The Baviaanskloof Mega-reserve (BMR) and the Gamtoos Valley’s citrus industry have jointly launched a biodiversity citrus initiative. The initiative is based on the Western Cape wine industry’s successful biodiversity model.
The 75km-long mountainous reserve, about 100km north-west of Port Elizabeth in the Eastern Cape, is part of the Cape Floral Kingdom and encompasses a world heritage site as well as commercial farms.
It’s hoped the partnership in the Patensie area will ensure the conservation of critical habitats within the farmlands, and will develop viable biodiversity-based corridors that address social and economic development needs in the region. As in the winelands, this will be achieved by working with “champions” among the citrus producers, who will be encouraged to conserve parts of their properties.
Participating landowners will be helped to design and implement conservation management plans, which will include the correct use of water, pesticides and other chemicals.Working hand-in-hand with farmers
According to BMR project manager Matthew Norval, the idea is to integrate the valley’s important agricultural activities with the conservation of threatened landscapes and processes that fall outside the formally protected reserve.
“This shouldn’t be seen as interfering with the farmers’ way of doing things,” he explained. “We’d like them to continue with their activities, but with an even stronger conservation ethic with the potential to make them more competitive and help them manage their land more effectively.”
Norval said that this, together with vibrant tourism activities, should ensure that livelihoods are enhanced and that biodiversity is more secure. “The agricultural sector in the valley forms an important part of the regional economy, but also represents a vital area for pattern distribution of rare and endangered species, and process conservation such as migrations of animals, plants and birds and predator/prey interactions at all levels,” he said.
Norval believes this initiative might be stronger than the wine initiative, because the farmers involved are part of a world heritage site. “And we’ll certainly market it from that angle. There’s also scope for other agricultural products to identify with the BMR label, but the way products are produced must have definite benefits for conservation,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Greater Baviaanskloof Project is going well. The envisaged reserve will consist of a cluster of state-owned protected areas within a network of private and communal land, eventually totalling 500 000ha.
Private landowners who choose to be part of the reserve have to align their land-use activities with the principles and practices of biodiversity conservation.
“The Baviaanskloof Mega-Reserve has become a reality with a momentum of its own,” explained Norval. “Most stakeholders realise that it not only benefits them, but also the environment. Capacity building and training activities that encourage people to take responsibility for making a positive contribution are also paying off.”
Commercial small-stock farming districts along the northern fringes of the reserve, such as Steytlerville and Willowmore, are starting to benefit from the development, albeit indirectly.
“Visitor numbers are increasing and these towns will probably benefit more as additional products are created,” said Norval. “But this is always a challenge in areas en route to better-known destinations. With more private investors and developers moving in, the authorities will need to more effectively enforce environmental legislation to prevent inappropriate developments that could negatively impact on the mega-reserve.” Martine Mouton has been appointed to implement the initiative. Call 041 582 1885 or visit www.baviaanskloofmegareserve.co.za.