Biodiversity Stewardship and Securing Critical Biodiversity Areas
Emily Taylor – Endangered Wildlife Trust
Noza Mathebula – Gauteng Department of Agriculture and Rural Development
The Gauteng Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (GDARD) is committed to protecting the biodiversity and habitats remaining in Gauteng, and in August 2015, it established a partnership with the Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT) to launch the Gauteng Biodiversity Stewardship Programme (GBSP), funded by the WWF Nedbank Green Trust. The GBSP target was to publish intent to declare notices for 5,000 hectares of natural habitat as protected areas, under the National Environmental Management: Protected Areas Act No 57 of 2003 (NEM: PAA), using biodiversity stewardship (BDS) as a mechanism to do so. The programme was also intended to ensure that the stewardship processes were entrenched within the department, and that GDARD was capacitated to continue to implement stewardship in the long-term. The programme managed to meet double its area target through the publication of intent to declare notices for three sites, with a combined hectarage of 10,634. Through extensive consultation with GDARD’s Scientific Services (SS) and Corporate Legal Services (CLS), the GBSP has also ensured that stewardship processes are successfully streamlined and institutionalised within GDARD, and that all involved are capacitated and motivated to implement BDS. The team attributes its success to the strong GDARD- EWT partnership, transparent and respectful engagement with landowners, maintaining a constant presence in the landscape, and following through on every promise and commitment made. To maintain the momentum achieved, the GDARD and the EWT will form a strategic partnership to facilitate the EWT’s continued support for BDS implementation in Gauteng, and collaboration on other projects. The partners will convene a multi-stakeholder GBSP Working Group to comprehensively address the challenges and key lessons learned over the course of the programme, which will facilitate continued capacity development within the GDARD, and coordinate efforts for effective post declaration support to stewardship sites.