Biodiversity asset sharing with local communities; Land claims sharing model: SANParks & Isimangaliso Wetland Park Authority briefing

Environment, Forestry and Fisheries

30 August 2016
Chairperson: Mr P Mapulane (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Committee met with two entities within the ambit of the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA), namely, South African National Parks (SANParks) and iSimangaliso Wetland Park to be briefed on their sharing of biodiversity assets with communities and on their land claims sharing model. SANParks began by outlining their community benefit sharing in biodiversity assets by talking to Park’s wildlife economy programme, resource use and related programmes, corporate social investment and the blue economy.

SANParks also informed the Committee of their land claiming model by outlining the land claims current in the national parks, phase on settlements and the extent of the land restored. The presentation also spoke to land restitution and settlement models which included, financial and beneficiation, restoration and development, financial and land swap, complete restoration and alternative, land swap and beneficiation. Information was also provided on how the various models worked and their successes and challenges.

iSimangaliso then briefed the Committee on their land claims framework for the settlement of claims in the wetland park. The presentation spoke to the co-management capacity building framework and co-management benefits in terms of asset ownership, secondary enterprises, asset governance and challenges.

The Committee questioned why capacity was raised as a challenge in all the presentations and what the entities were doing to assist communities in developing this capacity. Related to this were questions on how growth was encouraged of SMMEs, how SMMEs were facilitated with access to markets and if bursaries assisted with the future employment in the parks. SANParks was asked what its plans were for long term community involvement in wildlife management over the next 10 to 20 years, animals escaping from the Kruger National Park and the process of animals being donated. Members wanted to know more about the profile of the people who had access to the parks and its uses, the extent of fronting experienced by the entities and how local communities were defined and to what radius communities were considered local.

Meeting report

Committee Business: Apologies
The Chairperson noted that apologies were received from the Minister of Environmental Affairs, who was just yesterday discharged from hospital, and the Deputy Minister, who had a meeting in Tshwane this morning. Perhaps the Committee could think about going to visit the Minister after the meeting if it was possible.

Apologies were also noted from Mr P Mabilo (ANC) and Mr T Hadebe (DA) along with the standing apology from Mr T Bonhomme (ANC).

The Chairperson noted that he would like for the chairman of the board of the entities to be present when the entities appeared before the Committee because the board was also an authority to which the entities reported to. It was then important for the Committee to interact with the boards. This should be noted for future meetings as well as the consideration of cost impacts.

Ms Nosipho Ngcaba, Director-General, Department of Environmental Affairs, responded that this was an issue the Minister was writing to the boards about because her arrangement was that the boards should always appear before Parliament when the quarterly and annual reports of the entities were discussed. The understanding was that the executives of the entities would handle briefings. The request would be processed for the future.

The Chairperson appreciated this – boards also made decisions so it was also important for them to account for those decisions taken to the Committee.  He agreed that it was not necessary for the boards to attend the briefing meetings but that they were here for annual and quarterly reporting. This applied to all the entities of the Department. 

SANParks Community Benefit Sharing in Bio-diversity Assets
Mr Fundisile Mketeni, SANParks CEO, took the Committee through the presentation. He noted that the timing of the presentation was good because of the current global discourse around the benefits of nature to people in terms of broader wildlife assets. The presentation then went on to look at the wildlife economy programme.

Ms Elizabeth Mhlongo, SANParks Head: Corporate Investment, then looked at resource use and related programmes including that of nurseries, vegetable gardens, arts and crafts, the car wash and bee farming initiative.

Mr Mketeni then discussed corporate social investment while Mr Paul Daphne: SANParks Head: Socio-Economic Development, took Members through the blue economy. (see document)

SANParks Land Claiming Models
Ms Lena Lukele, SANParks Head: Land Administration and Land Claims, began by outlining land claims in the national parks where 11 national parks were subject to claims. Three claims were settled, five claims were in the phase one settlement while eight claims were outstanding including those phase two. In the phase one settlements, claims included the Namaqua, Golden Gate, Kruger, Tsitsikama and Addo – all settlements were financial apart from Addo which was an alternative land settlement. 

Looking at land restitution models, the guiding principles in land claims considered that each national park was different and hence settlement models differed from one park to the next. A memorandum of understanding between the Department of Environmental Affairs and the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform provided for principles for the settlement of land claims in protected areas. There was also a developmental approach to settlements in the Kruger National Park.
The presentation then covered the extent of land restored in the Kgalagadi, Vaalbos, Kruger (Makuleke) and Augrabies (Riemvasmaak).

Ms Lukele then took Members through the land claims settlement models implemented which included:
-financial and beneficiation (Kruger National Park)
-restoration and development (Kruger National Park, Makuleke and Khomani San)
-financial and land swap (Namaqua)
-complete restoration (Vaalbos)
-alternative, land swap and beneficiation (GGHNP)

Looking at the complete restoration model in more detail in terms of the Vaal land claim in the Vaalbos National Park, claimants opted for restoration of their claimed land which SANParks identified a new national park. The claimants were given restoration of their land without conditions. The national park was de-proclaimed and handed over to the claimants. Commission on the restitution of land rights brought the Mokala National Park as a replacement of the lost national park. This was one of the rare settlement models which would not be used soon again by SANParks as it took too much land to be restored. 

With the restoration and development model as used in the Khomani San and Mier land claim in the Kalahari Gemsbok National Park, the Ae! Hai Kalahari Heritage Agreement was a tri-lateral agreement (of 99 years) which took effect on 28 May 2002 to establish the contractual park – the Ae! Hai Kalahari Heritage Park. The Park was managed by a joint management board represented by the Mier, Khomani San and SANParks – there was implementation of the Khomani San Resource Use and Cultural Rights, three-way revenue sharing for the !Xaus Lodge, socio-economic benefits, for example, for the soon to be developed Auob Lodge in a 50:50 profit sharing agreement and SANParks donation of game to the Khomani San. SANParks was responsible for daily conservation management. Challenges included the capacity within claimant communities to manage projects and reaching agreement on cultural resource in the Park. Successes included in agreement in principle on cultural resource use, development of a sustainable wildlife economy project on San land and a well functioning joint management board.

Ms Lukele outlined that another restoration and development model was the Makuleke land claim in the Kruger National Park where the land was restored to the Makuleke community in 1999 through a 50 year contractual agreement which would be reviewed after 25 years. The joint management board comprised of SANParks and the Makuleke CPA. There were three lodge concessions on the Makuleke land with the agreement being between the Makuleke CPA and the concessionaries. The Makuleke CPA was responsible for projects including agricultural projects outside the park (crop and chicken farming), building of a primary school and eco-tourism development. Challenges included achieving a balance between conservation and developmental issues and communication from the joint management board to the claimant community. A threat was that the Makuleke community could withdraw their land from the Kruger National Park with just five years notice. Successes included that the joint management board was starting to operate smoothly and that full time jobs were being created.

An example of the alternative, land swap and beneficiation model was the QwaQwa land claimants in Golden Gate Highlands National Park – the SANParks Board recommended alternative land and land swap in parts of the GGHNP. The claimants will continue with livestock grazing in the identified land swap while proposed settlement will include the purchase of additional land for the claimants by the Land Commission. Once the additional land had been acquired, SANParks will provide game donations in order for the claimants to engage in wildlife economic development.

The financial and beneficiation model was used for the remainder of the Kruger National Park land claims – the model was based on the 2008 Cabinet decision where alternative redress was the only option for the Kruger National Park claimants and there was no restoration of title in the Park. Phase one of the settlement was signed on 21 May 2016 – the model provided for financial compensation and a beneficiation scheme providing claimants with an interest in the business of the Park. Six communities had agreed to financial compensation of R110 000 per household in lieu of improvements to land – this amounted to a lump sum per claimant community in lieu of historical land value. A beneficiation scheme was also agreed to between parties. The beneficiation scheme, however, still needed to be approved by the Board of SANParks and agreed to between the parties which included the claimants, Department of Land Reform and Rural Development, Department of Environmental Affairs and SANParks. The model would be geared towards providing claimants with an outgoing income flow as well as business and investment opportunities. There was a proposal for 1% of tourism income from the Kruger National Park to be allocated to a central claimant fund with an additional 10% of the profit being for the forthcoming Skukuza Safari Lodge. There would also be additional business opportunities, for example, game drive opportunities and equity in concessions in the Kruger National Park.

Ms Lukele concluded by noting that potential existed for extending the benefit sharing models to other claims. SANParks was engaging with the Riemvasmaak Trust with a view to developing a Wildlife Economy initative on the Melkbosrand property at the Augrabies Fall National Park. A developmental approach will be followed wherever possible in resolving land claims in conjunction with the Department of Environmental Affairs and the Land Commission.

Mr Mketeni added that this was a dynamic process – impact of initiatives – need for balancing moving forward

iSimangaliso Wetland Park Land Claims Framework
Ms Terri Castis, iSimangaliso Wetland Park Acting CEO, noted that iSimangaliso had 14 land claims – three were settled between 1998 and 2002, others were settled in 2005 while the rest of the claims remained unsettled. In terms of the framework for settlement of claims in iSimangaliso, with the Department of Land Reform and Rural Development, there were settlement of claims through a 42D settlement agreement – the 42D settlement agreement was provision for co-management agreements to be signed with iSimangaliso. Co-management agreements were consistent with section 42 of the Protected Areas Act and there were eight co-management agreements signed.

With the co-management capacity building framework, the first phase was a co-management agreement component followed by conservation and livelihood and economic development opportunities components. iSimangaliso, as an authority accountable for the government mandate, was involved in the framework along with the land claims trusts where, in terms of governance, the trusts were an organisational function, were accountable to land claimants and represented on the Board of iSimangaliso. Responsibilities of the trusts included owning and supporting the conservation strategy, understanding of tourism development, wise investment on behalf of land owners, nomination of a representative for the Board, local plans and annual co-management plan.
Benefits of co-management included access, natural (biological and land) resource use, representation on the Board, revenue sharing, equity, local economic development, craft, cultural heritage, art programmes, tourism skills, procurement, land care, infrastructure, tourism contracts and bursaries. Other benefits included asset ownership, revenue sharing of gate and concession fees and game sales, ownership of tourism activities and being equity partners in large developments – equity partnerships were seen in the Thonga Beach Lodge, Rocktail Bay Beach Camp and Mabibi Camp where equity ranged from 17.5% to 60%. 

Ms Castis outlined that secondary enterprises included crafts, arts, rural enterprises, operational jobs, Extended Public Works Programme jobs (infrastructure and land care) and capacity building (work based and vocational).

In terms of asset governance, there was Board representation of land claimants and amakhosi, co-management agreements, structures and training and a higher education access programme.
Challenges included the payment of money under the existing settlement agreements in question, the value of payment did not take into account the economic potential of the land (for example the wilderness) and the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform strategy to access funds was not yet operational or clear.

Ms H Kekana (ANC) appreciated the pictures included in the presentation which represented happiness and restoration in the Kalahari. She asked what aspects of capacity were looked at before SANParks considered donating animals to the communities.

Mr Mketeni explained that with capacity, it was always easy to work with organised structures in communities. What was also wanted was strong leadership and to work with partners who understood the benefits - this allowed for better interfacing with the communities. The current challenge was the change in leadership when consistency and stability was always key in engaging.

Ms H Nyambi (ANC) appreciated the good work done by the officials of the entities especially in terms of community involvement when getting resources from the parks. With the communities working in the gardens, did those people have a market or were the entities assisting them in getting a market because in most cases there were problems with transport? With the issuing of bursaries, she asked if the students would be assisted with future employment in the parks. What was SANParks view on long-term community involvement of wildlife management over the next 10 to 20 years? She noted that in all presentations, a consistent challenge was that communities lacked management capacity – how were the entities assisting the communities with this challenge in order to develop capacity to manage?

Mr Mketeni noted that with bursaries, the wish and ideal would be for tourism and park managers to come from the local community along with those who provided technical services, maintenance and even scientists. These were the type of bursaries given to students to get involved in sectors like  tourism, conservation and even engineering. The criteria for the bursaries were for relevant positions to manage the national parks moving forward. In the future, land use compatibility was aimed for because it made matters easier – with different, dynamic land uses, there was conflict like with the issue of fences. There were cultural differences and different ways of looking at matters but it was always good for people to see what was working in terms of cost benefit analysis and return on investment. 

Ms Lukele added that with access to markets, SANParks facilitated this and assisted in the growth of enterprises. Most of the people provided with access to the resources were the local communities through structured community forums.

Ms Castis explained that with the bursars in the case of iSimangaliso, work place experience was offered during the holidays and internships. One of the big challenges with bursaries was with feeder schools – iSimangaliso was now looking at the schools and ways to improve maths and science results to get more students into university and qualifying for universities especially in the less successful areas. 

Ms J Edwards (DA) noted that there was a lot of media attention some time ago about some animals that escaped from the Kruger National Park and she wanted more information around this. On the donation of animals, she questioned the specific process SANParks undertook when animals were donated. Were there many applications for donations? Would SANParks donate animals before they considered culling or what was the process in this regard? She noted that a while back, SANParks was experiencing challenges with elephants in the Kruger – if the elephants were culled, what was done with their tusks? She also asked what kind of animals was donated.

Mr Mketeni responded that animals were still getting out of the park especially when fences in the western Kruger boundary were broken but SANParks was managing this together with the Department of Agriculture in terms of disease control. As a result, a compensation scheme was introduced when people lost livestock as a result of the animals escaping but it was so difficult t manage because the damage was to be inspected and to ensure that the animal did indeed come from Kruger.

The Chairperson noticed that the models were different between iSimangaliso and SANParks in terms of the representation of the land claimants – in what form were the claimants represented? Were they ordinary members of the board or did they play a special role considering that other members of the board were appointed through a different process? He was interested in understanding further the structure of the board and how it was constituted. He was also interested in the issue of donation and wanted to know which animals were donated and which was the best model in terms of culling vis-a-vis donation.

Mr Mketeni stated that in terms of donations, SANParks looked at land use suitability and land use viability. Inspections were done because one did not want to introduce an animal that did not belong there. It was important that the fencing was also adequate to prevent the animals from being stolen or killed after they were donated. SANParks, ideally, would like to look at donating before culling but there were issues of creating corridors and establishing new populations but the issue of land availability was key and this was where SANParks played a nurturing and guiding role. SANParks was not yet looking at elephant culling but the day that was considered, the entity would first address the Committee because the issue was very controversial and polarised. SANParks was flooded by many requests for donations and an adjudication committee was then established, and headed by Mr Daphne, to assess each request individually and conduct follow ups before final approval. It was important that the process was tightly managed. SANParks had noticed that people were looking for high value species, like the nyala, sable and buffalo because these animals were selling one and earned a high return on investment and because of breeding trends. These species were however also few in the parks themselves. SANParks encouraged people to start with small animals first, like impala and kudu, because it was less risky to manage and less expensive.

The Chairperson indicated that he was following a story of donation of high-value species in the North West. While it might not be in the responsibility of SANParks, he wanted their thoughts on this widely reported story or whether it was best responded to by the provinces. He thought it was a matter that the Committee might take up.

Mr Mketeni, being frank, thought the process was started in the wrong manner which explained why the adjudication committee was started in SANParks to defend their decisions. He was worried when he read about the North West in the newspapers – it might also be best to hear a response from the province itself.

Mr Daphne added that the issue in the North West raised false expectations and was a process SANParks did not follow. SANParks differentiated communities from individuals when the province donated to individuals. When SANParks received requests or initiated contact proactively, this was with communities where the entity had a long term relationship with the communities. Set criteria were evaluated and a number of visits were made to the property with wildlife specialists and community development specialists to assess if the community was ready or if institutional development support would have to be provided by SANParks before the donation. This community process was different from the one used for individuals where animals had not yet been donated to any individuals. SANParks was approaching the process with individuals carefully, somewhat similar to a tender process. SANParks did not want to engage with super rich individuals or those who had nothing in terms of land and capacity. Once the rigorous process was followed, SANParks would enter into a loan or custodian relationship with the individual for the entity to maintain ownership of the base herd while the prodigy would belong to the individual. Over a certain time, the base load heard would then be donated to someone else to maximise support.  What was done in the North West created difficulties for government as a whole in terms of the transforming and growing the wildlife economy to bring in communities and emerging game ranches. Government would also not be able to afford to go the route that North West did – SANParks believed that there must be proper process and assessment.

The Chairperson thought the matter required follow up which the Committee would do. 

Mr S Makhubele (ANC) questioned the extent of fronting experienced by both entities in terms of economic development. He also wanted to know what the opportunities were for the SMMEs to grow, develop and move on from being a SMME. He was interested in the uses of the parks and questioned the profile of the people who had access to some of the parks uses – was there fair access to uses by those interested or were they even aware that this access was possible? The Committee also needed to know that communities were not exploited in the different models but that communities had a meaningful share in the wildlife. He also suggested that instead of having different models for different communities that there a standard model. He asked how local communities were defined and to what radius communities were considered local. How did SANParks and iSimangaliso calculate the value of the land paid to claimants? He highlighted the 2008 Cabinet decision – if communities still wanted to claim the land, was there legal basis to provide an alternative compensation?

The Chairperson understood the 2008 Cabinet decision as saying that if communities claimed land for example in the Kruger National Park, the only model, according to the decision, was financial compensation because the actual land could not be restored but the entities could elaborate on this.

Mr Mketeni said SANParks was watching these issues hence it was important to ensure the land was there before animals were donated but there was always a risk. Fronting was always checked for by SANParks because of the liabilities especially with the high-value species. The entity would like to standardise in terms of models but policies, criteria and guidelines were being developed for standardisation. SANParks was still distinguishing between claimant communities and neighbours and engagement was slightly different between the two. There still needed to be a legal definition in terms of who was considered a neighbour to the park but for now SANParks looked at administrative boundaries. 

Ms Mhlongo added that with the 2008 Cabinet decision, the Restitution Act allowed for restoration of the land or equitable redress and Cabinet opted for the latter. The Act also allowed for no restoration if the land was in national interest –land in the Kruger Park was in the national interest.

On the issue of forestry land, Mr Daphne explained that there were both indigenous as well as mountain catchment areas in the Garden Route and SANParks took over from the then Department of Agriculture and Forestry in terms of some staff and community programmes. To his knowledge SANParks did not stop any of those programmes but had proceeded with them in a SANParks context. There was a large community outreach programme in the Garden Route – SANParks however was not able to succeed in the harvesting of trees in the indigenous forest which was started by the then Department of Agriculture and Forestry.

Ms Castis responded to the question on the board and explained that there were categories from which the Minister could appoint people from. With claimants and traditional councils, two people were nominated to the Minister from each and the Minister would then recommend an appointment through the normal Cabinet process as part of the board. These members would have the same voting rights as any other member. On the issue of fronting, iSimangaliso was very rigorous – before anything was awarded, the shareholder agreements and financing arrangements were looked at to satisfy the entity that there was no pretending. Provisions were also placed in the contracts of iSimangaliso so that ownership arrangements did not change without notice etc. along with a monitoring process. With SMMEs, a lot of the entrants were survivalist and a certain portion would stay that way. However when growth was seen, there were streams for those able to make it into bigger enterprises and companies for a different kind of attention. In terms of defining communities, iSimangaliso looked for communities in the district municipality with preference for claimants then those in traditional councils. Proof had to be provided to enable the benefiting of these communities along the boundary of the park – that was where the real need was. With claim amounts, iSimangaliso looked at economic potential in terms of the number of facilities which can be built and the number of activities which could be operated because this would generate revenue for the claimants. In the high density nodes the potential was much higher than in the wilderness nodes.

The Chairperson felt the Committee received, from the briefings, a sense of the role national parks were playing in the communities where they were located. The information received would be taken and at this point, the Committee was pleased with the role national parks were playing especially in the communities in which they were located. He liked the concept of a wildlife economy where communities and emerging entrepreneurs were able to participate.
On the issue of species donations, the Committee agreed that the matter should be followed up with through another briefing.

Draft Committee Minutes dated 23 August 2016
After going through the draft minutes page by page, having already been circulated to the Members, one minor amendment was noted for incorrect wording.

The amended minutes dated 23 August 2016 were moved for adoption by Ms Nyambi while the motion was seconded by Ms Kekana.

The meeting was adjourned.

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