Monday, 11 June 2001 witnessed an important development in regional cooperation between South Africa and Lesotho as the Minister of Environmental Affairs and Tourism, Valli Moosa, together with his counterpart in Lesotho, Mrs Mathabiso Lepono, Minister of Environment, Gender and Youth Affairs, signed a historic Memorandum of Understanding between the two countries to establish the Maloti-Drakensberg Transfrontier Conservation Area.
This follows just a few months since the establishment of the Gaza-Kruger-Gonarezhou Transfrontier Park between Mozambique, Zimbabwe and South Africa.
The Maloti-Drakensberg TFCA comprises 8 113 square kilometres, made up of 5 170 square kilometres (64%) in Lesotho and 2 943 square kilometres (36%) in South Africa. It is a transboundary initiative that forms an important component of the Millennium Africa Recovery Programme (MAP) and provides both opportunities and challenges for the sustainable development of South Africa and Lesotho, in particular, and for the rest of southern Africa and Africa.
The Maloti-Drakensberg TFCA is an integrative programme that includes a transfrontier conservation area, a World Heritage Site, which was inscribed on UNESCO's World Heritage List in December 2000, and a tourism-based spatial development initiative (SDI).
Key to this initiative is to manage the area as an undivided ecosystem for the benefit of biological diversity, cultural heritage, research, tourism and the communities of the two countries, and thereby enhancing the region's overall development.
The implementation of the project will enhance the protection of the exceptional biodiversity of the Maloti-Drakensberg Mountains through conservation, sustainable resource use, and land-use and development planning.