Natural worth of the Community Conservation Area

Biodiversity assessments conducted during recent years indicated that the area covered by the CCA scored the highest of all candidate Stewardship Sites in KZN at the time and qualified for the highest conservation status, namely declaration as nature reserves according to the National Environmental Management: Protected Areas Act (No. 57 of 2003).

On the 30th of November 2010, a report was submitted to the KZN Biodiversity Stewardship Programme (under the auspices of Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife) by Zunckel Ecological & Environmental Services. It brought to light that the biodiversity of the area covered by the CCA was high and very significant.

An extract from the introduction below:

Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife are the custodians of the KZN Biodiversity Stewardship Programme (KZN BSP) and are driving an aggressive campaign to secure Biodiversity Stewardship Agreements with land owners and communities on land indicated as priority in the Provincial Terrestrial Systematic Conservation Plan. One such area is the Upper uThukela Wilderness Areas which represents a gap between Cathedral Peak and the Royal Natal National Park sections of the uKhahlamba Drakensberg Park World Heritage Site (UDP WHS). It has long been the vision of many, including local people in the valley, to see this area proclaimed as a Community Conservation Area and included in the World Heritage Site. Numerous interest groups have worked with willing community representatives and groupings to undertake a variety of resource management projects in the valley, some of which have been in existence for more than 10 years. Currently this situation persists with a significant amount of funding being attached to these projects.

Recently a meeting was convened with most of the interested parties to discuss the possibility of synergising the efforts discussed above and the KZN BSP Coordinator suggested that the Programme could be used as a mechanism to bring about this synergy. The programme’s requirement for a management plan and an agreement may act as the catalyst needed to bring the role players together, while the agreement and proclamation will serve to leverage benefits that have long been spoken of.

The KZN BSP has appointed Mxolisi Fulumente as a full-time facilitator for this initiative and he is based at Royal Natal National Park from where he has begun to build relationships with the relevant community structures. The programme now wishes to appoint a Professional Service Provider (PSP) to assist Mxolisi with the processes required to secure a Stewardship Agreement for the valley. They have secured funding through the Climate Action Partnership which is being held by the Wildlands Conservation Trust and have appointed Zunckel Ecological + Environmental Services to provide this service on behalf of the KZN BSP. This report represents the first milestone in the Stewardship process.

Some of the summarised items of the the report where as follows (from page 18):

1. Contribution to conservation
Key: E (Essential), I (Important), or N (Not Essential or Important)
Contributes to conservation of important vegetation types: I
Contributes to conservation of important species: E
Contributes to conservation of important ecological process: E
Contributes to conservation of system that provides significant ecosystem services: E

2. National Environmental Management: Protected Areas Act (NEM:PPP) Checklist
2 b (i) has significant features or biodiversity
2 b (ii) is of scientific, cultural, historical or archaeological interest
2 b (iii) is in need of long-term protection for the maintenance of its biodiversity or for the provision of environmental goods and services
2 c provides for a sustainable flow of natural products and services to meet the needs of a local community
2 d enables the continuation of such traditional consumptive uses as are sustainable
2 e provides for nature-based recreation and tourism opportunities

3. Major Reasons for suggested Stewardship Status
1. The area has long been a gap between disjunct portions of the UDP WHS and in the registration of the latter its incorporation was listed as a condition for World Heritage Status.
2. Stewardship Agreement will provide the institutional framework within which PES options may be brokered and the value of the natural resource base will be realized, thus securing sustainable land use and related biodiversity, and the provision of better livelihood opportunities for affected communities.
3. The area produces ecosystem services that are of strategic significance to a broader community and which contribute to supporting economic activities way beyond the boundary of the area.
4. Important biodiversity elements are features of the area and the Stewardship Agreement could lead to their persistence and sound management.
5. Important cultural heritage features are in abundance in the area and the Stewardship Agreement could lead to their improved protection and sound management.

Read the full report: BIODIVERSITY ASSESSMENT REPORT to inform the KZN Biodiversity Stewardship Programme in the Upper uThukela (amaNgwane and amaZizi) Wilderness Areas, Okhahlamba Local Municipality, KZN (PDF 1.25MB)

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