Briefing on Fynbos Heritage and Valley Bushveld Thicket


25 September 2001
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Meeting Summary

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Meeting report

This Report is a Contact Natural Resource Information Service
Taking Parliament to People, and People to Parliament


The aim of this report is to summarise the main events at the meeting and identify the key role players. This report is not a verbatim transcript of proceedings.

25 September 2001

Ms G. Mahlangu

Documents handed out:
STEP - Subtropical Thicket Ecosystem Planning: the Step Project

The Committee was briefed by two organisations engaged in biodiversity conservation: Cape Action Plan for the Environment (CAPE) and Subtropical Thicket Ecosystem Planning (STEP). The presenters briefed the Committee on the goals, objects and key activities of their organisations. The Committee Members were given an opportunity to comment and ask questions. The discussions centered on the importance of conservation, the need for increased levels of cooperation and the participation of communities.

Ms G. Mahlangu (ANC), as Chairperson, opened the meeting and began by dispensing with certain in-house matters. She stated that the Committee's concern over the fact that the date of the Parliamentary Debate did not correspond with the World Tourism Day had been expressed to Party Whips. She stated that the debate was taking place as previously announced on Wednesday, 26 September 2001. She also stated that the Committee was not sending delegations to Iran for the World Tourism Day event being held there, but added that the Committee would send its support. On the issue of the Waste Summit, the Chairperson stated that Ms Ndzanga would lead a delegation on behalf of the Committee. On the issue of discrepancies in the Committee's finances, she stated that she had discovered additional discrepancies and was following up the issue.

CAPE - Cape Action Plan for the Environment: A Strategic Partnership for Sustainable Development in the Cape Floral Kingdom
Mr T. Sandwith, coordinator of CAPE, briefed the Committee on the aims, objectives and actions of the Cape Action Plan for the Environment (CAPE). He stated that the goal in twenty years time was to: conserve the biodiversity of the kingdom; restore wherever appropriate; and deliver significant benefits to the people of the region. He added that CAPE needed support and capacity to do the work. Mr Sandwith then looked at the threat faced by ecosystems and asked what could be done to diminish the threat. He stated that the three key activities were conserving biodiversity in priority areas, using resources in a sustainable manner and strengthening the institutions of governance and involving people in the processes.

Mr Sandwich then discussed conservation of priority areas. He stated that strengthening biodiversity through an effective protected area network was the key and used the Kogelberg Biosphere Reserve as an illustration. He stated that bioregional planning could be supported through enhancing biodiversity. He then discussed sustainable use of resources and asked how resource use could be made sustainable. He stated that sustainable nature-based tourism could be promoted through developing an effective strategy for nature-based tourism and promoting pilot projects. He added that mega-reserves offered massive investment opportunities. He then proceeded to discuss institutions and governance. He stated that the key issues were alignment and mobilization of key players, building capacity and will of implementers and local benefits and actions.

He then proceeded to discuss the relationship between biodiversity conservation and socio-economic development. He stated that the two issues were closely connected and that biodiversity should be the platform for development. He stated that it had the potential to bridge gaps and bring people together to work. He summarised the key actions of CAPE as reaching agreement to focus direction of parties, engaging stakeholders, introducing coordination, designing projects and obtaining funding. He stated that the proposal for the preparatory grant was being finalised and would be submitted to the Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism to be endorsed by 30 September 2001. He stated that CAPE was actively engaged in these key activity areas. In conclusion, he stated that the Cape eco-region had a unique opportunity and required strategic partnerships.

Mr M. Moss (ANC) expressed his excitement with the presentation. He stated that it was important to be concerned about small patches of protected areas. He related his observation of the development of private nature reserves not included in the protected areas. He asked what was being done to engage local government and how the local authorities could be engaged to further conservation.

Mr Sandwith responded by stating that local authorities should put together plans and strategies. He stated that the agencies had extension staff in areas such as agriculture and environment and he added that the goal was to bring the various parts together to work in a coordinated manner. He stated that finding the balance and establishing cooperation would be in the hands of landowners and local authorities.

Ms J. Chalmers (ANC) related her observations of income earning activity in Flower Valley. She stated that local communities had become aware of the value of conserving their environment. She stated that positive nature-based economic initiatives such as those in Flower Valley could be started but she added that a holistic interaction between the various actors and sectors was necessary such as establishing transportation to allow the initiatives to export.

Mr Sandwith replied that it was important to ensure that trading networks were strong and would grant facility to enable investment at local level.

Mr J. Le Roux (New NP) commented on the importance of incentives and stated that they should be taken seriously.

Ms L. Mbuyazi (IFP) expressed her agreement with other Committee Members' statements on the value of the presentation. She asked Mr Sandwith to elaborate on the issue of mega-reserves. She also commented on the training of tour guides and its role in poverty relief. She then stated that local people's knowledge of the environment was important and asked how it could be incorporated into conservation efforts.

Mr Sandwith stated that the goal of CAPE was to bring parties together. He stated that mega-reserves were parts of land which had previously not been disturbed. He stated that programmes worked best when all levels of government worked together. He stated that the areas in need of protection were often in marginalized areas and that it was necessary to be bold and take steps to conserve these areas. He added that involving local people was part of the process because conservation would take place at the local level.

Mr R. September (ANC) stated that he was pleased with the presentation. He stated that this type of approach was needed to deal with the problems. He continued by commenting on up-market development on the beaches. He stated that private parties were trying to reserve development areas for themselves and would displace the poor who depended on the environment. Referring to a conference held last year that was mentioned by Mr Sandwith, he asked how many of the participants had been people of colour.

Mr Sandwith stated that there was a great deal more that needed to be done to bridge economic and colour divides. He stated that poor people suffered most from degraded environments and would benefit immensely from conservation efforts. He stated that CAPE's work was with local communities and other stakeholders and stated that ideas were always welcome.

The Chairperson encouraged further interaction and exchange of ideas between Committee Members and Mr Sandwith. She stated she would work to establish an information resource room for the Committee to allow Members to have access to the wealth of information available.

STEP - Subtropical Thicket Ecosystem Planning: The STEP Project
Ms A. Younge, a Consultant with STEP, presented the objects and programme aims of STEP. She stated that the Thicket Biome, also known as the Valley Bushveld or Valley Thicket, was a national conservation priority. She stated that STEP was funded by the Global Environment Fund through the World Bank and was managed by the Terrestrial Ecology Research Unit at the University of Port Elizabeth. To elaborate on the significance of the biome, Ms Younge stated that the Thicket Biome was one of the seven biomes in South Africa and covered the south-eastern part of South Africa (from the Western Cape to KwaZulu-Natal). She stated that the biome was not a coherent chunk of land and added that the STEP study focal area was the Eastern/Western Cape. She stated that unlike the Fynbos, the Thicket Biome depended on indigenous animals for its survival so would therefore offer opportunities for game reserves and tourism. In discussing the project's planning domain, she stated that the project did not cover the entire domain but the goal was to develop a method/approach that could be extended to the entire biome.

Ms Younge then proceeded to discuss the threats to the Thicket Biome. She stated that overgrazing (mainly from goats), clearing of the land for agriculture, pasture and development and invasion by alien plans were the major threats. She then proceeded to discuss the object and aims of STEP. She stated that the object was to work closely with stakeholders. She stated that the aims were: spatial analysis of thicket types; assessment of extent and types of transmission; looking at the adequacy of protected areas; locating and designing protected area projects; building capacity in Geographic Information Systems (GIS) based conservation planning for land management agencies; and providing guidance to private and public actors in land use. In discussing the approach taken by STEP, Ms Younge stated that the focus was on stakeholder participation and added that there was no exclusion, involvement was to suit needs and there was consultation at every stage.

She then proceeded to discuss the key interest groups, which included all levels of governments, commercial areas (agriculture, tourism and game farming), communal areas and conservation agencies. In discussing the benefits to the government from STEP, she stated that the mapping of sensitive areas would be an invaluable support in conservation planning. She stated that the outputs of STEP were mapping of sensitive areas, conservation planning tool and effective reserve network design and would have inputs to environmental impact assessments, land use decisions, Departmental plans, Integrated Development Plans, and priorities for conservation work and land acquisition. In addressing the issue of disadvantaged people, she stated that there was a need to look at communal areas. She stated that communal areas that were closest to sensitive areas were the poorest areas and that discussions held on the issue revealed important information on threats to the biome.

She continued her presentation stating that these discussions had revealed that agriculture was not a threat to the Thicket Biome, but the combination of high population growth and poverty was a threat. She stated that the implications for conservation were that it was apparent that limiting access to the areas without providing alternative income earning avenues would meet resistance. She stated that the consultation process on the results revealed that communities were seeing the opportunities for nature-based ventures and pointed out that STEP should identify the key areas. She added that the initiatives would need support and funds. In conclusion, she outlined the way forward and listed the workshops planned by STEP for 2002 and 2003.

Mr E. Moorcroft (DP) asked what liaison existed between STEP and other entities with conservation interests.

Ms Younge stated that STEP had a relationship with other agencies involved in conservation.

Mr Moss stated that workshops should be inclusive and should involve not only planners, but Councilors and even schools.

Ms Younge stated that STEP had made presentations to municipalities with Councilors and planners. She stated that they had worked with agencies that produced posters for schools. She added that areas such as the participation of traditional leaders would need more work.

Mr Le Roux commended the presentation and asked about the degraded areas. He asked if degradation of these areas continued and if anything could be done to stop the degradation.

Ms Younge stated that the February 2002 workshop would address commercial farmers. She stated that at this stage, the focus for STEP was on research. She added that improving decisions on the ground level would be a long-term goal and incentives project would be the key in achieving that goal.

Ms Chalmers asked if the public was involved and if STEP was informing people on their plans and actions. She also wanted to know if the briefings with local government were done in a way that would change the attitudes.

Ms Younge stated that it was difficult to change attitudes without the raw data on the area and added that behaviors and attitudes would not change overnight. She stated that preparatory actions needed to be taken to inform people on the aims and objectives of STEP. But she stated that mapping the area was the key. She stated that STEP planned to distribute the maps to municipalities next year and added that the map would provide valuable information on the area and people would be trained on how to use the information.

Ms Mbuyazi told of a similar project in the St. Lucia wetlands and added that capacity building of local government and traditional leaders was needed there also. She then asked if the timeframe for the workshops STEP planned to conduct would clash with the World Summit on Sustainable Development.

Ms Younge stated that the timing of the capacity building workshops STEP planned to conduct would not clash with the World Summit. She continued and stated that eco-regional planning was new in the world and was supported by the World Wildlife Fund and Conservation International. She added that South Africa's CAPE project was the most advanced of its kind and internationally groundbreaking. She added that it addressed participation aspects uniquely and used C-plan, a powerful and innovative planning tool.

Mr Sandwith continued with the issue of the World Summit and stated that there was an upcoming conference in November in Miami. He stated that it was necessary to lobby through organisations to get onto the agenda of the World Summit and added that the conference in Miami would serve to raise interest of organisations. He added that exhibitions would be the best route to exposing successful projects in South Africa. He stated that the lead up was more important than the actual Summit. He also stated that there was a Parks Summit in 2003 to be held in Durban, which would give South Africa the opportunity to showcase the successes of the various projects.

The Chairperson continued with the discussion on the World Summit and asked who the drivers of the agenda were and what issues would be on it. She stated that the process seemed transparent. She stated that the people coming to the Summit should not leave South Africa without seeing the successes South Africa had achieved. She stated that the Committee planned to hold lectures for Parliamentarians of the southern Africa region to prepare them for the Summit.

Mr Moss related an experience he had while addressing school children. He stated that, in his talk to the school children, he stated that it was important to encourage and plant indigenous plants and eliminate exotic plants and he added that a Professor had attacked him for his position on exotic plants. He asked the presenters for their views on exotic plants.

Mr Sandwith stated that the issue in South Africa was invasive alien species. He stated that there were beneficial plants and added that promoting indigenous trees was essential. He stated that starting with children was the key.

The Chairperson stated that beginning with children was the right route.

The Chairperson introduced Mr F. Rodgers, the liaison between the Portfolio Committee and the Minister's Office, and stated that the session had been informative. She also welcomed Dr Cachalia (ANC), a new member of the Committee, and invited Mr Moorcroft to welcome Dr Cachalia.

Mr Moorcroft stated that the Committee was pleased to have Dr Cachalia join them and added that he hoped Dr Cachalia would enjoy taking part in the Committee.

The Chairperson gave the floor to Dr G. Cowan from the Department to say a few words before concluding the meeting.

Dr G. Cowan (DEAT) reiterated the importance of retaining and emphasizing indigenous species and also retaining knowledge of how to use them. He stated that the unique planning process used by STEP and CAPE was not limited to these two projects and added that the KwaZulu-Natal Province had also started similar projects. He stated that the approach had been made part of the environment plan and would be incorporated into the Biodiversity Bill. He concluded by stating that the CAPE and STEP projects were an example to be shared with the world.

The Chairperson thanked the presenters and the meeting adjourned.

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