Minister Edna Molewa welcomes the declaration of the Marico UNESCO Biosphere Reserve

30 July 2018


The Minister of Environmental Affairs, Dr Edna Molewa, has welcomed the approval of the Marico area as a United Nations, Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Biosphere Reserve.

UNESCO International Coordinating Council members voted in favour of the inclusion of the Marico Biosphere Reserve at meeting in Palembang, Indonesia, on 25 July 2018. 

“The positive response to the application is most encouraging ecologically, not just for us, as a country, but also for the people of the region as this is an important water catchment area for Limpopo River that supplies water to various countries,” said Minister Molewa.

The Marico Biosphere Reserve – South Africa’s 10th Biosphere Reserve which been designated by UNESCO - is one of South Africa’s prime eco-tourism regions which this international designation status will boost its ecotourism potential, thereby increasing economic opportunities for local communities. It is an area rich in terrestrial, and fresh water ecosystems where conservation of the rich biodiverse region is ably reconciled with sustainable use practices.

Minister Molewa said this area also held significant cultural and political historical value.  The site is where the former President Jacob Zuma and other uMkhonto weSizwe recruits were arrested by apartheid police in 1963 as they made their way to Botswana.

The Marico Biosphere Reserve, encompassing 447 268.48 ha, is situated in North West Province and falls within the Bojanala and Ngaka Modiri District Municipalities. The Reserve is characterised by the dolomitic aquifers that underlie much of the area and gives rise to three river systems -- the Marico River, the Molopo River and the Molemane River. The Molemane River feeds into the Klein-Marico River (“Small” Marico River) which later feeds into the Marico River, outside of the proposed Marico BR boundaries. The Marico River, in turn, feeds into the Limpopo River, which serves four countries namely South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe and Mozambique. Marico River is one of the cleanest and healthiest rivers in South Africa, it is significant in the provision of water to the Limpopo River systems.

Biosphere Reserves are national sites of terrestrial and marine ecosystems designated under UNESCO.

“These are areas that are much more than “protected areas” and form an integral part of a regional planning and development strategy aimed at promoting sustainable development and conservation. They conserve diversity and integrity of plants, animals and micro-organism; Promote research on ecological conservation and other environmental aspects and also provide facilities for education, awareness and training,” said Minister Molewa.

The announcement of the Marico Biosphere Reserves comes a year after the Garden Route was included as a Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO.  Biosphere Reserves in South Africa include the Kogelberg, Cape West Coast, Cape Winelands and Gouritz Cluster in the Western Cape, and the Waterberg, Kruger-to-Canyons,  Magaliesberg and Vhembe.

The aim of a Biosphere Reserve is to achieve integrated management of terrestrial land, fresh and marine waters and living organisms, by putting in place bioregional planning schemes, based on integrating conservation of biological diversity into sustainable development through the appropriate zonation. Such zonation includes strictly protected areas as core, typically surrounded by buffer zones where conservation is emphasized, but where people also live and work, and the whole is surrounded by a transition area, or area of co-operation, which promotes sustainable development. In the nutshell, Biosphere Reserves are places where people share a way of living harmony with nature.

Biosphere reserves are voluntarily nominated by national governments and remain under the sovereign jurisdiction of the states where they are located. Their status is internationally recognised.  

South African delegation led by Mr Caiphus Khumalo (Director for Protected Areas Governance in the Department of Environmental Affairs and Dr Poncho Mokaila, Head of Department of North West Provincial Department of Rural, Environment and Agricultural Development.

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Albi Modise
Cell: 083 490 2871