K2C to host the Annual Catchment Based Indaba on Ecological Infrastructure 2022
-Mbali Mashele, Living Catchments Project Manager
Annually, SANBI, together with Partners support and host a National Catchment Indaba on Ecological Infrastructure implemented through the SANBI Living Catchments Project. The Living Catchments Project is funded by the Department of Science and Innovation through the Water Research Commission as part of the implementation of the Water Research Development and Innovation Roadmap. The particular focus of the project is geared towards enhancing research, development, and innovation for socio-economic impact through engaged communities of practice in key catchments associated with strategic water source areas. The Kruger to Canyons Biosphere Region together with partners Conservation South Africa (CSA), Association for Water and Rural Development (AWARD), and Institute for Developmental Learning & Environmental Sustainability (IDLES), are amongst the four catchment convenors in the country that implement these processes on the ground. Through this project, we aim to continue supporting existing collaborative platforms at the catchment level to integrate research, planning, and implementation. Furthermore, we aim to ensure that the lessons from collaborations strengthen water governance at a catchment level.
Concomitantly, 2021’s Catchment Based Indaba on Ecological Infrastructure was hosted by Thukela Catchment in KZN from the 2nd -4th of November 2021. The event was attended by delegates from the three spheres of government, academia, research institutions, and civil society institutions. The experience of participating and engaging in the Indaba was intriguing as I learned about how the people, dynamics, processes, and culture of the uThukela catchment relate to water security. Highlighted from this experience, was the importance, and linking Ecological infrastructure, Built infrastructure, and Rural and Development practitioners with communities in these spaces which further has the potential to enhance capacity across the science-policy-implementation interface.
During the Closing Ceremony at the Didima Resort, KZN on the 4th of November 2021, the uThukela Catchment Convenors handed over the “Living Catchments Calabash” to me in my capacity as the Olifants Living Catchments Project manager. Handing over the “Living Catchment Calabash” symbolizes the new responsibilities passed on from one catchment convenor to the next to host the subsequent Catchment Based Indaba on Ecological Infrastructure which will be in 2022.
We are looking forward to hosting the country in 2022 to showcase our people, cultures, partnerships, and how we relate to water security.
FUNDERS/PARTNERS: SANBI, WRC, DSI, USAID, CSA, IDLES, AWARD
BaDinkwanyane Tourism Launch
– by Cindy Koen, FrFr Project Manager
Creating a sense of pride for one’s home is a critical factor of community development. Rural-based communities have so many struggles that they do not always get to witness their own natural beauty resources.
The BaDinkwanyane Tourism Project was born out of consultation with the people of Phiring as part of the Dinkwanyane Water Smart Project. It was expressed that tourism would be a valuable asset to the future development of the region and so a development strategy was created.
Creating community awareness of what a tourism project would entail was discussed in detail; the hard work required to set it up, as well as the long-term benefits. Two beautiful sites were identified and prepared for tourists. The project partners (Kruger to Canyons Biosphere Region, Conservation South Africa, and Hoedspruit Hub) felt it was of utmost importance for the community to experience the tourism sites themselves before the greater public was invited to come along.
As a result, on the 20th of November, numerous people from the community, project partners, and a representative from the Government of Flanders set out as honoured guests to experience the newly prepared hidden gems.
The BaDinkwanyane Tourism Association began by thanking the Chief, community, project partners, and the funder. At the first site, Sekweneng, the Chief and the Flanders representative ‘cut’ the ribbon for the official launch.
Sekweneng boasts a magnificent perennial Tufa waterfall. Standing below the falling crystal clear water, the aroma of damp soil arose as we scanned the sheer vastness of the waterfall dotted with ferns, moss and other plant life.
The next site, Sethunyeng, required a bit more walking to reach but the treasure at the end made it all worthwhile. Entering the forest area, we found ourselves surrounded by magnificent riverine trees. As the path meandered we discovered a wealth of flora as well as animal tracks; witness to earlier passers-by. Rounding a bend we found ourselves completely surrounded by waterfalls and streams. Wanting to stop and admire the beauty, our guide urged us on with the promise of an even more spectacular sight. A moderately rocky section led us to the foot of the ‘Gun rock’; a monolithic stone outcrop surrounded by a series of waterfalls. We were lost in wonder as we explored the pools and waterfalls and the pristine beauty of the site.
On our return, we adventurers were treated to a lovely traditional meal and entertainment with songs and local games.
The entire trip was awe-inspiring and allowed us to re-connect with nature, absorbing its magnificent power and leaving re-vitalised.
To experience this for yourself, please make a booking by calling the BaDinkwanyane Tourism Office on 063 533 9794. You will not be disappointed!
FUNDERS/PARTNERS: Flanders; HH; CSA
Makuleke Contractual National Park Management Plan launched
~ Wehncke van der Merwe, Kruger National Park Buffer Zone Coordinator
The GEF PA Programme focusses on improving the management effectiveness of protected areas across the Kruger 2 Canyons Biosphere and Greater Kruger landscape. One of the outputs the programme focused on this year was the development of a management plan for Makuleke Contractual National Park.
In 1998 Makuleke Contractual National Park (MCNP) was one of the first National Park areas that underwent restitution in South Africa. It was given back to the Makuleke people who were removed in 1969, with the Makuleke area becoming part of the Kruger National Park in 1972. After restitution the community decided to keep the area under conservation with support from SANParks. The management structure for the park that emanated from the restitution process was the Makuleke Joint Management Board (JMB), which consists of Makuleke Communal Property Association and SANParks members.
In 2020/21 the JMB highlighted the need for the development of a new, legally compliant and Kruger National Park aligned management plan. We started the management plan development process in May this year with a strong focus on strengthening institutional structures, strong community and stakeholder participation as well as creating a plan with a strong focus on actionable and implementable outcomes. The management plan was signed off at Makuleke JMB level and finalised on the 3rd of December through a memorable formal ceremony held at the Makuleke Village Cultural Centre.
The management plan is building on the Makuleke Conservation Development Framework of 2011 and the Kruger National Park Management Plan of 2018. It will be taken forward for implementation through the relevant management structures. With Mr Aubrey Maluleke as MCNP Coordinator, and Mr Ricard Sowry as Section Ranger, in charge of day to day management of Makuleke, we believe that the Management Plan will lay the groundwork for amazing things to happen over the next few years.
The management plan was built on principles of partnership and collaboration, and to this end, a big thanks must be given to the Makuleke CPA and SANParks for their guidance, the value that was added to the process by the Makuleke concessionaires (Return Africa, The Outpost and EcoTraining), as well as all other stakeholders that participated in the development of the management plan.
If you would like an electronic copy of the management plan, please get in contact with Wehncke van der Merwe (firstname.lastname@example.org)
FUNDERS: GEF Protected Area Programme; Partners: Makuleke Communal Property Association and South African National Parks
Learning from our Farmers
The K2C Biosphere Region hosts quarterly learning exchange sessions for its staff where the team can learn from others conducting work in our shared landscape. Agriculture in the Hoedspruit area has a huge economic impact on our Socio Ecological System. The true extent of this was learnt by the K2C Biosphere Team at a learning Colloquium on Agriculture which took place on Friday 12 November 2021.
Mr Jaco Fivaz, a well-known commercial farmer in the Blyde Irrigation District, shared the numbers with the Team:
He also shared the fact that this year the Lower Blyde Irrigation District produced 93500 tons of Grapefruit (valued R580m); 106875 tons of oranges (valued at R670m); 46154 ton of lemons (valued R440m) and soft citrus to the order of 11143 tons (valued at R158m). The collective contribution to our local GDP for this harvest is estimated at R1,85 billion, which represents 8,5 percent of the total South African crop.
Mr Fivaz also gave details of the jobs being created by the local Agricultural Industry. Just over 10 000 people are employed annually, excluding the extensive value chain of agricultural production beyond growing and harvesting; namely transportation, distribution, IT support, security etc.
The second speaker was Mr Manase Modipa, from the Bapedi Dinkwayane, who is farming 226ha in the Blyde Catchment area. He presented the team with. a Small-Scale Farmer’s perspective. Mr Modipa explained that his customers were vendors, general community members, social grant pay points and local supermarkets. He described small scale farmers’ challenges as market access (transportation and logistics), access to capital funds and climate change. The audience found resonance in his description of the small-scale farmers ambition to perform, create jobs and ensure skills transfer to the youth.
Lastly Ms Shelly Fuller, from WWF-SA, shared case studies of how WWF-SA is supporting the agricultural sector in the Western Cape to become nature positive in their production.
She explained the Conservation Champion initiative in the wine industry, which is a land stewardship programme, where demonstrated biodiversity, responsible and nature-positive farming is linked to improved market access. Wine farms that qualify as Conservation Champions get to place a specific logo on their bottles, allowing conscious consumers to easily identify and buy wines which are farmed sustainably, thus supporting conservation actions. She also shared insights into successful CATCHMENT SCALE COLLECTIVE ACTION in the Western Cape. In this model the international buyer and retailers support conservation actions, such as alien invasive clearing and land restoration, on the very farms they purchase fresh produce from, creating even more conscious consumerism.
Agriculture in its many forms is a major industry, land user, water user and livelihood supporter within the K2C Biosphere and, if we hope to integrate conservation and sustainable development in the region, it is key that the agricultural industry is brought on board and supported to encourage more sustainable and environmentally friendly practices. The potential for conservation projects in partnership with farmers is endless and the K2C Team is excited to explore the possibilities going forward!
Tourism Destination Marketing Stewardship Intern Experience
– Mahlodi Malepe, Tourism Stewardship project
I joined the Kruger to Canyons Biosphere Region (K2C BR) to work under the tourism destination stewardship project as an intern. My role was to investigate the possibility of developing K2C BR as a tourism destination.
It was suggested that we focus primarily on the following sectors:
Immersive Tourism (including Voluntourism)
As much as it doesn’t play a significant role in raising tourism numbers and spending in the region, the “volunteers” could play a meaningful role in helping uplift some communities or in supporting ethical conservation projects. Therefore the ability to source quality volunteers throughout the worldwide Biosphere – and other networks – is vital.
Students or researchers having access to a database of existing and potential new projects, as well as knowledge of how our unique region functions, can greatly assist in future tourism marketing and growth. In general, most people – and certainly most tourist agencies – have no idea what a biosphere is and why it is important. They need to be taught what a biosphere is and does; particularly within the K2C BR and the role it can play in sustainable tourism.
Linking new emerging products with existing resilient businesses
Emerging businesses with little or no experience in marketing in the tourism space; particularly to a wider international audience, need mentoring and guidance.
As part of the project, we visited a variety of attractions within the Panorama route to gain an overview of how different establishments are run and what the difference is between government and private-owned attractions.
Pre-Covid, the tourism sector was considered to be one of the potential growth areas in the South African economy. As the tourism industry slowly recovers from the effects of the Pandemic, supporting the growth of new and emerging products is essential. Ideally this should include skills transfer and tourism education. Once local entrepreneurs see the benefit from the skills transfer workshops, along with what tourism can offer them, they will be empowered to manage their own projects leading to higher salaries and more extensive employment.
Stakeholder Workshop to participatory and collaboratively plan towards Climate Change Adaptation in the K2C Biosphere Region
– Mbali Mashele, Living Catchments Project Manager
Over the last decade, the severe impacts of prolonged droughts in the K2C landscape, and country-wide has highlighted our vulnerability to water scarcity, a condition which is expected to worsen considerably because of climate change impacts. As a result, the Kruger to Canyons Biosphere Region has partnered with UNESCO’s Be Resilient Project, South Africa to pilot effective pathways towards climate change adaptation.
The Be Resilient Project utilises a Climate Risk Informed Decision Analysis (CRIDA) framework, which is a bottom-up, decision-centric approach for addressing water and natural resources problems in systems under stress. CRIDA consists of 5 steps that are: Step 1: The decision context, Step 2: Bottom-up Vulnerability Assessment, Step 3: Formulate Robust & flexible actions, Step 4: Evaluate plan alternatives, Step 5: Institutionalize decisions.
Consequently, the first step of the CRIDA process was implemented in a hybrid fashion, allowing in-person and online participation of the CRIDA Stakeholder engagement workshop on the 9th of November 2021, in Hoedspruit. The workshop consisted of 49 participants that represented the following organisations: Mopani District Municipality, Bushbuckridge Local Municipality, LEDET, University of Witwatersrand, University of Limpopo, Mountain Environmental Watch, University of Cincinnati, DFFE, SANParks, EWT, TNC, UNESCO, K2C, AWARD, CSA, DWS (National Systems Planning & Operations, along with Mpumalanga Regional office), Vhembe Biosphere Reserve, CoGo, SAEON, Alliance Fruit, IDLES, Deltares, IUCMA, Marico Biosphere Region, First Rand.
The workshop process followed a stepwise, participatory planning process to identify and quantify impacts and, highlighted during this process was that every drought period in the region is followed by a flooding episode and this is devastating to all sectors including peoples’ livelihoods. Furthermore, it was indicated hailstorms are becoming more frequent and this is becoming a huge risk for society.
K2C Catchment stakeholders communicated that resilience is essential to adapt to the changing climate and its impact on people, therefore, are looking forward to this process of building on existing knowledge to collaboratively plan, strengthen and address climate change
The second step, including a follow-up stakeholder consultation, is envisaged for mid-2022.
Educational Trails in The Olifants
-Thabang Kgohloane, Olifants EM & Reshoketswe Mafogo, Project Manager
The purpose of this hiking trail is to educate learners and give them a practical approach to the theory of the curriculum being taught at schools. This covers themes such as the importance of biodiversity; climate change; pollution and the importance of fresh water; the relationship between humans, animals, and the river; human-wildlife conflict; the types of trees & rocks found in this region of the Olifants; as well as the river flow and the different water levels.
The team saw this as an opportunity to introduce domestic tourism and hiking, not only to the schools but to the broader community. As momentum grew, the team approached the Education Circuit manager in Maruleng; Mrs Moagi, with the hope of extending the invitation in a formal capacity to local schools. She endorsed the idea and sent invitations to 14 selected Primary schools in Maruleng. To date, 634 learners have been accommodated on our Hiking Trail.
The Olifants River is locally referred to as Lepelle, it is one of the longest rivers in the country at 560 km long. In the Kruger2Canyons Biosphere Region, it is a trans- boundary river and has 7 major impoundments from where it starts. The river has 8 major tributaries, of which the Blyde river is one. It is estimated that 385 crocodiles inhabit the Olifants Gorge and lower Letaba river, alongside hippos and different fish species. Unfortunately, it is also one of the most polluted rivers in our region due to mining and industrial activities in the Emalahleni-Middleburg and Ba Phalaborwa areas.
The Olifants meanders through the Drakensberg mountain, presenting beautiful mountain views of jagged cliffs and rocky outcrops with lush green wild Figs, Matumi, Jackalberry and Apple-leaf trees. Euphorbia ingens, Acacia Karoo and Sweet thorn cover the foothills and mountains. The renowned Olifants Gorge is estimated to be between 100 and 150 meters deep and its Baobab trees aged approximately 300 to 500 years old. Numerous bird species including the Black Eagle have been spotted in this area.
Bochabelo is one of many access points to the Olifants in the Maruleng district; with an easy access road where one can walk to the river.
The hike included various stops connected with the different themes of the educational curriculum. Other activities included swimming and lunch at a picnic site. The team is very enthusiastic about the coming educational calendar when other schools can join the trail.
FUNDERS/PARTNERS: Cliff of Africa Park; Pick n’Pay Hoedspruit, K2C
Wild harvesting of Lippia javanica
– by Dimakatso Nonyane, Resilient Waters Project Manager
The K2C is about collaboration and taking every opportunity to further create an impact throughout the landscape and for that reason we saw an opportunity in collaborating with the Hoedspruit hub (Anri Manderson) in support of her essential oil production project. This project will empower 20 women in the Arthur’seat community where they will be harvesting Lippia Javanica and selling it to her at R4,00 per kg.
The area of focus is next to the Lekete High school and was of high interest because it is isolated with no possibility of the plants being affected by chemicals such as pesticides and herbicides since the plants used to make these essential oils needs to be 100% pure and organic.
On the 25th of November 2021 the Resilient Waters project Manager, Spring of Hope project coordinator together with the K2C office manager met with the Principal of the Lekete High school to come up with a way forward regarding the use of the space and what the harvesting entails. The principal was happy and welcomed the project since not only will the project improve the lives of the women in that community but will also be beneficial for the school in a sense that before harvesting takes place the K2C will conduct a clean up campaign which will remove all the litter that is in the school surrounding and we will look into removing the Alien Invasive Species there to make room for the Lippia to flourish.
It was a nice day out of the office as we got to walk the school’s perimeter to establish the exact area with a potential of being harvested. At this stage the immediate value of the exercise was to establish relationships with the school and organisations that believe in giving back to communities through women empowerment projects. The potential value will be about the upliftment of lives, developing new set of skills, enabling women to know that they can start their own cooperatives or SMME’s in the bioprospecting sector and Strengthened relationships with new formed and existing stakeholders.
“When you lift up women, you lift up humanity” _ Melinda Gates
FUNDERS/PARTNERS: DFFE (EPIP Programme); K2C; Hoedspruit Hub; Zingela Ulwazi Trust; Lekete High School
Research on Protected Area Management Effectiveness (PAME) in K2C
– by Georgina Wilson, PhD Student, Central European University
The benefits of Protected Areas (PAs) for conserving biodiversity are well-documented. However, biodiversity continues to decline, sometimes even within PAs. One factor that may contribute to this is the issue of low management effectiveness within PAs. Protected Area Management Effectiveness (PAME) is defined as how well a PA is being managed in order to meet its goals and achieve its objectives.
Many tools have been developed in order to assist PA managers in tracking PAME- the South African government, for example, uses the “METT-SA” (Management Effectiveness Tracking Tool). However, it remains to be seen to what extent PA managers in K2C use this tool, or other forms of monitoring and evaluation (M&E) to improve effectiveness. This is what my research aims to investigate, through speaking directly to the PA managers and management teams who are on the ground, carrying out these tasks. I will be using a suite of qualitative methods (questionnaires, interviews and focus groups) to gather information from the managers.
Once the project is complete, I hope to end up with a set of recommendations for improving or consolidating the tools in use in the K2C. My main goal is to assist in making management effectiveness evaluation more time- and cost-efficient for PA managers, who are often under-resourced and under extreme pressure to fulfil multiple objectives. I believe that this project is an opportunity for me to contribute, in some small way, to the continual growth of South Africa’s PA network.
I have chosen the context of a biosphere reserve because I want to compare different types of PAs (private, provincial, community, etc.) that exist within the K2C network. I also want to see if/how PAME is related to Biosphere Reserve effectiveness. This is important, and will only gain more importance over time, as Biosphere Reserves present an opportunity to balance ever-increasing social and ecological needs. However, Biosphere Reserves need to be effective in order to succeed.
I am very grateful to have been given the opportunity to undertake this project in partnership with K2C, funded by Central European University, as part of my PhD. If you would like more information about this project, please contact me at Wilson_georgina@phd.ceu.edu.
FUNDERS/PARTNERS: Central European University
iNaturalist a home for naturalists
– by Mpho Lavhengwa
The festive season is here, and we have every excuse to find ourselves travelling and spend more time outdoors. This comes with discovering cool and interesting things in the great outdoors; things that one might need to capture for other people to believe. This is where iNaturalist comes in; it’s a social media network where one can record and save their observations while interacting with thousands of registered users across the globe with the same interests.
You can be a part of this community by registering a free account on https://www.inaturalist.org/. All you need is to take a clear picture of whatever you have observed, share the location, and add more details if available and the community will ensure your observation will be correctly named while also giving you more information to learn about whatever you have observed. You can also join other Projects on iNat, this allows you to pool your observations with other people on iNaturalist. Whether you’re starting a citizen science effort or keeping tabs on the birds in your neighbourhood, Projects are the way to go.
If you are into biodiversity photography, or just need help identifying a certain species or maybe you are an expert in certain field involving species, this network was made for you. iNaturalist is the space to be for everyone, professionals, and nature lovers. There is a range of biodiversity from amphibians, reptiles, butterflies, flowers and many more. Whatever may catch your eye trust me you will find a community of like-minded people on iNaturalist.
Sandmining Site Visit
– by David Mpebe, EM Admin
One of the prevalent and persistent environmental issues in the Kruger to Canyons Biosphere Region is the issue of unsustainable harvesting of sand which seems to leave the environment with frustrating and irreparable damage. In mitigating the issue, the K2C BR has put together a documentary called “Our Sand” for the purpose of raising awareness on sand mining to urge land occupants to harvest sustainably for equitable sharing of the resources with future generations. The efforts to raise awareness have over the years been bolstered by Environmental Monitors who engage with stakeholders on the ground for the same purpose.
Recently, the Kruger to Canyons Biosphere Region in collaboration with the Department of Mineral Resources and the Department of Forestry, Fisheries, and the Environment jointly embarked on course to raise a barrage of awarenesses in the landscape on the issue of sand mining. As a result, on the 3rd of September 2021, the three constituencies put in motion the plan and conducted site visits within the K2C landscape to materialise the purpose. The site visits were conducted throughout Sekororo and culminated at the London landfill site where an sand harvester was found harvesting without the requisite documentation. The person was handed over to the South Africa Police Service for investigation and processing.
The three constituencies resolved to make the sand mining site visits a monthly activity where more information on sandmining is shared. Sand miners are urged to harvest sand in a sustainable manner and to register their sand mining as this will not only give surety for rehabilitation but will ascertain that natural resources are utilised equitably. People from previously disadvantaged groups see sandmining as an entry point to free themselves from the chains of poverty. Consequently, the current brim-full small-scale sand minings make it exceedingly difficult for the department of mineral resources to control small-scale sand mining because the majority are operating illegally. More details on the processes for legalising the illicit sandmining can be sought from the K2C BR, DMR, and DFFE.
Our Water Documentary in Phiring
~Reshoketswe Mafogo, DWS Project Manager
The production of Our Water comes from wanting to tell the journey of water, how it starts in the escarpment and living catchments, flowing down waterfalls and riverine forests. It also has a strong focus and emphasis on the role it plays in the lives of human beings. Whether it is a gogo in the communities that farms on the wetlands, a traditional healer’s reliance on water or a commercial farmer downstream who depends on the same water. Following the journey all the way through big, protected areas such as the Kruger National Park, until it goes back into the sea.
The synopsis sees the journey of water through the character of a young female farmer, Sania Mokoena, who is also an Ecosystem Custodian in the Dinkwanyane Water Smart project. Through her story, we see how different social, economic, spiritual dynamics are drawn from water.
The Caretakers team comprises of a dynamic duo, Emmylou Bailey and Naima Sebe. The duo camped out near Phiring Village for a good 10 days where they got great shots through the camera lenses, great stories from the people of Dinkwanyane, and overall great elements of what water is to the people, to the landscape, to the environment.
Production of the film continues, and we as the K2C team is looking forward to facilitating this film with different communities, different structures, different institutions, in and around the whole K2C landscape.
We would also like to dedicate all the work done in this film project, to the late Lawrence Dworkin. May his spirit continue to inspire us in using film to open doors, open channels of communication and connect with people.
Keeping Well means keeping warm
~ Ilana van Wyk, University of Pretoria
For the last year the Environmental Monitors from the University of Pretoria have been keeping themselves busy with a special project, during times when they were not busy supporting UP researchers during fieldwork.
These ladies have been crocheting blankets for a local children’s day care centre in Gottenburg. The Keep Well Day Care takes care of 43 children, providing the kids with two meals a day, while their parents are working. The six caregivers under the lead of Debra Khoza, do this voluntarily, with much love and enthusiasm. When one walks around the school grounds and classrooms, one cannot but be impressed how clean the surrounds are, how colourful the walls are decorated with lesson plans and kid’s drawings. In the afternoon, after lunch, the kids have a nap on small mattresses. With the new blankets, they will also be warm and comfy.
The wool for the crocheting project was sponsored by Mrs Makkie Gouws, Prof Sonja Matthee from University of Stellenbosch, as well as from Mnisi Community Programme of the University of Pretoria. The EMs managed to crochet 14 blankets in the most beautiful colours. We are so proud to be part of this project, and to see the happy faces of the kids and caregivers.
FUNDERS: Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment