During the first quarter of each year, the K2C team takes a moment to reflect on the preceding year’s accomplishments and evaluate the collective impact our teams have had throughout the region. As we reflect on our achievements in 2023, the K2C BR successfully implemented 8 projects in collaboration with partners, integrating biodiversity conservation with sustainable development initiatives across the region, all within a total budget of R11 million. This was accomplished while adhering to the K2C BR NPC’s Communication Strategy, rooted in messages of inspiration, belonging, and empowerment. These efforts have fostered strengthened partnerships and yielded significant impacts as highlighted in the infographic below. Among the notable impacts are the restoration of over 7000 hectares of land, progress towards protecting more than 14,000 hectares as new protected areas, distribution of 150,000 cookstoves to local communities (bringing the total to 450,000), support provided to 126 SMMEs, and the creation of 463 jobs. It’s truly remarkable what this small team has achieved!

As you continue reading in this quarter’s newsletter, you’ll gain insight into the strategies employed by the K2C Team and our biosphere partners in achieving these remarkable impacts. We eagerly anticipate another productive year filled with tangible results on the ground.

Warm regards,

The K2C Biosphere Team

The full detailed report can be downloaded here

Stories of Change from the village of Phiring

~Reshoketswe Mafogo, Project Manager

The funding cycle for the Dinkwanyane Water Smart (DWS) project has come to an end. With a successful track record of 5 years in Phiring village, and an evaluation report to match, we would like to reflect and share on some of the stories of change with enormous transformative value that have taken place in the small community of Phiring.

A story of empowerment

Lucy Mohlolo, a female SMME from Phiring village received R 18 000 worth of CAPEX for a sewing machine. Through this financial support and sales, she is now the sole owner of the building in which she works, after having rented it for 4 years.

Lucy Mohlolo, a female SMME running her own sewing business from Phiring village.

A story of gender positive perception

A member of the traditional authority council shared how traditionally women are not allowed in a kraal. It was through the DWS project that he saw young women, who were just as capable as their male counterparts, effectively execute activities with livestock. He then publicly denounced, in his authority of the traditional council, the notion that women should be barred from the kraal.

Ecosystem Custodians assisting farmers with cattle.

A story of viable financial instruments

Bridget Mamphoke, a CAPEX steward who received just under R30 000, has paid back her entire loan to her savings group. This means that another member of her group will have the opportunity to loan that money and pay it back in the same manner.

Similarly in other savings groups, the DWS team has administered just under half a million rands worth of CAPEX into the Phiring community through their savings groups. The savings component of the groups has equally matched the CAPEX investment, with total shares of R536 598 to date.

A story of good governance

The DWS Project, through its implementation of result area 4 (viable financial instrument) and together with the people of Phiring, have established two governance structures that are overseeing the functioning of all the Eco-Savings & Credit Groups, as well as all the Tourism activities in Phiring.  The Chairman’s Forum and Ba-Dinkwenyana Tourism Association have been formed, as an added layer of governance, good practice and sustainability for efforts started through the implementation of the DWS project.

 

A story of investing in the youth

The Ecosystem Custodians (ECs), who are a youth orientated group from Phiring community, have been the centre and most direct beneficiaries of the project. As the foot soldiers of the project, the ECs have been at the forefront of implementing and demonstrating the components of the DWS project. With the ending of the project, the youth will remain assets to their community, as they have been equipped with skills, expertise, and confidence to run with the baton of climate change adaptation.

A story of custodianship

All the demonstration gardens have been handed over to the community, with dedicated Community Development workers who have been trained by the project on agroecology methods. This way, the demonstration gardens will continue to function and thrive, serving school learners and the community at large, in the hands of the community

A story of improved beneficiation through cattle

Under the rangeland management component, we have seen not only grazing camps mapped and used, but a large boost in the market access as shown below.

 

PARTNERS/FUNDERS: The Government of Flanders, Conservation South Africa, Hoedspruit Hub

Restoration in the Upper Letaba Catchment

~Dimakatso Nonyane, Restoration Project Manager & Phomelelo Malatjie, Data Officer

The Kruger to Canyons Biosphere is excited to share the start of a new project in the Upper Letaba Catchment, near the village of Haenertsburg!

Alien invasive plants (AIPs) may appear harmless at first glance, but they pose a significant threat to our local ecosystems by outcompeting native vegetation and altering habitats. These invaders disrupt the delicate balance of our environment and deplete our water resources.

Kruger to Canyons (K2C), in partnership with The Nature Conservancy (TNC) and with funding from Coca~Cola, has launched an alien invasive plant clearing project in the magnificent Haenertsburg area (in the Upper Letaba catchment). The main objective of the project is to achieve water replenishment targets by removing AIPs such as Pine, Eucalyptus, Blackwood and Black Wattle.

This 2-year project has employed one contractor and 30 team members who are excited about the employment opportunity and to be making a positive impact on the environment.  The teams have been in field since late March 2024, working in a landscape with very challenging weather patterns.

Clearing teams removing alien invasive plants in the Upper Letaba catchment

By removing these alien plants, we’re not only creating space for native species to thrive but also ensuring the stability of our precious water sources for both human consumption and sustaining wildlife habitats. This effort preserves the unique flora and fauna while contributing to the livelihoods of the neighbouring communities in the form of employment and potential biomass value chain opportunities.

Our efforts extend beyond environmental conservation. By restoring natural habitats, we’re creating opportunities for recreation, tourism, and education, enriching the lives of everyone in the community.

This project wouldn’t be possible without the funder’s continued support and dedication to preserving our environment for future generations. Together, we’re making a tangible difference in the Upper Letaba-Haenertsburg region, one invasive plant at a time!

PARTNERS/FUNDERS: The Nature Conservancy (TNC) and Cola~Cola

New Protected Areas Declared in the Region

~ Romy Antrobus-Wuth, Conservation Science & Data Manager

With South Africa (and the rest of the world) striving to formally protect 30% of our natural areas by 2030, to reach the target set by the Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF), new additions to our protected area network is a step closer to achieving this ambitious goal.

After a drawn out process we are excited to share that Karongwe Game Reserve and neighbouring Makgokolo Private Nature Reserve have both recently been formally Gazetted as Nature Reserves under the Protected Areas Act (Act 57 of 2003). This adds more than 10 000ha to the network of land legally protected and managed for biodiversity conservation in the Kruger to Canyons Biosphere Region. These properties also add to key ecological corridors that connect the Greater Kruger with the Mpumalanga Drakensberg.

Karongwe Game Reserve

A big thanks to colleagues at Conservation Outcomes for their support with this important work and to the landowners for their commitment to secure and manage their land for conservation into the future.

PARTNERS/FUNDERS: Conservation Outcomes, LEDET

Enhancing Elephant Management: Elephant Stewards Trained for Conservation Efforts

In a significant stride towards wildlife conservation, the Kruger to Canyons Biosphere Region (K2C) has taken proactive steps to mitigate human Wildlife conflict through the employment of Elephant Stewards. With the invaluable support and funding from WWF-Khetha and the application of the Safe System tool, K2C has appointed four dedicated stewards within the Phalaubeni community to assist with issues of Human-Elephant conflict.

These stewards play a pivotal role in elephant management. Tasked with various responsibilities including elephant identification, monitoring of community boundaries, reserve fences, and crop farms. Their duties extend to elephant tracking, data collection, and interpretation which are all aimed at fostering coexistence and promoting peace between people and elephants.

The Elephant Stewards with Project Manager Vusi Tshabalala.

~ Mpho Mativandlela, Groen Sebenza Intern

On March 7th, 2024, the Elephant Stewards had the opportunity to participate in an intensive elephant management workshop facilitated by Elephants Alive. The primary objective of this training was to familiarize stewards with the Elephants Alive Earth Ranger portal, accessible through their cell phones. This portal provides real-time information on elephant movements, particularly focusing on three bull elephants collared on February 19th, 2024. The portal will assist with monitoring the movement of the bulls and alert the team if the elephants are coming towards Phalaubeni Village. Measures will then be taken to avoid them causing conflict or damage in the community.

The workshop emphasized the significance of understanding elephant behavior, with a detailed discussion on elephant body language cues and appropriate conduct in their presence. Practical sessions were conducted to demonstrate techniques for identifying elephants based on distinct features such as ear patterns, tusks, and body markings.

Elephant Stewards Training

Furthermore, the stewards received comprehensive training on data collection protocols, essential for accurate monitoring and management of collared elephants. An engaging practical activity allowed the stewards to apply their newfound knowledge in tracking a collared elephant in the field, enhancing their proficiency in elephant management techniques. With enhanced knowledge and practical skills, the Elephant Stewards are now better equipped to manage collared elephants effectively. They will continue to attend workshops to stay up to date with advancements in human-wildlife conflict management, ensuring proactive conservation efforts in the Phalaubeni community.

The commitment of K2C, WWF-Khetha, and Elephants Alive underscores the collective dedication towards fostering harmonious coexistence between humans and elephants while safeguarding biodiversity in the region. Through collaborative efforts and ongoing capacity-building initiatives, we remain steadfast in our mission to protect and conserve our precious wildlife heritage.

PARTNERS/FUNDERS: WWF Khetha & Elephants Alive

 

Fostering Sustainable waste management practices: Recycling Drop off at the Hoedspruit Farmers market.

~Lethabo Rasakanya

The Kruger to Canyons Biosphere Region has been a beacon of community engagements and local entrepreneurship through its ‘’From the Region for the Region’’ project. This is particularly evident with the successful Farmers Markets held in Hoedspruit since November 2019. Currently, hosting approximately 100 Small and Medium Micro Enterprises (SMMEs), these markets held at the Farmhouse on Zandspruit Boulevard on the first Saturday of every month, have grown over the years. They showcase a wide variety of handcrafted goods, artisan food, locally grown produce, herbs and plants, stylish clothing, and fine crafts.

Despite the absence of a recycling facility in Hoedspruit, there’s an opportunity for residents of Hoedspruit and the surrounding areas to make a significant change in the waste management sector. The introduction of a recycling drop-off point at the Hoedspruit Farmers Market by K2C BR enables people to sort their recyclable waste, including paper, plastic, tins, and glass, from general waste at the source and bring the recyclable waste to the farmers market.

With K2C’s support for the Gadifeli Waste Reclaimers, the collected waste is transported to the reclaimers at the London Landfill for recycling purposes. These waste reclaimers sustain their livelihoods from waste picking, making this initiative environmentally beneficial and economically empowering for local communities.

Implementing the recycling drop-off centre at the Farmers Market reflects a collective commitment to environmentally conscious and sustainable living. As the Hoedspruit Farmers Market continues to thrive as a hub of commerce and community engagement, the integration of sustainable practices like recycling serves as a testament to the region’s dedication, to a more resilient future.

PARTNERS/FUNDERS: Hoedspruit Farmers Market, Gadifeli Recycling Centre, Maruleng Municipality

Wildlife Poisoning Workshop

~ Thembani Maluleke, Groen Sebenza Intern

On the 14th of March 2024, Kruger to Canyons Biosphere Region (K2C) in partnership with Endanger Wildlife Trust (EWT), hosted a Wildlife Poisoning Response and Tracking Workshop in Phalaubeni village. Phalaubeni is one of our human-wildlife conflict hotspots, as it borders two protected areas, the Kruger National Park and Letaba Ranch. The workshop was aimed at wildlife protection by raising awareness and reducing human-caused mortalities. More than 50 participants from a range of stakeholders within the community participated in the workshop. During this training, participants were provided with a comprehensive background on the drivers, motives, and methods people use to poison wildlife.

The workshop gave an overview of illegal poisoning activities in Kruger Park, and highlighted that although one animal may die directly from the poisoning, many others then feed on that dead animal resulting in mass mortalities.  Attendees were trained on the do’s and don’ts with regards to approaching poisoned animals and the associated safety measures around them. For the fight against wildlife poisoning to be successful, it is not only the cooperation between NGOs and law enforcement agencies that is essential, but also increasing public awareness that these are criminal offenses and that illegal poisoning not only harms wildlife and the environment but also poses a risk to humans and their pets.

Wildlife poisoning workshop being held with the Phalaubeni community.

The second session of the training was on animal tracking. Human–wildlife conflict has significant consequences for human health, safety, and welfare. Impacts on humans can be direct or indirect. Human injury and death can result when animals attack people.  This session was aimed at giving awareness to the community about the track of different animals mainly carnivores to enable them to be accurate in reporting danger-causing animals to authorities (DCAs).

The facilitator highlighted the three classifications of tracking, the first being the clear print when you can see the track clearly with all toes visible, secondly, pattern classification when there is no clear print, where identifying the track by its general shape and size, and lastly, the use of a track card as basic to help identify animals. In the event of being unsure of the track, one can measure the size track and capture all angles of the track for reporting. Feedback from training recipients was very positive and they are keen for further training.

PARTNERS/FUNDERS: WWF Khetha & Elephants Alive

 

K2C BR Networks with Biosphere Regions from SA, Germany and Canada

~Marie-Tinka Uys, CEO K2C BR

 

In late October, the K2C BR had the opportunity, with the Garden Route and Vhembe Biospheres from South Africa and Biosphere Regions from Canada and Germany, to participate in an exchange visit on Transdisciplinary Research. This took place in Eberswalde, Germany and is part of the TRANSECTS Community of Practice.

The group in Brandenburg, Germany

TRANSECTS is an international community of practice that embraces learning in multiple forms across diverse groups. It boasts an exceptional, international team of researchers and partners from Canada, Germany, and South Africa, with representatives from academia, Indigenous and rural communities, UNESCO Biosphere Reserves, governing agencies, international networks, and private and civil society organizations and foundations.

The learning exchange focussed on making sense of the spaces between practices, education, and Research. It was about interweaving stories of the field with the stories of science towards a joint understanding of transdisciplinary research.

The representatives discussed how research and training can support Biosphere regions.

It was a meaningful experience. In the K2C we have important Research partners with Training and Research Institutions. It was so helpful to learn how the other Biospheres engage and collaborate with these actors.

Organisations & institutions in the TRANSECTS Network.

The cookstove project collaboration with local radio stations

~ Cookstove Project’s Community Support Practitioners

The Kruger to Canyons Biosphere Region (K2C BR) has teamed up with several local radio stations to spread environmental awareness across the K2C landscape. Through this collaboration, the K2C/TASC Community Support Practitioners (CSP) have conducted informative radio interviews with stations in their respective clusters, engaging a diverse range of audiences. The primary objective is to promote the adoption and sustained use of the efficient cookstoves being distributed, by fostering community engagement and education. By leveraging the International Environmental Calendar, CSPs address topics related to carbon emission reduction, emphasising the importance of natural resource management and soliciting feedback from stove recipients. To achieve the project’s objectives, monitors facilitate community meetings, conduct household surveys, and organize social learning activities, all aimed at reducing carbon footprints and deforestation.

In the southwest and southeast clusters, monitoring teams collaborate with RFM Acornhoek, covering significant environmental events like International Environmental Education Day and World Wetland Day. Listeners have expressed interest in extending this content to schools and supporting community campaigns. Meanwhile, in the northwest cluster, interviews with Maruleng FM focused on environmental education efforts and wetland preservation, drawing active engagement from listeners regarding waste management practices.

Visiting Giyani Community Radio Station

Similarly, the northeast cluster conducts interviews with Giyani Community Radio (GCR FM) and Vision FM, addressing environmental issues and promoting sustainable resource usage. Listeners have praised the effectiveness of cookstoves and appreciate the radio-based environmental education initiatives.

As outreach extends to new areas within clusters, collaboration with additional local radio stations is planned to further spread the message of environmental conservation and sustainable practices. The K2C Biosphere communities are encouraged to utilize cookstoves to mitigate carbon emissions and adopt sustainable firewood harvesting practices, contributing to a cleaner and greener environment across the K2C BR Landscape. Let’s unite in our efforts to create a more sustainable future for all.

PARTNERS/FUNDERS: TASC

 

Cookstove Project Stakeholder Engagements

~ David Mpebe, Oky Sibashi, Vulani Mabunda and Sanny Sithole

The Kruger to Canyons Biosphere Region (K2C)/The African Stove Company (TASC) Cookstove Monitors have conducted a series of stakeholder engagements since the commencement of the year. Key stakeholders from communities in all four clusters in the K2C BR landscape (the North West, North East, South West and South East) have been consulted. “Key stakeholders” refer to prominent people on whose land or jurisdiction we operate. Examples are Village Traditional Authorities, Ward councillors, Mayors and Municipalities, to name a few. During the introductory phase of the cookstove project, a series of consultations were conducted with the above-mentioned key stakeholders to engage on the project.

The engagements conducted recently, were to reaffirm working relationships, give updates, give and receive feedback, address issues encountered in 2023, as well as to plan for the year ahead.

A cookstove being distributed to a community member

Cookstove monitors were then able to do comprehensive planning that incorporates the views and suggestions from the community leaders and we are looking forward to introducing fun and vibrant activities! The stakeholders that have been visited greatly appreciated the sessions and have encouraged more interactions relating to the cookstove project and other projects in the K2C BR. The stakeholders expressed great eagerness to do their best to encourage community members to continue to use cookstoves and liaise with community members and community support practitioners.

PARTNERS/FUNDERS: TASC