Achievements from year 3 of the K2CBR’s Dinkwanyane Water Smart Project
– by Reshoketswe Mafogo, DWS Project Manager
The Dinkwanyane Water Smart project demonstrates how community buy-in results in owning the benefits of a climate adaptive green economy, where integrated sustainable land-use practices are enhancing and maintaining eco-system services, while simultaneously contributing to sustainable livelihoods to create a resilient community.
The Project has four result areas: Conservation Agreements, Agro Ecology, Rangeland Management and Market Access for Economic Development. The project is implemented through a partnership between K2C BR, Conservation South Africa, and Hoedspruit Hub and funded by the Government of Flanders.
Conservation Agreements with the stock and crop farmers are the backbone of the project and is further linked to accessing benefits such as market access and access to CAPEX using foundation Savings Group methodologies (inclusive of Financial Training, support, monitoring) where repayments of CAPEX received from the DWS project is made to respective self-formed Savings Groups, and thus available for the next compliant producer.
Since the conception of year 3 of the project, we have managed to achieve the following:
- Signed 2X conservation agreements with delivered CAPEX inputs, no further applications, but 8 qualified to apply – 3 reassessments from 2020 and 5 new from 2021 (receiving further support to do so)
- 2x Conservation Agreements signed (25 members at Phiring 19 signed at Malaeneng) with Livestock farmers
- 4 functional Savings Groups with some on the 6th cycle of saving
- Duplicated the demonstration garden in the community clinic and another school in the community
- Established a Tourism association (Bapedi Ba-Dinkwanyane Tourism Association)
- 9 farmers from 1st mentorship training transitioned to herbs
- Ongoing Biodiversity Research
Key to this progress is 9x Eco-system Custodians, who are carefully selected young people from the Bapedi Ba-Dinkwanyane employed by the project. These energetic young people are becoming the facilitators of the learning in the agro-ecology/rangeland space and has expressed the wish to become the custodians of the sustainable living story of the Community. By participating in the development of a tourism product as marketed by the K2C Initiative and been trained as Site Tour Guides, they are ensuring and re-enforcing sustainability.
FUNDERS/PARTNERS: Flanders; HH; CSA
Partnerships for catchments
– by Nicholas Theron, Senior Manager
Biosphere reserves are ‘learning places for sustainable development’. They are places providing local solutions to global challenges and form part of a worldwide network. Their status is internationally recognized; designated by the Director-General of UNESCO under the intergovernmental MAB Programme. The Kruger to Canyons Biosphere Region is no exception and was recently recognized as one of the best performing biospheres in both Africa and the World. This accolade is based on the work undertaken by a small, dedicated team conserving our natural heritage whilst ensuring local community benefits. The K2C Biosphere is therefore a true local asset that all Hoedspruiters should be proud of!
One of the key programs managed by the K2C team focuses on protecting and improving the management of catchment areas. Our mountains and rivers are the source of our water. This underpins the local economy no matter who you are and in what sector you may work. It makes sense that these areas should be a priority for conservation action. Historically, the focus has been on alien invasive plant clearing but over the past few years this has shifted to the use of fire to protect, safeguard and enhance the restoration effort. This type of work is labour intensive and is thus an important potential driver of employment. In the past this work was largely funded by government programmes such as Working for Water, but there is an increased focus on exploring models of financing these initiatives sustainably; after all, it is something that impacts us all! K2C, with key partners such as the Kruger National Park and Conservation South Africa, are investigating possibilities of establishing a catchment fund that would attract financial inputs in ensuring these areas are optimally managed.
The Water Fund model, developed by The Nature Conservancy, has been identified as a framework to achieve this. Water funds have proved successful throughout the world with the Cape Town Water Fund being the most well-known local example. The aim of this would be to galvanize partnerships to drive a process into the future that would protect and better manage catchment areas, thus supporting a resilient and thriving local economy. This is especially important in the face of climate change. The success of this initiative relies on the support of a diverse range of partners and stakeholders from different sectors; fortunately the greater Hoedspruit area has these in abundance!
FUNDERS/PARTNERS: USAID Resilient Waters, UNDP GEF 5 SANBI Biodiversity and Land-use Project
Environmental Monitors Expand their Clean Up Campaigns
– Dimakatso Nonyane, Resilient Waters Project Manager
The Environmental Monitors in the Southwest (SW) cluster expanded their efforts towards creating an impact on the environment as they embarked on yet another cleanup campaign. This time the Environmental Monitors (EMs) focused on engaging with school learners rather than the community at large.
On the 17th of September 2021 the Biodiversity Stewardship and Mariepskop EMs joined forces to combat pollution in their streams which are tributaries to the larger Klaserie river system.
The campaign started with EMs creating environmental awareness amongst groups of Grade 7 learners from three primary schools; namely Mapalane Primary school in Boelang, Masinyane Primary school in Moloro village and Sehlare Primary school in Brooklyn. Oky Sibashi – a member of the PRIDE team (EM Leadership Team)- explained the importance of the environment and of keeping it clean and safe. Each grade was given two posters highlighting activities that are considered either harmful or beneficial to the environment, for future reference.
Five learners from each school were selected to join in the campaign and learn more about waste management. The cleanup was conducted in Brooklyn Village where a total of 60 bags of household waste and nappies were collected.
The day ended with Hope Morema delivering a waste management lesson to the learners and EMs and with the erecting of sign boards prohibiting littering in these areas.
Our thanks to the Bushbuckridge local municipality for always offering support in these difficult times as we wait for skip bins to be provided in the Hot Spot areas.
FUNDERS/PARTNERS: DFFE (EPIP Programme); K2C; Pisces; TASC; USAID Resilient Waters and Bushbuckridge local Municipality
Tourism Destination Marketing Round Table Discussion
– by Mahlodi Malepe, Tourism Stewardship Project
On the 9th of September, 2021 the Kruger 2 Canyons Biosphere team hosted a Tourism Destination Stewardship Marketing Round Table Discussion. Various tourism business owners and stakeholders within the biosphere attended, including representatives of Bushbuckridge municipality, Mopani district municipality, Maruleng municipality as well as the Love-Limpopo, and Ba-Phalaborwa Tourism associations. The discussion related to how Kruger 2 Canyons could collaborate in developing tourism destination stewardship in collaboration with the above-mentioned partners.
Defined as “a process by which local communities, governmental agencies, NGOs, and the tourism industry take a multi-stakeholder approach to maintaining the cultural, environmental, economic, and aesthetic integrity of their region”, tourism destination stewardship aims to encourage and empower communities to sustain and protect their natural resources for future generations. Furthermore, it contributes to people becoming more aware of their surroundings.
A value proposition was formulated as follows:
- The profile of the K2C Biosphere Region should be raised and, as a declared UNSECO Biosphere, must be leveraged as a destination to visit and experience due to its natural beauty, rich cultural heritage and conservation value.
- Emerging tourism products in the region currently lack the knowledge, experience and resources to market themselves to a wider audience.
- Existing tourism products must be encouraged to promote their presence within a UNESCO Biosphere region; establishing themselves proudly within their place.
- The region is already a popular destination for volunteers focused primarily on Conservation and Community projects. International promotion of the region could hopefully attract meaningful volunteer projects.
- Government repeatedly touts tourism as a means to grow the economy, generate jobs and anticipates the industry to be significantly transformed.
- Visibility in a market currently dominated by established products should be increased.
Out of the value proposition formulated, we as the Kruger 2 Canyon Biosphere Region must come up with a viable strategy for our next meeting. K2C decided to focus on voluntourism and academic tourism and ways to link the two. This will help communities access a database of existing and potential new projects which will focus on employment, conservation and transformation of communities as well as stimulating their knowledge of biospheres and tourism.
It was great engaging with people who are passionate about tourism and who would like to see change in their respectful municipalities.
FUNDERS/PARTNERS: Maruleng Muncipality
K2C Challenge 2021 Against the Odds
– By Romy Antrobus-Wuth, Stewardship Ecologist
Due to the global Covid pandemic and the associated lockdowns, the annual Kruger to Canyons Challenge trail run didn’t take place in 2020. We were all feeling more optimistic in 2021, but with lockdown levels in July not allowing for such an event to take place – the event was postponed. With lockdowns easing, the first weekend in September was chosen as a new date and it looked like it would be smooth sailing… little did we know. If there is one thing this pandemic has taught us all it is how to be adaptable and more resilient.
Day 1 of Kruger2Canyon Challenge sees trail runners heading straight up the escarpment and is the more strenuous day of the two-day event. A mere 10min after starting the 42km runners, we received word of a dangerous fire in the mountains, in region of Reitz Grave and Aid Station 1. The fire had spread into the historic plantation blocks of alien vegetation that burns fast and hot. There was no two ways about it – Day 1 could not proceed and the 42km runners were stopped at the top of the climb (5km in) and turned back.
10 Minutes before their scheduled start, the 25km runners were informed of the situation. When given the option to still proceed onto the 5km climb and return (ie. the 10km course), every single person took the option to get a taste of what they came for. Their support for the decision made and determination to still get out into the forests speaks volumes for the trail community! With the day of running cut short, many of the participants took the opportunity to explore some of the other attractions our beautiful area has to offer, such as Blyde River Canyon Nature Reserve and Kruger National Park.
The fact that the race had been postponed to the end of the dry season means that the likelihood of fires starting and spreading on hot dry days is significantly higher.
Although Day 1 was disappointing for many, Day 2 went off as planned and the runners got to run through Big 5 territory in Rietspruit Game Reserve with views of the escarpment we hope they will come back and conquer next year!
FUNDERS/PARTNERS: A BIG thank you to our lead partner KZN Trail running and local partners Lowveld Trail Running, Rietspruit Game Reserve (Bloubank), Mariepskop Primary and ProTrack.
Value-Based Leadership Training
– by Dimakatso Nonyane, Resilient Waters Project Manager
The K2C identifies itself as an organization creating its own future. It assumes learning to be an ongoing and creative process that develops, adapts, and transforms the team in response to the needs and aspirations of people, both inside and outside the organization.
As a result, four of our Project managers volunteered to take part in an opportunity to enhance their leadership skills through self-transforming, value-based leadership training. This took place at the Skukuza Science Leadership Initiative library on the 30th and 31st of August, with a total of 12 participants from different institutions like CSA, SANParks and K2C attending.
Firstly, the training took participants through Adaptive Leadership and how this can transform the way one can do business by creating and taking on new behaviors, relationships and approaches while maintaining positive disciplines and values from the past.
The second topic was Listening to the System, where it was explained that Deep Listening is regarded as a fundamental skill of an adaptive leader. There are four levels of listening where (1) a leader listens to understand what is being said and (2) what is not being said. (3) One must consider the other persons’ viewpoint and feelings and (4) become sensitive to anything emerging from that conversation.
The third topic tackled was “Challenging our Assumptions” through processes such as transformation. The iceberg model demonstrates that we only see the tip above the surface; namely our behaviors. These are triggered by the 90% that is under the surface; our thoughts, feelings, values and priorities, as well as our needs. To understand our behaviors, we need to be more self-aware of what lies under the surface.
We did a lot of exercises that required us to look deep into the triggers that are within us; how we respond to them and what people see when those emotions are evoked. What I loved most about this training is that it helps one to look deep within oneself and see what values are calling out to be lived more consciously so that self-transformation can take place.
At the end of the two-day session, participants were empowered to become better versions of what they thought they were and were motivated to step out of their comfort zones.
This is very beneficial training that enhances performance in any sector because it encourages and motivates employees to step out of the shell that prevents them from leading confidently.
“Leadership is about the capacity of the whole system to sense and actualize the future that wants to emerge” – Otto Scharmer
FUNDERS/PARTNERS: K2C BR NPO and Resilient waters
Enabling resilience through effective collaborative water resources planning and management for the Dinkwanyana Water Smart Project
– by Mbali Mashele, Living Catchments Project Manager
Strategically located in the Drakensberg Strategic Water Source Area, a learning site in the Dinkwanaya Tribal Land Phiring Village was established by K2C and partners. The learning site aims to showcase sustainable livelihoods in a resilient community, and the benefits of a climate adaptive green economy approach.
A climate adaptation workshop is held annually with a focus on fostering resilience. As preparation for the Second Annual workshop on the 29th of September 2021, a participatory, consultative planning meeting was held on the 7th of September to discuss content and activities for the workshop with farmers and members of the Dinkwanyana Irrigation Committee.
Farmers expressed a need to better manage the built infrastructure. K2C and partners have thus engaged with MBB Consultant Engineers who manage the Blyde Irrigation Scheme Pipeline and the Department of Water and Sanitation to shed light on how to improve beneficiation and better management of water resources for crop and livestock farming as well as conservation.
Future topics that will be covered include water license registrations, how to maintain infrastructure, improved irrigation techniques, financial management, irrigation water scheduling and dam safety.
This innovative and collaborative partnership between communities, government, the private sector and NGOs is providing an enabling environment for farmers to achieve their goals working at the nexus between built and ecological infrastructure.
FUNDERS and PARTNERS: Phiring Irrigation Committee, Hoedspruit Hub, Conservation South Africa, Department of Water and Sanitation, Flanders Government.
Talk on the K2C Biosphere Region at the Lowveld Academy
– Itumeleng Selebalo, Biodiversity and NRM intern
On the 17th of September 2021, Nick Theron of Kruger to Canyons (K2C) and Biodiversity and NRM intern, Itumeleng Selebalo, gave a talk to the Grade 11 Life Science and Agriculture learners of Lowveld Academy. The session included an overview of the K2C Biosphere and the work that K2C does in the region. The talk outlined the significance of natural resource conservation, the interaction between the natural environment and communities in the biosphere and, most importantly, the significance of Strategic Water Source Areas and their contribution to water security in South Africa. The talk highlighted several environmental challenges posing a threat to the biosphere, such as invasive alien plants, wetland degradation and pollution in the local rivers and streams.
Itumeleng led a session on soil profiling and the students were given an opportunity to dig soil profiles and analyse the different properties of the soil they encountered.
The session sparked a lot of interest among the students in the conservation activities in their community such that some were inspired to study environmental and conservation degrees after high school.
First Aid and Occupational Health and Safety Training
– by Hope Mpho Morema, Office Manager
The Kruger to Canyons Biosphere Region (K2C BR) would like to extend its gratitude to the Department of Forestry, Fishery and Environment (DFFE), funder of the National Environmental Monitors Programme and SANparks the implementing agency of the programme for the First Aid and OHS training offered to better equip the Environmental Monitors (EMs).
The training offered to EMs will assist in ensuring health and safety compliance as regulated by the national legislation. The K2C and EMs appreciate the learning opportunity which took place over 2 days. The training will play a significant role in implementing the K2C BR’s health and safety management processes and living up to our OHS policy statement.
First Aid and OHS are essential skills that the employer should offer employees to ensure a safe and effective working environment. The training will contribute to the EMs’ daily activities in ensuring that safety precautions are noted and considered while conducting their duties.
We like to acknowledge the service provider (DERKA) for the quality training offered to EMs.
FUNDERS/PARTNERS: DFFE, SANPARKS AND K2C BR NPO
Waste management training for Waste Pickers
– by Pheona Phalane, Green Economy Environmental Monitor
Waste management training was organized for the waste pickers from London Landfill. The waste pickers are a group of committed men and women who are making a living from sorting waste for recycling. Most of the waste pickers have been working at the landfill for 13 years and are trading with the local markets and bakkie vendors.
From the Region For the Region is a project that supports businesses that are eco-friendly, specifically in the waste management, tourism and agricultural sectors. They offer support through capacitating and equipping SMMEs. The entrepreneurial workshop was held to help the waste pickers of London Landfill to achieve their goals, develop their leadership skills, help recognize opportunities, make decisions, prepare for the outside world and to learn how to run a professional business. The workshop had 29 participants; 20 females and 9 males.
The first day focused on idea generation and innovation, where participants had to come up with business ideas they are passionate about. The business ideas had to address a problem they find in their area, as well as the solution. This enabled the participants to come up with ideas that generate profit and benefit the community.
The second day was focused on a business model canvas. This is a strategic management tool to quickly and easily define and communicate a business idea. This gave the participants a clear picture of what needed to be done to prototype their business. The third and fourth day focused on testing these business ideas with customers and the last day was for giving feedback and pitching businesses to the relevant stakeholders.
The waste pickers were excited about receiving a certificate of attendance and gaining new skills. They were gratified that their business is now receiving relevant stakeholder interest to help them grow.
FUNDERS/PARTNERS: fRfR, Maruleng Municipality and Socio next.
Community Capacity Building - Public Participation Processes
~ Keneilwe Mmushi, Data Manager
The opportunity to educate local community members about best conservation and land care practices resonates greatly with the Kruger to Canyons Biosphere organization. Promoting functional and sustainable relationships between people and nature is at the core of what the GEF 5 Protectecd Area programme does! Kruger to Canyons Biosphere Region (K2C BR) and Kruger National Park (SANParks KNP) have put much effort into monitoring and preventing deteriorating developments in and around the park and Associated Private Nature Reserves (APNRs).
To increase our visibility in the Environmental Authorization Public Participation and Stakeholder Identification process, in April 2021 we presented guidance to Environmental Monitors (EMs), explaining the Public Participation Process (PPP) and how to get involved. The session exposed certain knowledge gaps regarding the legislative framework protecting natural resources in customary land (land under Traditional Authority governance). Monthly EM lesson plans cover subjects such as biodiversity and ecological restoration, carbon and climate change, waste management and, most recently, waterway restoration.
Statutory laws, conservation agencies and state entities responsible for permit applications were also discussed and best practice alignments suggested, such as avoiding development on riparian areas detrimental to the main waterbody.
We hope that working together with Environmental Monitors and local community members we can continue to excel in protecting both our biodiversity and socio-economic beneficiation.
FUNDERS/PARTNERS: UNDP GEF 5 PA programme funders, SANParks BSP and DFFE EM programme
September - Month of Hope
~ Vushi Tshabalala, Project Manager
There is something special and unique about the month of September that gives it a different feel compared to the other months. A feel of celebration, new life, positivity, peace, joy and encouragement about it. Looking at the days in the calendar, it totally makes sense. The 1st of September is a day that most South Africans wait in anticipation for as it resembles the end of short-clod Winter nights and welcome the new season of spring. Although the season hasn’t officially sprung yet, according to research it starts officially on the 22 of September a moment in the year when “the sun is exactly above the equator and day and night are of equal length”. Even so this does not stop the rainbow nation from taking to social media sharing their fun water games, colourful dresses, good company and lekker braai to prepare for the longer warm nights and days ahead. Spring also represents new life, as the vegetation starts to transform from the brown-dry look to its natural refreshing green as new leaves sprout as soon as the first showers pour. The flowers also start to show their bright beautiful colours which attracts the butterflies and bees. The silent days are filled with beautiful songs as the birds sing away with joy to the return of like, what magic. Fortunately, there are still places where this can be experienced like in our biosphere, the Kruger 2 Canyons Biosphere region.
It is no surprise that the first week of September is also known as Arbor Week. Many celebrate by planting indigenous trees and creating awareness on the importance of trees. Just like the famous quote of Confucius that says “If your plan is for one year plant rice. If your plan is for ten years plant trees. If your plan is for one hundred years educate children”. This week is very significant to the spring day where days have new beginnings in common. The Common Tree of the Year to plant for Arbour Week in 2021 is the Sweet Thorn also known for many years as “Acacia karroo”. This indigenous thorn tree is widely spread throughout South Africa; growing in both the summer and winter rainfall regions. This beautiful tree is an integral part of our history and known for its many practical uses. In fact, it was given the name “sweet thorn” for several reasons: the gum which exudes from wounds in the bark is surprisingly very pleasant tasting and is eaten by both people and animals, including the lesser bushbaby which feeds exclusively on gum from trees. It was also believed that where sweet thorns were found growing the grazing was sweeter, and the soil more fertile, and sweet thorns do indeed love growing near surface water, and if they are found growing in arid regions with no visible surface water, they are a good indicator of underground water.
Thirdly the 24th of September is celebrated in South Africa as Heritage Day. South Africans celebrate the day by remembering the cultural heritage of the many cultures that make up the population of South Africa. Various events are staged throughout the country to commemorate this day. Heritage is the full range of our inherited traditions, monuments, objects, and culture. Inheritance does not leave out our surroundings and how we interact with nature. What natural and environmental inheritance are we leaving for the next generation?
What better way to learn more about cultures other than travelling, exploring and enjoying what the world has to offer. No wonder September with its many great days to celebrate and the beauty of new life had also been recognised as tourism month. Most lodges and tourism hotspots starts to get fully booked from the month of September towards festive season. One of the anticipated days by South Africans during September is the SANParks week where locals can access the national parks for free.
Even in a difficult year such as 2021 with the pandemic, surely one can look forward to the month of September to restore and revive hope for humanity, hope for a better life and making sure that we are reminded of who we are, our impacts and surroundings. This is why September is the month of Hope.