.

I recently completed my studies, and also received an International Golden Key Society Award for being part of the top 15% achievers in my class.

Working full-time, while studying full-time, would have not been possible if I did not have the full support of my colleagues, university and most importantly my family.  I would like to thank my colleagues from K2C BR and SANParks (special shout out to the amazing Rhino Ambassador Environmental Monitors that assisted me during the study).  To my supervisors, Professor Colleen Downs (University of Kwa-Zulu Natal) and Dr Lindy Thompson (Endangered Wildlife Trust), thank you for the guidance and support. Special thanks to National Research Fund and Green Matter ZA for the funding, mentorship, and development. Lastly, I would like to thank the Kukula Traditional Health Practitioners, Mnisi Tribal Community and the Moholoholo Rehabilitation Centre for agreeing to be part of the research.

FUNDERS/PARTNERS: Funders (Green Matter ZA, National Research Fund), Professor Colleen Downs, Dr Lindy Thompson, Kukula Traditional Health Practitioners Association, Kruger to Canyons Biosphere staff (especially the Rhino Ambassadors), and SANParks.

WOMEN's MONTH SPECIAL: Celebrating Women in Challenging Fields

By Dimakatso Nonyane, Resilient Waters Project Manager

The clearing of Alien species is a challenging job. Having to climb mountains and walk long distances makes the job even more challenging and that requires dedication and endurance. The team has been clearing and doing a splendid job since October 2018. Today we celebrate the three women in the team who have fought misconceptions within their communities because of their gender and the type of work they are doing.

When we asked the ladies why they are so passionate about their work they mentioned that “It is a privilege for us to work in this team because of the situation our communities are facing, which is water so when we are clearing these Alien Invasives we feel that we are giving back to the community and though it will take time for the results to show, we know that it is because of us that there will be a change in our rivers and we are making room for the indigenous species to grow again, offsetting our carbon footprints. It gives us so much joy and pride to know that we are helping preserve our biodiversity for the generations to come”.

Just like any other job, theirs also comes with challenges and it is so inspiring how they motivate each other to complete the task at hand. One of the ladies said “The nature of our job is quite challenging itself because of the level of fitness required, we have to walk long distances and also hike up the mountains but we stick together as ladies and nothing will stop us because we can do the same jobs or have the same responsibilities as men in the team, that on its own makes us very proud to say we are here and doing this together with the other gender’.

They also mentioned that  “Knowing that we are making a difference and always encouraging and motivating each other as ladies that we want to attain bigger” helps to get them through.” Our organisation believes in capacity building and we are incredibly grateful because we learn and acquire more skills that would really help us to be employable or even start our own businesses one day. We make it possible by participating in training s and always ready to assist one another where one struggles”.

We were really impressed when the ladies mentioned that women are the main participant in domestic water provision, the collection, storage and provision of water at family level  and they believe that women need to be involved in decision making processes in the water sector to ensure that everyone can have equal rights to access this crucial resource. Women can keep the environment clean and this can be witnessed in their residential spaces. The water sector is dominated by men, which shows the need to for women to be empowered in this sector.

They ended the interview with a motivational advice for other ladies out there who are at home and giving up on their dreams “Never give up, every goal is bigger than you and it will have challenges, but you have the means to make it because you are strong. Try things that interests you even if they do not feel safe and don’t be afraid to reach out to people with careers you idolize”.

This work is funded by the 1) USAID Resilient Waters Program 2) GEF 5 Biodiversity and Land Use Project implemented by the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI) with partners 


WOMEN's MONTH SPECIAL: Women in Business

– By Pheona Phalane

In business, there are challenges that every business owner comes across, but, according to statistics, women business owners meet three times more challenges than men. Yet, their businesses are succeeding regardless of these challenges that they face. Women are required to prove their capabilities more than their male counterparts. They are regarded as bossy when they are trying to take the lead and  are often mistaken for being juniors or assumed to be incapable of running their own businesses.

Nonetheless, women are organised and flexible enough to adapt to any environment which gives them a better understanding of how to tackle challenges.  Their  reliability  and ability to keep  good relationships with their customers or clients, often allows them to have an upper hand. They are often accountable and responsible which are qualities good for running a successful business.

It is amazing how a woman can be a wife, a mother, student, an employee, and run a business all at the same time. Women are unstoppable and if they had the proper support, they will change the world through their ability to pass on wisdom and positive influence.

When it comes to logistics and corporate businesses, women are considered  lacking and inexperienced. Women in the K2C landscape have the opportunity to grow, because we are living in an environment that encourages and supports growth of female entrepreneurs. According to research women form 47% of Small Medium Enterprises (SMEs) and are so contributing to job creation and economy enhancement.

It is interesting that women are determined to achieve their goals through innovative ways of implementation. Running successful businesses, despite the challenges they face.

Funded by Lulalend, ABSA Enterprise Development and Women Empowerment Fund (WEF)



HERITAGE MONTH: Celebrating the Diverse Cultural Richness in the K2C

-By Keneilwe Mmushi, Data Manager

South Africa celebrates Heritage Day on the 24th of September so the Kruger to Canyons Biosphere team decided to dedicate the whole month of September to celebrating the cultural richness and heritage of its people. Office staff members dedicated their time to preserving the uniqueness of their people by sharing delicate yet informative details about their different cultures on the K2Cbiosphere Facebook page.

The Facebook posts covered content related to the beliefs and traditions of the different cultures in the wider context of a nation that belongs to all its people. Explored the historical background, ways of demonstrating respect, important dishes (culinary highlights), important cultural events for the people, the value of the natural environment for the people and the most common lingua originating from each culture.

Through this campaign we learned that Tsonga people are a diverse group of tribes that include the Shangaan, Thonga, Tonga, Vandzawu and Shona, to name a few. Tribal differences often lead to rejection of the title Shangaan, depending on who you’re speaking to. The Shangaan were a mixture of Nguni (a language group which includes Swazi, Zulu and Xhosa), and Tsonga speakers, which Soshangane the brother of Shaka Zulu conquered and subjugated. It is important to understand that Tsonga people share one origin, but each tribe has assumed different identities.

Tsonga people are a diverse group of tribes that include the Shangaan, Thonga, Tonga, Vandzawu and Shona, to name a few.

In Sepedi culture when greeting elders, the respectful greeting is ‘Thobela’, a bending of the knee is also a sign of respect when greeting while for Batswana using the plural form of the word dumela demonstrates respect. Venda greetings vary according to gender. Women greet and show respect by saying ‘Aa’ followed by a slight bend of the knee and men greet and show respect by saying ‘Ndaa’ and removing any form of headgear they might be wearing. These greetings may be accompanied by putting hands together which is called ‘u losha’.

Greetings may be accompanied by putting hands together which is called ‘u losha’.

Common lowveld natural resources are important for all these different cultures: Vatsonga people eat caterpillars/worms, specifically Mopani worms that are fried for a delicious meal and termites are a great source of protein. Marula beer during Marula season is the “it” beverage for the Bapedi people. In various seasons Venda people enjoy fresh indigenous vegetables they do not need to plant, fruits (baobab, jackal berry, sourplum etc.) and edible insects.

Traditional Bapedi food.

Wilderness areas play an important role in the common event across all the discussed cultures – initiation schools – and is a source of many medicinal plants.Conservation has always been valued by Tswana people, with dependency on natural resources being high and sustainable use and practices being put in place. Trees like “Mosetlha” Acacia tree which are very dominant are usually allocated for firewood and there are methods and periods of harvesting them. Ceremonies whereby the Bapedi communicate with their ancestors require the environment. Tsonga women manufacture household articles such as sleeping mats made of grass, different types of baskets, clay pots, and strainers for beer making whilst the production of household articles from wood, of which the mortar and pestle used to pound maize are best known, is mainly the task of men. There are sacred areas (which may be caves, waterfalls and lakes) known as ‘zwifho’ where Venda people communicate with their ancestors (u phasa) and perform ceremonies (malombo).

Typical Sepedi hut with mural art on the wall. The traditional mat is also seen here whilst the lady wears traditional attire.

The tourism of the K2C landscape is not only rooted in its biodiversity but also in the stories and culture of its people. Even in the quest of investigating the immeasurable uniqueness of the biosphere people we still manage to find common practices and traditions that give us our the sense of belonging as members of the biosphere!

For detailed posts on the cultures celebrated during heritage month see the K2C Facebook Page