Arm in Arm – Linking Conservation Managers and Local Communities to Achieve Conservation Goals
Communities living along the Maloti Drakensberg mountain watershed north of Matatiele in the Eastern Cape (former Transkei) are significantly dependent on spring and surface water for their daily domestic potable supply. Pumped reticulated supplies are unreliable at best, largely due to technical, resourcing and management challenges faced by the district water source authority. This montane grassland area is rich in surface seeps and small streams, where the Umzimvubu drainage system rises before winding its way to the Indian Ocean at Port St Johns. The region is also heavily impacted by invasive alien plants, mainly silver and black wattle, which severely compromise these water sources and the ecological infrastructure in the area through their thirsty habits. Limited resources for tackling water access and ecosystem services security actions, like alien plant removal, grazing management and spring protection, lead to innovative ways for deciding on the lowest hanging fruit for optimal investments, as well as supporting governance-based strategies for ensuring that such investments are maintained. Environmental & Rural Solutions (ERS) has been exploring, together with traditional leadership structures, youth groups and other Umzimvubu catchment partners, how to most effectively prioritise real landscape-based livelihood needs, including spring rehabilitation and grassland recovery to underpin improved livestock production and rangeland stewardship. This has required an interesting reiterative mix of consulting local wisdom trusts, GIS plotting, and field verification phenomenology. This creates a sound platform for implementing NGOs to select sources to most efficiently restore and monitor, in collaboration with local citizens and district authorities. This colourful presentation will share some of the experiences in facilitating responsible, appropriate source selection and monitoring, using a variety of citizen science-friendly tools which involve and enable and local land users.