It has been estimated that approximately 80% of scarce and threatened natural habitat in South Africa is located on land that is not formally protected. Cape Nature realised that in order to ensure that conservation targets for threatened habitats are met, they cannot only rely on the proclamation of state-owned protected areas and thereby the Conservation Stewardship Programme was initiated.
The Conservation Stewardship Programme aims to create partnerships between landowners and CapeNature to ensure that the security and appropriate management of endangered ecosystems is achieved ¹. Cape Nature has designated extension officers specifically for the purpose of brokering contracts with landowners. The extension officer's role however encompasses more than purely signing of contracts, as the programme aims to broadly enhance relationships between landowners and conservation agencies and to increase awareness regarding environmental issues and management of land in a sustainable manner.
Role of the Cape West Coast Biosphere Reserve
The Cape West Coast Biosphere Reserve has placed itself in a unique situation where a civil society based organisation is facilitating stewardship contracts on behalf of CapeNature. The Biosphere Reserve is located in area which contains habitats of global significance.
The Cape Floristic Region (CFR) is one of the listed global bio diversity hotspots according to Conservation International. Within the CFR, the lowland habitats are much more threatened than the mountain habitats due their suitability for agriculture and urbanization. The lowland habitats of the CFR have been reduced to small fragments throughout their range. A significant proportion of the lowland CFR habitats are located on the West Coast. Only a small proportion of the habitats are formally protected. Therefore Stewardship will play a vital role in the conservation of these habitat fragments.
What is Stewardship?
Stewardship refers to the "wise use, management and protection of that which has been entrusted to you. Within the context of conservation, stewardship means wisely using natural resources that you have been entrusted with on your property, protecting important ecosystems, effectively managing alien invasive species and fires, and grazing or harvesting without damaging the veld."¹
The vision of Stewardship¹
The vision of the Stewardship Program is threefold:
- To ensure that privately owned areas with high bio diversity value receive secure conservation status and are linked to a network of other conservation areas in the landscape.
- To ensure that landowners who commit their property to a stewardship option, will enjoy tangible benefits for their conservation actions.
- To expand bio diversity conservation by encouraging commitment to, and implementation of, good bio diversity management practice, on privately owned land, in such a way that the private landowner becomes an empowered decision maker.
CapeNature Stewardship Options
There are three options of Stewardship available. The three options vary in the level of commitment from the parties concerned. The three options are:
1Voluntary Conservation Area
2Bio diversity Agreement
3Contract Nature Reserve
For each of these options, a contract is signed between the landowner and CapeNature regarding the management of the land. For options 2 and 3, a Management Plan will be compiled for the site by the CWCBR in consultation with the landowner. For option 3, the Contract Nature Reserve, the reserve will be registered as a formal protected area according to the Protected Areas Act No 57 of 2003 and will be declared in the Government Gazette. The area declared a nature reserve will have to be rezoned to Open Space III and registered as such in the Title Deed.
The option that the site is awarded will depend on the conservation value of the site. Contract Nature Reserves will only be awarded to sites that are of a significant importance in terms of the conservation value.
For all of the options the landowner/s retains full ownership of all his/her/their land
Benefits to Landowners
For Options 1, 2, and 3:
- Basic habitat management guidelines and best practice advice
- Farm maps can be compiled and printed
For Option 2 and 3:
- Specific habitat management assistance such as alien plant clearing, fencing, fire & game management
- Free Comprehensive Management Plan in consultation with the landowner (a very basic management plan can be considered for Option 1)
For Option 3
- A municipal rates exclusion for the conserved area
- Preferential access to government land management programs, such as Working for Water.
- Enhanced recognition and marketing exposure
¹ CapeNature Stewardship Operational Procedures Manual