Minister Edna Molewa’s speech at the 6th People and Parks Conference

Dan’s Country Lodge & Event Centre, Umthatha, Eastern Cape Province, 09 September 2014

 

Programme Director,
Premier of the Eastern Cape,
Minister of Rural Development and Land Reform,
Executive Mayor of OR Tambo,
Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee,
Members of the Executive Council,
Chairperson of the Eastern Parks and Tourism Board,
Chief Executive Officers and Heads of Departments,
Distinguished Guests,
Members of the Media,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am proud to be here in uMthatha; particularly during our National Parks Week, in a province with some of the finest natural splendour South Africa is so richly endowed with.

Ten years ago, we held the first People and Parks conference in South Africa: a programme that had its genesis in the World Parks Congress held in Durban in 2003. We have come a long way on our journey of aligning conservation objectives with the needs of communities who are directly affected and impacted by these same initiatives. Today, we have a robust programme underpinned by strong community involvement, to ensure that all the country’s people share in its conservation successes. These are achievements we will be proud to share during the 6th World Parks Congress taking place in Australia in November this year.

In this our 20th year of democracy, we as government have adopted the slogan: Moving South Africa Forward: and in this we have prioritized the integration of communities into the mainstream of conservation and protected areas management. For we can only move forward it we bring the people of South Africa along with us.

People are at the heart of conservation and environmental management. They are its cornerstone, its foundation and its building blocks. Today’s conference – the sixth of its kind, offers government and communities a common platform on which to share, reflect and address mutual challenges in the field of environmental management.

Historically, the establishment of protected conservation areas came at great cost to indigenous and local communities – who were displaced and dispossessed. The People and Parks programme is a means of redress, one of acknowledging the experiences of these communities and ensuring their future participation in and management of these parks.

Because we know that conservation cannot be motivated by ethical considerations alone: it is key to sustainable development, the management of resources: and vitally, a means of livelihood. So any form of redress cannot stop at land restitution alone: it must necessarily be complemented by measures to enable people to fully utilize the benefits of that same land.

With so many South Africans trapped in a cycle of poverty: arguing for protected areas may not seem as viable a prospect as using land for subsistence purposes. But these are not mutually exclusive uses:  sustainable utilization of the land and conservation efforts should co-exist, and function in tandem.

It is for this reason that the sector is profiling the potential of protected areas as a means of revenue generation for the benefit of local communities. Unless local communities receive tangible economic benefits and become part of protected areas management – the concept of conservation will still be regarded as an elitist one.

To further this objective this government, working in partnership and collaboration with communities, has actioned models based on principles of benefit and revenue sharing, capacity building and equity partnerships in the management of protected areas: enabling communities to reap the benefits of ecotourism, among others.

The People and Parks Programme is about more than environmental advocacy: we are also encouraging entities to establish policies and institutional mechanisms that promote community participation, and use social and economic benefits for poverty reduction. Protected areas are important tools for conservation of biological diversity and are the cornerstones for sustainable development strategies.

Our government is committed to facilitating the entry of previously disadvantaged communities into the conservation space.

Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, in the past decade, a number of major milestones have been reached, including five national People and Parks conferences. The imperative for us is the extent to which decisions taken at these gatherings translate into implementation at a local level.

To this end, allow me to highlight to a set of Thematic Areas which direct the implementation of these programmes on an on-going basis: further detail of which may be found in your programme packs.

All our efforts are underpinned by a strong legislative framework. In September 2010 the DEA launched the National Co-management Framework. It provides a coherent national guideline for the co-management of protected areas restored in terms of the Restitution of Land Rights Act, 1994 (Act No. 22 of 1994) which my colleague, Minister Nkwinti has alluded to in his speech of support and will elaborate on during his key address.

To date, ten co-management agreements have been concluded to ensure more effective redress of land rights in a fair and equitable manner to land claimants.

Earlier this year, President Zuma handed over the title deed to the N’wandlamhari Community Property Association in Bushbuckridge, Mpumalanga – finalizing a six year process. A co-management deal has been faciliated between the community and the owners of the Mala Mala game reserve: enabling a transfer of skills between the former owners and the community representatives. A similar success story is that of the community-owned Somkhanda Game Reserve in Kwa-Zulu/Natal:  run and managed in partnership by the Gumbi Community, Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife, and the Wildlands Conservation Trust.

In terms of Access to Natural Resources, over the years, the People and Parks Programme has advocated access to natural resources by the local communities for various purposes including medicinal, commercial uses, as well as for consumptive and non-consumptive uses. For example, in KwaZulu-Natal with similar situation in other provinces as well, the communities have been accessing protected areas to harvest thatch grass and other materials for craft purposes which in turn are put on the market to generate financial income for themselves and in some cases for their personal use. Subsistence fishing has also been promoted in the coastal region and other aquatic systems for the benefit of the communities. An access and benefit sharing framework and guidelines was also developed as a policy document to guide the management authorities on the process so as to ensure that local communities have access to natural resources.

Bioprospecting has also proven to be an area in which communities benefit. The Department of Environmental Affairs oversees the issuing of bioprospecting permits enabling indigenous communities to benefit from traditional utilization of natural resources. In 2012, we issued a permit for the extraction of chemical compounds from Kraalbos, a shrub indigenous to the Northern Cape. At the same time, a Section 21 company has been established for the Komaggas community of the Northern Cape, enabling them to receive 5% of all distributable cash reserves from the sale of Kraalbos-derived products.

In terms of the Expansion of Conservation Estate in South Africa there has since been an increase in the establishment of protected areas with the support and involvement of the local communities. To date a number of community conservation areas have been established, with more in the process of being concluded. The sector would like to thank the communities in that regard.

In terms of the Establishment of Governance or Coordination Structures, various community forums/structures have been established with communities living adjacent to protected areas. These serve as platforms for local communities living adjacent to protected areas to discuss matters related to their management. A national steering committee is established to coordinate and ensure effective implementation of the People and Parks Programme- supported by the community task team comprising of two representatives per province. I am told the majority of delegates here today form part of such structures.

In terms of the Establishment of Educational and Awareness Programme, the Kids in Parks Programme has been established. It has been one of the most crucial means of making sure that all South Africans participate in the conservation of South Africa’s environment. To date, the programme afforded more than 40 000 learners from previously disadvantaged backgrounds access to South African national parks while some provinces also have similar on-going programmes.

We have realised that one of the ways of extending the benefits is to provide required skills, create awareness and establish business enterprises for communities living in and around protected areas. This has been done through a three year partnership arrangement with Resource Africa with funding amounting to R36million from the National Lotteries Board. To date we have trained more than 1000 beneficiaries.

Earlier this morning I participated in a live television broadcast from the Luchaba nature reserve. A land claim to this area by the community is in the process of being concluded. With community ownership there exists the potential for infrastructure investment, job creation, enterprise and skills development. Government has invested close to 1 billion rand through EPIP People and Parks related projects: with additional investment secured through multiple secondary funding sources: which you may also read more about in your conference packs.

In closing, allow me on behalf of our government, of yourgovernment, to salute communities for their dedication, commitment and resilience: often in the face of significant challenges. You have demonstrated that perseverence does indeed pay off and as we continue to move South Africa forward we look forward to a future of more success stories.

Enkosi!

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