By NICOLETTE SCROOBY
18 May 2008
ONE of the country’s most pristine areas – the Wild Coast – will receive a cash boost of close to R50 million over the next five years in a bid to conserve the area.
The Wild Coast project, with funding through the United Nations, seeks to establish an effective network of protected areas along one of South Africa’s most scenic routes.
Facilitated by Eastern Cape Parks (ECP) the project plans to:
Project co-ordinator Dr Naomi Mdzeke said the idea was to equip communities in the rural areas with the knowledge to assess for themselves what investments would be good for the area and how to protect the environment they are living in.
“We have moved away from the traditional concept where people are closed out of protected areas. This is a unique concept where communities adjacent to these protected areas will take ownership of the resource and help manage it,” Mdzeke said.
Communities living in the land will still be able to harvest plants for medicinal use, but they will be taught how to do this conservatively.
“There were concerns that very little land is under protection in the Wild Coast. It is an area with so much beauty and has a rich biodiversity with five of the country’s biomes being found here, so we need to protect it,” she said.
Mdzeke said land claims in the area have seen a number of areas being given back to rural communities. “We are trying to encourage the community to use the land in a sustainable way and protect it at the same time,” she said.
The idea is to establish a co-management system between ECP and the communities.
“We want the various community land trusts to get skills in developing the land and attracting the right investments,” Mdzeke said.
“We need eco-tourism activities for the area that are not too disruptive. We don’t want skyscrapers, but rather log cabins,” she added.
The project was first conceptualised in 2000 and six years later funding was provided by the Global Environment Facility (GEF) through the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
Last year the planning and development plans were put in place. Tenders were sent out this week for the various development plans and skills training.
The project will be developed over the next five years.
Each step of the process will be monitored and recorded so the project can be implemented in other parts of the country.
Environmental architect Dave Muller said: “It’s a good plan because the land does belong to the people and this will allow them to derive some form of income. The focus should however be on sustainable income.”