Arm in Arm – Linking Conservation Managers and Local Communities to Achieve Conservation Goals
As global demands for natural resources increases, so then do the pressures exerted on ecosystems increase. The developing ecological deficit is reaching critical levels to the point where ecosystems are unable to deliver valuable services such as water to meet human demands. This is particularly the case in semi-arid countries such as South Africa, which continues to experience extreme water shortages and periods of severe drought. The uMzimvubu Catchment Partnership Programme (UCPP) in the Eastern Cape aims to conserve the river system through sustainable restoration and maintenance of the catchment. As a catchment, it is ranked third out of the 148 secondary catchments draining South Africa based on the proportion of strategic water source areas (SWSAs). It showcases exciting water governance partnerships regarding catchment management and water use through collaborative conservation of ecological infrastructure. It is a critical water resource and an important economic hub, yet catchment areas continue to experience considerable declines in water quality and water supply, coupled with the fast-growing population. This study presents findings from a holistic, catchment-based spatial analysis conducted through collaboration with Conservation South Africa (CSA), a key stakeholder of the UCPP. Outcomes highlight catchment areas for prioritising catchment management interventions through protection, restoration and stakeholder co-engagement to promote water-related services and to safeguard freshwater biodiversity patterns and processes by linking people and ecological infrastructure under the banner of “healthy catchments, healthy rivers, healthy people”.