Minister Molewa announces R1, 7 billion investment for People and Parks programme

26 August 2018

The Minister of Environmental Affairs, Dr Edna Molewa, has announced that government will invest R1.7 billion for the People and Parks Programme projects, Bioprospecting and wildlife economy thorough the Environmental Protection and Infrastructure Programme over a period of three years. The investment will be made as part of the Operation Phakisa Biodiversity Economy initiative. 

Minister Molewa was addressing the 8th People and Parks conference currently underway in the Vhembe District of Limpopo Province. The conference was officially opened by President Cyril Ramaphosa, who officiated over the Biodiversity Economy Innovation Conference on Saturday 25 August. 

It is during the conference that Minister Molewa also called on South African communities, particularly those living in the close proximity to nature reserved and other protected areas, to support conservation initiatives.

“South Africa’s natural resources can only be properly conserved if there is support from communities living adjacent to protected areas for these initiatives, and from communities who benefit from natural resources on a day-to-day basis,” said Minister Molewa.

This year’s conference seeks to profile the Biodiversity Economy as an investment ready platform through which the national imperatives of job creation, inequality and economic growth are addressed.  This as we are guided by the principles of sustainable utilization of the country’s biological indigenous resources

South Africa is home to more than 9 million hectares of protected areas network, which includes national parks, nature reserves and world heritage sites, equating to about 8% of the country’s land. These protected areas, among other things, serve as sites for conserving South Africa’s ecosystems, protection of high biodiversity value and provision of ecosystem services. Most of these protected areas are geographically located in rural areas, forming an integral system with rural communities whose livelihoods and cultures are closely dependent on.

The People and Parks Programme is an initiative of the Department of Environmental Affairs that promotes interface between conservation and communities in South African protected areas. It is one of the Department’ Programmes that do not only create much needed job opportunities for South Africans, but also provides tangible economic and social benefits for communities.

“The programme is a continued reflection of the government’s commitment to putting its people at the forefront of biodiversity conservation. It also provides a platform through which individuals, government role-players, conservation agencies, and non-governmental organisations are able to engage with communities living in and around protected areas. Through this broad-based engagement, we are giving effect to the principle of collective ownership - with due regard to the reality that communities were displaced to make way for protected areas during apartheid,” said Minister Molewa.

It is through the People and Parks Programme that the DEA is actively involved in restoring and maintaining natural ecosystems to stimulate rural economies; upgrading and developing new infrastructure in protected areas to boost tourism, developing commercial assets for communities owning and/or living around protected areas while supporting related industries.

Minister Molewa has encouraged more than 500 delegates representing communities living adjacent to protected areas, conservation authorities, non-governmental organisations, civic organisations, academic institutions, traditional leaders and land owners to make resolutions that be able to contribute to the growth of the country’s biodiversity economy.

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