Charles Darwin’s quote sums up the K2C and Partners’ story during this first quarter in 2021: “It is not the strongest or the most intelligent who will survive, but those who can manage change”.

We are extremely grateful to our Teams, our Implementation Partners, our Authorities and Funders that are part of our story to adapt to new realities. Each one of you is deeply appreciated.

The K2C Team

K2C's Impact in 2020

2020 was a challenging year for our team – trying to implement projects and support our communities during a global pandemic is no easy task! Despite the various challenges, our team and project partners learned to adapt and we are proud to share a summary of our project achievements for the year in the K2C 2020/2021 Impact Report. Thanks to ALL our project partners and funders without the support of which none of these achievements would be possible!

The full Impact Report document can be downloaded here.

Webinar: Social, Economic and Environmental Impacts of Water Allocation in The Sabie River Catchment

By Mbali Mashele,  Project Manager

The Sabie River Catchment is one of the most biodiverse rivers in the country. The origin of the catchment forms part of the Mpumalanga-Drakensberg Strategic Water Source Areas. As a high-water yield asset to ecological infrastructure it is foundational to the National Economy. These high-water source areas in the Sabie Catchment support several diverse downstream economies in Mbombela and Bushbuckridge before flowing eastwards through the Lowveld towards the Kruger National Park and the Republic of Mozambique. According to the recent Mbombela Reconciliation Strategy (DWS, 2020), there will soon be a severe water deficit in the system and a number of interventions are proposed in order to obtain a positive water balance.

 As a result, Kruger to Canyons – in conjunction with the Inkomati-Usuthu Catchment Management Agency and SANParks (supported by the WWF-SA Green Trust), – hosted a webinar on the economic impacts of future water allocation in the Sabie River Catchment. In the context of source water protection, an analytical assessment was made of the current drivers of consumptive demands, including the impact of transformative policies.


A total number of 21 stakeholders participated in the webinar from the following organistions: Kruger to Canyons Biosphere Region, South African National Parks, Inkomati-Usuthu Catchment Management Agency, World Wildlife Fund – South Africa, Bushbuckridge Local Municipality, South African National Biodiversity Institute, Department of Forestry Fisheries and the Environment, Institute for Development Learning and Environmental Sustainability, York Timbers, University of the Witwatersrand, University of Mpumalanga, and Prime Africa.

Four water augmentation scenarios were analysed: 1) An ecological improvement scenario involving invasive alien plant removal and stewardship options; 2) The upgrading of wastewater treatment works (WWTW) to increase return flows; 3) Groundwater development and 4) Construction of a new dam.

The ecological improvement scenario involving invasive alien plant removal and stewardship options was found to be the most viable and cost-effective. This will yield a substantial increase of water in the Sabie system with no negative environmental impact. Furthermore, it has the opportunity to provide livelihood benefits through capacity building, job opportunities and SMME development. It is envisaged that current partnerships will contribute to future collaborative opportunities for the development of ecological infrastructure as well as livelihoods. This in turn will create sustainable, equitable benefit sharing of water resources from the Sabie Catchment. 

FUNDERS/PARTNERS: WWF -SA, IUCMA, SANParks

Understanding the K2CBR’s Dinkwanyane Water Smart project - assessing the mid-term review.

By Reshoketswe Mafogo, DWS Project Manager

Lindsay Harris, from Red Couch Consulting, outlined many lessons learned via the mid-term review in her excellent mid-term report.
The assessment criteria included Relevance; Effectiveness; Efficiency; Sustainability and Lessons Learned. The review revealed the following:

  • The DWS project design allows for adaptability to ensure that implementation remains relevant, even when the context changes. The project approach is informed by the beneficiaries and is aligned with their interests. The DWS partners, along with the collaborative institutional knowledge, positioned the project well to represent the needs of the community.
  • The Ecosystem Custodian model which involves employing local youth; has helped to entrench the project deeply in the community thereby building trust.

Farmers’ fields around the village of Phiring.

The project has endured great challenges during its operational period; some of which include the disconnect between the government’s commitment to climate change adaptation and the commercial farming methods touted by the Department of Agriculture.

There is always room for improvement and growth, and it is with that spirit that the DWS team contributed to the recommendations of the report with actional points such as increased engagement with commercial farmers. and risk mitigation with Government partners. The DWS project and its partners look, with hope and enthusiasm, to maintain
relevance and sustainability with the people of Phiring in building their resilience to climate change; not only for the remainder of the project but for many years to come.

Ecosystem Custodians (ECs) for the DWS project.

This work is funded by 1) Flanders in partnership with 2)Hoedspruit Hub; 3) Conservation South Africa and 4) Red Couch Consulting. 

K2C Human-Wildlife Conflict & Damage Causing Animals Programme

– By Vusi Tshabalala  

The World Wide Fund for Nature – South Africa’s (WWF-SA) Khetha Programme, supported by USAID, in partnership with Kruger to Canyons Biosphere Region (K2C BR), piloted a Human-Wildlife Conflict (HWC) project in one of the Khetha innovation nodes. The Khetha nodes are geographical focus areas in the Greater Limpopo Transfrontier Conservation Area (GLTFCA), where the programme is testing community-based approaches to improve the relationship between communities and protected areas.

The K2C BR has been working with communities in the area since 2012 through the Environmental Monitors (EMs) programme, funded by the Department of Environment, Forest & Fisheries (DEFF). The initiative aims to increase conservation capacity within the South African National Parks (SANParks), specifically the western boundary of Kruger National Park (KNP) and in provincial and private nature reserves in the area. This is done through patrols, biodiversity monitoring, environmental education, awareness, and data collection within different communities.

The HWC project aims to understand the causes & drivers and species involved, while working with relevant stakeholders to find mitigation measures and prevention methods that can reduce the conflict between people and wildlife.Using the data collected by the EMs, five areas were identified showing the highest and most serious cases of HWC incidents. Villages in close proximity that have experienced HWC were clustered together to form nodes. There are clear natural barriers that separate communities and their boundaries which made it easier to group the villages. The central villages in the nodes are Phalubeni, Finale, Welverdiend, Dixie and Justicia.

Villages were clustered into nodes for the Khethea project in the landscape.

According to the National Environmental Management: Biodiversity Act, 2004 (Act No. 10 of 2004), Human-Wildlife Conflict is defined as: an individual animal or group of animals, as the case may be, that, when in conflict with human activities, there is proof that it—

(a) causes substantial loss to livestock or to wild animals;

(b) causes substantial damage to cultivated trees, crops or other property; or

c) presents an imminent threat to human life;

Despite the national COVID-19 lockdown, the project has managed to complete a situational analysis report in all five nodes to understand the challenges, available protocols and current solutions used to address HWC. We have also mapped all the incidents and conducted a fence survey where animals exit the protected areas. Since the incident mapping started in March 2021 Phaluabeni has the highest cases with incidents being reported at least weekly. Elephants are the most common animal reported, but usually with no damage caused. They usually come out to drink water in the community dam or enjoy the marula fruits and then go back into the reserve on their own. While elephants rank the highest in Phalaubeni, lions and leopards are reported in all nodes and cause the greatest damage by killing goats and cattle.

Human Wildlife Conflict (HWC) Incident Map Example

Calf that was killed in one of the communities and eaten by hyenas

From the protected area perspective, fence theft is their biggest challenge which costs the reserves time and money to keep fixing. The reports also noted that the private reserve fences are in a much better state than the provincial reserves and have a more expensive and effective design. The project is currently finalising its research on open systems in countries such as Namibia where reserves are unfenced, compared to South Africa where all our reserves are fenced. We continue to monitor, report, collect data and map with our EMs on the ground. For more information on the project or reports you can email Vusi Tshabalala on esd@kruger2canyons.org.

Fence monitoring patrol identifying exit point and damage by elephants.

 

 FUNDERS/PARTNERS: This work is funded by WWF-SA and USAID

PRIDE Camp at the Blyde Adventure Camp

By Dimakatso Nonyane, Resilient Waters Project Manager

The Environmental Monitors Programme leadership team; formally known as the PRIDE Group, attended a team building weekend at the Blyde Adventure Camp from the 26th to the 28th of February 2021. The aim was for the team to reconnect with one another and share lessons learned from the Rhodes University course on Stakeholder Engagement and Social Learning within each member’s respective Natural Resource Management context.

Members of the PRIDE Camp held in February 2021.

A further aim of this workshop was for the group to present a roadmap of their RU course in terms of designing social learning for different stakeholders within different contexts. Individual members were given a supervisory role within a group of ten Yes4Youth participants by Conservation Africa and were then required to present a plan of how to make their projects a reality. This opportunity will assist the PRIDE members in addressing diverse environmental issues identified within their context.

Day 1 started with the team sharing their expectations of the camp using Mentimeter as a tool, followed by a presentation by non-other than K2C COO, Marie-Tinka Uys. She reminded everyone of the vision and functions of the K2C Biosphere Reserve. Mike Grover of CSA then explained how the Y4Y project would work and provided clarity on matters arising from the group.
Day 2 was all about the PRIDE group sharing their posters and presentations of the RU course. Each person was given an opportunity to present their topic of the learning design on the NRM issue, how it related to the Y4Y project or their community and how they will fit all this learning into their 2021 workplan, as well as suggesting any learning that stood out for them as a potential lesson plan for the broader environmental monitors programme.

The camp was a fun-filled weekend. The team shared learning and also got to know one another better through different ice breakers. Challenging goals had the members working together in a creative and team building way. The weekend was concluded by taking a walk along the Blyde River Canyon trail which led to a beautiful waterfall and the Blyde river dam.

PRIDE Camp members on the waterfall hike.

This work is funded by DFFE (EPIP Programme); USAID Resilient Waters in partnership with Conservation South Africa

Patch Mosaic Burning Workshop for Reserve Managers

– By Romy Antrobus-Wuth, Ecologist 

 It is argued that the best way to increase and maintain biodiversity through fire in conservation areas is to mimic natural fire regimes as closely as possible. This can be achieved through Patch Mosaic Burning. The technique is used to conduct cool, slow burns which create a fine-grained mixture of patches spread across the landscape.

On 10 March, the K2C, Mpumalanga Tourism and Park’s Agency (MTPA) and University of Pretoria (Hans Hoheisen Wildlife Research Station) held a Patch Mosaic Burning (PMB) Workshop for reserve managers in the Lowveld region. The workshop was led by Frik Bronkhorst, MTPA Ecologist, who has been implementing PMB techniques on Blyde River Canyon Nature Reserve and Manyeleti Game Reserve for years and has seen firsthand the benefits of the approach.
An initial presentation and discussion session was held detailing the theory and principles behind PMB and when it is applicable. This was followed by a burning demonstration of an identified block or “patch” within the Hans Hoheisen Wildlife Research Station, enabling reserve managers to experience, firsthand, a burn being carried out. The event will have equipped reserve managers with the knowledge and confidence to experiment with PMB – where applicable – on their respective reserves. The day was a great success and we hope to hold similar learning exchanges in the future.

Presentation given by MTPA on the principles of Patch Mosaic Burning.

A demonstration burn was conducted for attendees to watch.

A similar event is planned to take place in the near future in the Highveld to share information and equip grassland reserve managers with the skills to conduct a successful patch burn there. The Kruger to Canyons BR in partnership with Mpumalanga Tourism and Parks agency has compiled a set of guidelines to assist landowners and managers to implement patch mosaic burns on their own properties. The purpose of the guideline document is to explain the principles behind PMB and give step-by-step instructions on how to implement a successful patch mosaic burning regime.

For information on Patch Mosaic Burning download the guideline document here

 FUNDERS/PARTNERS: This work was conducted under the Biodiversity and Land Use Project (BLU) which is implemented by the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI) together with its partners, with funding from the Global Environment Facility (GEF) through the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). The event was hosted in partnership with Mpumalanga Tourism and Parks Agency (MTPA) and The University of Pretoria (Hans Hoheisen Research Station). 

Tasc cookstove trials in Welverdiend

– Itumeleng Morale, from the Region for the Region Project Admin

Tasc Cookstove Project focuses on clean, heat-retaining cooking. I was given two weeks to trial the Cookstove in 10 female-headed households in the Welverdiend Community. These women cook and heat water daily on open fires outside their
homes. The first week focused on recording the consumption of firewood used for open fire cooking. The second week focused on the introduction of the Cookstoves and Cookbags and measuring the difference in amount of wood used. My daily duties entailed weighing the firewood and checking the wood moisture.

The Cookstoves require very small, short pieces of firewood as opposed to the open fires which require long, thick pieces of firewood. We saw a significant difference in the consumption of firewood in the two weeks! I moved from using a wheelbarrow to measure wood to using a bucket. Firewood consumption went from the average 11kg a day to just 2.6kg a day. With less air going into the stove, the food cooked faster which saved the women time. It also conserved their energy, because needing less firewood meant that they did not have to go as far to fetch firewood and those who buy their firewood saved money. Another benefit that stood out for them was that cooking could take place indoors as the Cookstove does not release a lot of smoke.

Images of cookstoves being trialed in the K2C.

This pilot study and trial will be used to inform the larger cookstove project to be rolled out across the landscape. So watch this space!

FUNDERS/PARTNERS: Tasc and DFFE

 

Celebrating 50 Years of Biosphere Reserves

By Romy Antrobus-Wuth, Ecologist

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) is a specialised agency of the United Nations aimed at promoting world peace and security through international cooperation in education, the sciences, and culture.
One of UNESCO’s key programs is the Man and the Biosphere Programme which was created in 1971 with a vision to promote a sustainable connection between people and nature.

The original idea evolved into the designation of ‘biosphere reserves’; living laboratories that boost nature-based solutions for sustainable development. There are currently 714 biosphere reserves in 129 countries, including 21 transboundary
sites, that belong to the World Network of Biosphere Reserves.

As 2021 marks 50 years of the Man and Biosphere Programme, UNESCO has planned various events across the globe in celebration. Dr Jane Goodall has been elected as the official spokesperson for the occasion together with five young spokespersons from each region of the world.

Celebrating 50 years of Biosphere Reserves. #itsaboutlife

To find out more about the MaB Programme, its history and stories from the various biospheres, as well as the celebratory events planned, go to the official website for the event here.

We look forward to you joining the celebrations!