South Africa’s Cape Floral Region (CFR) is one of the world’s great centres of terrestrial biodiversity. It is home to nearly 20% of Africa’s flora, while covering less than 0.5% of the continent’s area. The wetlands in this sensitive area face particular threats, including from development and agriculture, as the region is also home to farms growing around 95% of South Africa’s wine. On-farm conservation measures are therefore vital to protect the outstanding diversity, density and endemism of the biodiversity of the CFR.
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Ecological infrastructure refers to naturally functioning ecosystems that deliver valuable services to people. Ecological infrastructure is the nature-based equivalent of built infrastructure and is just as important for providing services and underpinning socio-economic development. It’s not only an under-realised asset for cities and their hinterlands, but also one whose potential could be relatively easily unlocked.
Table Mountain National Park (TMNP) dramatically improved its ability to link its priority conservation tasks with the sustainable development needs of Cape Town and its citizens, to the advantage of both the Park and the City’s citizens. This story illustrates the importance of a functioning governance system and a commitment to finding mutual interest between the goals of conservation and development.
Table Mountain National Park (TMNP) was established in 1998 when land and resources were transferred from the City of Cape Town to SANParks. It is one of the world's most biodiverse and dramatically beautiful urban national parks, set entirely within a metropolitan Cape Town. The primary solution ensuring equitable access was the requirement in the founding agreements that the TMNP would forever be an “Open Access” national park. This came about through citizens insisting that most of the park remain free to the public, with only four sections where entrance fees are paid (Swanepoel 2013).
Many, if not most, extractive and industrial companies own portions of undisturbed or less disturbed landscapes which are not actively utilized for the company’s core business. By consolidating such areas, establishing their potential ecological contribution, initiating projects to improve the present ecological state and managing these lands as a protected area, such lands can contribute significantly to the sustainability profile of a company.
The Biodiversity Stewardship Programme was designed to promote a range of private landowners protection and sustainable management needs. The Programme consists of a range of applicable negotiated management plans and contracts, and in the protected areas categories, title deed restrictions. Categories include the highest category of nature reserve, which is designed to secure private nature reserves, and give them the same legal security as state-owned protected areas.
The biodiversity assets of Southern Africa are globally recognized as exceptional. The protection of these unique landscapes, and their associated flora and fauna, is a high priority on the political and sustainability agenda. The Diamond Route project demonstrates that, regardless of the industry, businesses need not impose a limit on their efforts to contribute positively to the creation, expansion, conservation, management and restoration of Southern Africa's natural capital base.
Protected areas in South Africa present one of the best opportunities for economic development, especially for local communities living around them. It is understood that protected area wildlife based tourism initiatives contribute more than R2 billion to South Africa’s GDP. The solution is to create a guaranteed business opportunity for the locals through linkages of SMMEs with procurement revenue of a PA. The strategy is to assist PAs to identify goods and services and ring-fence procurement revenue for qualifying local SMMEs.