Introduction

It is always a great pleasure to greet all of you in the hotspot, particularly Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF) grantees, partners and friends. Autumn has arrived with all its glory and fiery leaves are falling to the ground. In some parts of the hotspot the early mornings and evenings are freezing, while the days are crisp and comfortably warm. We hope this collection of news stories will tempt you to start planning a submission for the next issue. Join us as we take a sneak peek of highlights from the projects.

Unfortunately this edition of the newsletter is only available in English and we apologise to our Portuguese readers. We hope that our next edition will be available in both languages again.

Anyone may sign up to receive this newsletter or share their MPAH–CEPF-funded project stories through submitting written contributions to Kennedy Nemutamvuni (Learning Network Officer, South African National Biodiversity Institute [SANBI]; K.Nemutamvuni@sanbi.org.za). Please also remember to send information and resources from your project that you would like to share on the website.

Thanks to all members from various projects who have contributed to this newsletter.

We are looking forward to sharing our stories.
 
Contents
  1. Working towards sustaining the impact made by the CEPF investment in the MPAH

  2. Three nations come together for conservation and community development

  3. Training on new tools builds capacity of civil society organisations

  4. MPAH projects represented at the land reform learning exchange

  5. Partnerships help build Mozambique’s new luxurious eco-tourism lodge

  6. Water has no substitute: citizen scientists take action on Global Water Day in Matatiele

  7. World Wetlands Day comes to Matatiele

  8. Community establishes conservation and tourism initiative
 

Working towards sustaining the impact made by the CEPF investment in the MPAH

By Emily Botts

This year marks the final year of the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund’s (CEPF) investment in the Maputaland-Pondoland-Albany Hotspot (MPAH). For this reason, Wildlands (as the Regional Implementation Team) and SANBI (as the host of the learning network) have embarked on an assessment of the sustainability of the MPAH Programme. This assessment is necessary to investigate and plan the ways in which gains made during the investment might be sustained into the future.
 

 

 

An online questionnaire has been used as one of the ways to assess sustainability across the projects of the MPAH. We would like to thank the nearly 50 respondents who put time and thought into completing the questionnaire. Your answers have provided a wealth of information from which we have already extracted some interesting findings. Besides the substantial biodiversity achievements that have been made, it is clear that the MPAH had a broad impact in terms of community involvement and socio-economic gains. More than 85% of respondents mentioned partnerships and collaboration with other organisations as a key strategy to their achievements. Partnerships and collaboration between civil society, government and private sector help to strengthen conservation efforts at local levels.

 

 

The MPAH Learning Network has helped to enable some of these collaborations through nurturing an expanded and more connected network of biodiversity conservation organisations that have greater awareness of each other’s activities and areas of work. Respondents indicate that a range of challenges for projects and biodiversity conservation persists, most notably sustainable funding, government support, time constraints and capacity. However, many respondents indicated that the CEPF investment in the MPAH had strengthened their ability to cope with challenges in various ways.

The outcome of the sustainability assessment will be the development of a sustainability planning framework of action that will support and enhance sustainability of interventions in the MPAH. Recommendations will explore and identify current or future opportunities for sustainability on various levels.

Please direct questions, comments or suggestions regarding this work to Emily Botts (emily.rsa@gmail.com) or Aimee Ginsburg (aimee.elsa@gmail.com).
 
Three nations come together for conservation and community development

By Kennedy Nemutamvuni, SANBI

The initial objectives of the CEPF investment in the MPAH were to support civil society organisations in applying innovative approaches to conservation in under-capacitated protected areas, key biodiversity areas and priority corridors. With the end of the CEPF investment in sight many of the projects are investigating other opportunities for continuing the work initiated through CEPF grants. For this reason, the Lubombo Conservancy, in partnership with the Lubombo Transfrontier Conservation Area (TFCA), SANBI and Wildlands convened the Lubombo Corridor Forum at the stunning Magadzavane Lodge and Nature Reserve in Swaziland. The main purpose of this forum was to encourage discussion around coordinated efforts and to plan for a collaborative programme of work between non-governmental organisations (NGOs) for ecosystem management, community development, livelihoods and economic activities in the Lubombo region. Such collaboration will then help to identify relevant new funding opportunities.

 

 

The Lubombo corridor is the only mountain landscape in southern Africa that connects three countries, namely Swaziland, Mozambique and South Africa. The corridor is dominated by the Savanna Biome and is central to the MPAH. It stretches northward from the Pongolapoort Dam in the south to Limpopo in the north. It also contains five Ramsar wetland sites, namely Ndumo Game Reserve, the Kosi Bay System, Lake Sibaya, the Turtle Beaches and Coral Reefs of Tongaland, and Lake St Lucia – the largest estuary in Africa. The corridor is also the home to important threatened species such as the Endangered fish Silhouettea sibayi. Of the vegetation, over 10 per cent of the transfrontier area consists of threatened habitat.

 

During the forum, participants discussed the opportunities for consolidation between their respective projects and activities. Regional cooperation would encourage greater landscape-level planning across the borders, as well as increasing prospects for socio-economic development in the region. This was also echoed by the Swaziland National Trust Commission’s Chief Executive Officer, Mr Titus Dlamini, who said, ‘now that we have started this important initiative, we can move into the implementation of coordinated activities of conservation, community development and improved livelihoods for our people in this important landscape’. The forum was also a platform to formalise the Lubombo TFCA NGO working group established in December 2014. The working group includes participants from Swaziland (Eco Lubombo Programme), Mozambique (various NGOs) and a representative from South Africa’s Space for Elephants Foundation. These different NGOs pledged to sign the Magadzavane Declaration, affirming their agreement with the central objectives of the collective working group.

The forum took place from 16–20 March 2015 and was attended by over 30 delegates from Swaziland, Mozambique and South Africa.
 

Training on new tools builds capacity of civil society organisations

By Kennedy Nemutamvuni, SANBI

Sustainable allocation and utilisation of natural resources is always the guarantee for a better future. However, not all the organisations working in the conservation sector have the necessary tools, training and expertise to help communities understand the potential economic benefits of sustainability. It is for this reason that the MPAH learning network team reserved one and a half days at the Lubombo Corridor Forum for training on economic instruments and incentives. The main purpose of the training was to develop an understanding of the opportunities offered by the economic instruments and incentives towards long term sustainability of conservation projects.

 

The economic instruments are largely aimed at providing incentives that encourages change in people’s behaviour in the way they use and manage the environment and natural resources. This is achieved through either increasing penalties that reveal the true cost of using natural resources or by providing incentives for better management. The development of these instruments was led by the Institute of Natural Resources (INR) with the overall aim of supporting the informed selection and correct implementation design for economic incentives for natural resource management.

 

 

The training was facilitated by Fonda Lewis of INR and Kevan Zunckel of Zunckel Ecological and Environmental Services. They both emphasised that these tools need to be adapted to local situations in order to be most effective. Kevan Zunckel further added that ‘there is a need to consider legal disparities of each country across the border when one is adopting these instruments’. Participants left the training sessions with a much broader understanding of the types of economic incentives that may be relevant in their areas. They were encouraged to use the available tools to conduct further assessments with their communities and partners.

The tools are freely available at: http://www.afromaison.net/eco_dss/DS_tool.html

For more information about the tools please contact Fonda Lewis at FLewis@inr.org.za or Kevan Zunckel at
kzunckel@telkomsa.net.
 
MPAH projects represented at the land reform learning exchange
By Kennedy Nemutamvuni, SANBI
 
 

The MPAH remains relevant for a number of biodiversity conservation focused activities. This was revealed at the Land Reform and Biodiversity Stewardship Initiative Learning Exchange which was held at the Ascot Conference Centre in Pietermaritzburg, KwaZulu-Natal. This event was convened by SANBI in partnership with the Department of Environmental Affairs, Department of Rural Development and Land Reform, and Ezemvelo KwaZulu-Natal Wildlife.

Held under the theme ‘Building capacity to catalyse a biodiversity-based economy in land reform’, the main objective of the learning exchange was to investigate ways to optimise the return on investment on natural resources management and the wildlife economy. Other objectives include strengthening the partnerships in order to maximise benefits and to build capacity. The learning exchange afforded some of the MPAH’s CEPF grantees an opportunity to present their projects, share their lessons and to identify common opportunities. The lessons were also useful to the new land reform beneficiaries who are located in biodiversity rich landscapes. The learning exchange provided an opportunity for government officials and the private sector to come together and share lessons and experiences from land reform sites.
 

 

 

Lessons shared from the CEPF MPAH projects began with Nicky McLeod of Environmental and Rural Solutions who looked into their model of biodiversity stewardship and its incentives in the restoration of ecosystems and protection of biodiversity. By reviving the traditional concept of Maboella (traditional managed livestock herding system), they learnt from some difficult challenges when working with communities on issues of rangeland management, livestock and grazing. These efforts helped the communities to understand ways of sustainably utilising their rangelands, attracting funding for natural resource management, and achieving the famous auction where their cattle were sold at prime prices per kilogram. ‘This has sparked communities’ interest and they are now willing to go the extra mile by themselves,’ said Nicky.

The project falls under the Umzimvubu Catchment Partnership Programme, which was also represented at the learning exchange by Sinegugu Zukulu of Conservation South Africa who emphasised the importance of partnerships and synergies with communities and amongst projects. ‘Restoration of community natural resources and the protection of biodiversity should begin with the communities. The involvement of communities is as important as our technical expertise. If communities are happy with the proposal, they will support and lead it,’ said Sinegugu.

The lessons shared from other land reform projects are crucial in the development of sustainability planning that is currently underway for the CEPF MPAH projects. The event took place from 9–12 February 2015, and was attended by 170 individuals from diverse backgrounds. Representatives of several other MPAH projects also attended and undoubtedly learned much from the event.
 

Partnerships help build Mozambique’s new luxurious eco-tourism lodge

By Kennedy Nemutamvuni and Emily Botts from information provided by Steve Collins, The African Safari Foundation

After a concerted effort by the local communities, private sector, and NGOs, Mozambique finally boasts a new luxurious eco-tourism lodge. The African Safari Foundation (ASF) has been a proud partner and facilitator of this initiative through a CEPF grant. The lodge is the first of its kind in Mozambique and aims to create an exclusive and environmentally sensitive eco-tourism development based on community ownership of the tourism concession. The investment is one of the many that CEPF made to the MPAH region to encourage development that takes into consideration people’s needs while protecting the biodiversity. The initiative has a greater empowerment and conservation motive as it entails granting a prime tourism business directly to the local communities while still maintaining the ecosystem of the area.
 

 

Known to the CEPF as the Ahi Zameni Chemucane (AZC; ‘Let’s go for it, Chemucane’) Project, the lodge is part of the Maputo Special Reserve, formally known as the Maputo Elephant Reserve, which has been identified by the Mozambique government as a high-quality tourism investment site. The Maputo Special Reserve is within the MPAH region and covers a total of 77 000 hectares. This site is still in a pristine state; it is rich in biodiversity and boasts eight distinct habitat types, namely tall sand forest, coastal dune forest, wetlands, mangrove swamps, open woodland, open grasslands, freshwater lakes and seashore. Because of the diverse habitats, a large number of animals have been recorded from the site, including elephant, zebra, hippo, warthog and more. It further extends to the Lubombo Transfrontier Conservation and Resource Area and connects with the Futi Corridor and South Africa’s Tembe National Park. This landscape remains the home of the last naturally occurring coastal elephant population in southern Africa.

 
The reserve is easy to access from South Africa and it is about a two-hour drive from Maputo. It offers exceptional beaches and coral reef diving experiences. There is also an opportunity to combine bush and beach adventures (with elephants roaming close to the lodge sites). Water activities include sunset cruises, snorkelling, kayaking and diving with dolphins. The lodge currently boast nine exclusive guest suites with two family and seven double-bedded units.
 

 

 

The establishment of this lodge has far-reaching consequences and there are plans for further growth. The lodge has already appointed full-time community development officers and the communities adjacent to Ponta Chemucane have formed the AZC legal entity. The objective of this entity is to help the community to enter into partnership with a private partner with a view to developing up to 60 beds. The community has appointed the Bell Foundation, a private philanthropic partner to build, operate and market the lodge. Through ASF facilitation, a joint venture has been established between the private sector operator and the AZC called Companhia Tourismo Chemucane (CTC). The AZC owns 40% of the CTC and also gets a rental from CTC for use of the concession which the AZC has for 50 years. The CTC has a 25 year build-operate-transfer agreement with the AZC.

For more information about the lodge please contact Paul Bell +27 82 577 0756 or Lance Giles +27 82 699 2430 or e-mail info@anvilbay.com. For information about the African Safari Foundation see www.asl-foundation.org or e-mail Steve Collins on stevecollins@iafrica.com.
 
Water has no substitute: citizen scientists take action on Global Water Day in Matatiele

By Nicky McLeod, Environmental and Rural Solution (ERS)

Water is the most basic of needs, we cannot survive without it. South Africa is one of the most water-stressed countries on the planet, and climate change is threatening the way we depend on rainfall for water provision.

The Matatiele Local Municipality is strategically located in the upper eastern corner of the Umzimvubu basin, an important catchment supplying over 1 million people with water. Ten percent of Matatiele's surface area is wetlands, the highest in the country. These wetlands act as a sponge by absorbing and filtering rainfall, and function like an engine through recharging the ground and surface water supplies for the rest of the catchment.
 

 

The Matatiele Municipality, together with the Umzimvubu Catchment Partnership Programme (UCPP), arranged and hosted a local event for Global Water Day, as part of National Water Week, on 19 March 2015. The UCPP team involved the Alfred Nzo District Municipality (who sponsored the lunch and tent), Department of Environmental Affairs, Endangered Wildlife Trust, Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS), Conservation South Africa (CSA), LIMA Rural Development Foundation, ERS, Wildlife and Environment Society of South Africa (WESSA) and the Maloti Drakensberg Transfrontier Programme.

Despite several challenges, like having to relocate the venue from the Nchodu wetlands two days beforehand due to strike action on the Qacha’s Nek road (which made national headlines), the event was a major success with lots of positive feedback from participants.

The event was attended by nine schools from rural villages in the area. These schools are actively supported by WESSA’s EcoSchools Programme, and transport was arranged with funds from CEPF and WESSA to bring the students to the Khoapa wetlands to participate in the event. Six activity learning stations were set up around the tent which was located near the huge Khoapa wetland, 5 km from Matatiele town. Participants divided into six groups, and each group spent 15 minutes at each learning station. These consisted of a display on water-related careers, a water quality testing station demonstrated by technicians from the Alfred Nzo Water Service Authority, and three hands-on stations including soil augering to delineate wetland margins, soak pits and clarity tubes, and a station for catching and identifying all the nunus which live in water and which indicate water health or problems, using a system called miniSASS. DWS, LIMA and ERS also sponsored some promotional gear including caps, stickers, bags, rulers and buckets which were distributed to participants.

Andrew Lucas, DWS water quality director, said that their department has tried to establish many local water forums, and none have survived, while he has watched UCPP go from strength to strength. He loved the hands-on aspect and encouraged the councillors to be proactive in addressing water conservation and quality issues in their constituency.

Programme director, Councillor Mshuqwana said she finally understands the water cycle and how we urgently need to act now to avoid ‘water shedding’ along with load shedding. She provided a lively session welcoming all participants, and facilitating some excellent plays provided by some of the EcoSchools – this proved that Matat has its very own little celebrities. Watch out, Isidingo!

The chief whip and Councillor Mshuqwana suggested that we organise a similar event for all the traditional leaders who have the responsibility of allocating residential plots, to prevent further wetland margin encroachment.

The mayor, Councillor Mbedla, became an expert in the use of the soil auger to delineate wetlands. Ward Coucillor Robert Mnika, who has been a driving champion for water conservation in the area, encouraged students to become involved in water conservation as ambassadors for sustainability in their communities.

The speaker, Councillor Bosman, said she understands why we need the little nunus to indicate water health. She loved the miniSASS and career stations, and said this is an excellent method to encourage citizen scientists. Her vote of thanks speech came up with ‘abuse it and lose it’ as the parting word for the students from the nine participating schools.

For more information contact Nicky McLeod on nicky@enviros.co.za.
 

World Wetlands Day comes to Matatiele

By Lima Rural Development Foundation correspondent and ERS

On Tuesday 3 February 2015 World Wetlands Day was celebrated in Matatiele for the first time. An informative itinerary was organised by local partners who form part of the UCPP. The Matatiele Local Municipality boasts with over 41 000 hectares of wetlands, which forms 10% of the municipal area, more than any other municipality in South Africa.

Since the adoption of the Convention on Wetlands on 2 February 1971, in Ramsar, Iran, World Wetlands Day has been celebrated globally on the same date every year, with the intent of raising awareness about the importance of wetlands and the environmental benefits of preserving such areas. In South Africa, only 11% of wetlands have any form of protection. Most are degraded through poor infrastructural development and lack of awareness of their importance.
 

This year, the event was themed ‘Wetlands for Our Future’ and the main focus was educating the youth around the topic of wetlands so as to raise an environmentally conscious and active generation. The grade 11 class of King Edward High School in Matatiele attended the event. Pupils were first provided with background information on the value and negative implications of destroying wetlands at the local town hall, after which they were driven to Wilfred Bauer Nature Reserve where they participated in a hands-on series of activities to understand the functions of a wetland. They were shown the different wildlife and plant species found in wetland environments, and what these indicate in terms of wetland health, as well as how to use soil augers to identify the various soil textures which determine wetland boundaries to assist with delineation for development planning to reduce impacts on wetlands. Clarity tubes, nets, magnifying glasses and binoculars added to the learning experience.

 

 

The day proved informative for the pupils. Stian Oosthuizen said, ‘I didn’t know anything about wetlands before today so this itinerary has been educational. I have learned that we should all try to preserve wetlands as they save the ecosystem. We all depend on water. I am planning on spreading the message via social media.’

Zinhle Buthelezi, a Groen Sebenza intern who is being mentored by staff of Matatiele-based NGO Environmental & Rural Solutions (ERS), defined wetlands as low-lying areas of land saturated with moisture. The famous iSimangaliso wetland is an example. Counting some of their many functions, Buthelezi said healthy wetlands help decrease flooding and disasters as they retain and slow down movement of great amounts of water. They also absorb pollutants, thus releasing water into our rivers in a more purified state. They also provide suitable habitat for valuable reeds and grasses – the materials of which is used for basket weaving and making traditional reed mats.

The UCPP team involved the Alfred Nzo District (who sponsored the lunch), Matatiele Local Municipality, DEA, Endangered Wildlife Trust, CSA, LIMA Rural Development Foundation and the Maloti Drakensberg Transfrontier Programme. The itinerary was coordinated by ERS with local partners. The CEPF- sponsored caps and water bottles for participants.

For more information contact Nicky McLeod on nicky@enviros.co.za.
 
Community establishes conservation and tourism initiative

By Sinegugu Zukulu, CSA, with inputs from Tanya Layne, SANBI

As you walk along the banks of the Mtentu River, you come across the Gobodweni community – just 20 km from the river mouth. The village is located on the northern boundary of Mkambati Nature Reserve, separated from it by the Mtentu River Gorge. Gobodweni falls within the Pondoland Centre of Endemism which stretches over the Msikaba geological formation. The community has established a conservation and tourism initiative as part of their vision for their future development, based on conserving the biodiversity of their land with which their cultural practices is intimately bound. A number of organisations are working to support Gobodweni in pursuing this initiative, including SANBI, Alfred Nzo District Municipality (ANDM), Sustaining the Wild Coast, Eastern Cape Parks and Tourism Agency and CSA.
 
 

SANBI’s support to Gobodweni and other villages in the Amadiba area of Pondoland was funded through a MPAH CEPF small grant. It culminated in the Amadiba Development Workshop, where the villages had an opportunity to present their development vision to a range of government and civil society role players, and discuss how they may work together to achieve it.

The landscape of this community is invaded with various species of alien invasive vegetation such as gum trees, wattles, lantana, chromolaena, bugweed, guavas, cherry guavas, etc. The alien vegetation is spreading into the grasslands, taking away the much needed grazing land for livestock. The spread of alien invasive species has resulted in the drying of rivers, impacting the Mtentu estuary which is currently protected for migratory King Fish. These alien invasive species also threaten the biodiversity of the Pondoland Centre of Endemism, as they out-compete endemics in the grasslands. Coupled with this challenge is the staggering rate of poverty and unemployment in the area.
 

 

 

The ANDM has been the first institutional partner to heed the community’s request for practical support in achieving their vision. Ten people have been employed to clear invasive vegetation while they are also being assisted to register their own cooperative which will be funded by various partners to assist community clearing efforts. The ten people, employed from February to June 2015, will thereafter be self-employed through this cooperative. The hope is to see this initiative grow and increase in number of people employed.

For more information please contact Sinegugu Zukulu on szukulu@conservation.org.

 
 

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Template design and layout: SANBI Publishing, May 2015.