“CONSERVATION FOR THE PEOPLE WITH THE PEOPLE”
“Parks our heritage, renewing our partnership and accelerating action for a sustainable future”
Honourable Deputy Minister of Rural Development and Land Reform: Mr Lechesa Tsenoli
Members of the communities
Members of the media
Ladies and gentlemen
Today ladies and gentlemen, marks the 10th anniversary of the commemoration of our engagement as government with communities which dates back to 2003 at Cape Vidal and most importantly the 40th anniversary of the World Heritage Convention. That engagement in 2003 gave birth to the “People and Parks programme”. We have been able as a collective to develop a cohesive and sustainable relationship between government and communities.
The fifth People and Parks conference takes place now during the first week of September, as government commemorates the National Arbor Week.
Government calls on all South Africans to plant indigenous trees in their living and working environments as a practical and symbolic gesture of conserving our environment. Everyone is expected to participate in tree planting initiatives during National Arbor Week.
The month of September is also celebrated as Tourism Month. It focuses on encouraging South Africans to travel within their own country and to get a better understanding of the affordable and exciting attractions available to them on their own doorstep. The People and Parks programme is amongst others an integral part of tourism in South Africa.
Ladies and Gentlemen, Protected areas continue to offer great value for biodiversity which human beings depend on for their livelihood. This year’s theme is “Conservation for the people with the people”.
The slogan for the conference is “Parks our heritage, renewing our partnership and accelerating action for sustainable future”.
This is due to the fact that there are linkages between our heritage, where we come from and these parks.
We are very familiar with the concept of service delivery and the challenges we face while trying to make sure that all citizens receive essential services. What we are sometimes not familiar with is the notion that it is not only municipalities that provide services, but also our biodiversity and ecosystems. While we are aware of our municipal infrastructure like roads, sewers and pylons, and the services they bring to us in our homes, few of us are aware of the services we get from our ecological infrastructures like protected areas, the species and vegetation. All these amazing services are called ecosystem services.
Ecosystem services, like municipal services, play an essential role in our day to day lives!
This often invisible ecological infrastructure, together with man-made infrastructure, has the potential to generate hundreds of thousands of jobs and eradicate poverty.
It is a privilege to welcome you again to the fifth People and Parks conference. It gives me great pleasure to see all of you here today since we last met in 2010 at KwaZulu Natal. I would like to highlight some of the progress made in responding to your concerns raised in 2010. So far, we have made a budget of R497 559 000 available to 7 provinces to implement People and Parks projects. As we speak, 4874 South African citizens are employed in these projects and I am told that some of them are here with us today. There are some of the projects that are still under planning and we anticipate more jobs to be created. The appointment of these people took into consideration, the women, youth and people with disabilities.
We have also managed to sign 4 co-management agreements with communities living adjacent to protected areas since the 2010 conference. These agreements are formalising the relationship of protected areas and their beneficiaries. It deals with how benefits are going to be shared and how communities are going to access our protected areas. Protected areas are accessed for many reasons including natural resource harvesting, ritual performance and many other things
I must stress it here and now that there are basic principles that I believe could ensure not just well protected areas but survival of the poor. First and foremost, poor people’s needs should always be prioritized and that they must be seen as part of the solution rather than part of the problem.
Efforts to improve natural resource management in our protected areas should therefore contribute to sustainable growth and poverty reduction and should reflect the priorities of the poor. Secondly, while strengthening the rights of the survivals through policies and legislations is important, we need to enhance the capacity of the poor to manage their own and shared resources by strengthening local management arrangements and by supporting women’s key roles in managing natural resources. Thirdly, the civil society, in particular poor and marginalized groups, must be empowered to influence environmental management policy and planning processes at all levels, by expanding public access to information, decision making and justice.
Lastly, partnerships with private sector and cross-sectoral cooperation must be encouraged in all our activities. I believe we need to fully take advantage of the progressive policies and laws that we have the willingness to co-operate by all the stakeholders involved, we need to also build formal and smart partnerships between public services, donors, private sector, business, civil society and local communities. These partnerships must be based on measurable results of fighting environmental degradation and poverty. Experience has shown us that the environment knows no borders and our nationally targeted improvements in all sectors are unlikely to occur in the absence of co-operation. Hence managing the protected areas must be a collective action. We however need to build our own and community capacities to partner with the private sector by providing incentives for local based enterprise development based on the sustainable use of biodiversity such as community based eco-tourism or sustainable harvesting of natural products.
Ladies and gentleman, South Africa will be participating at CBD COP 11 late this year in India. The CBD includes among many ideals the objectives of equity and benefit-sharing by local communities, enhancement of the involvement of indigenous and local communities in the establishment and management of protected areas, and maximising commercial opportunities that arise from protected areas to local communities. I want you to give us the mandate to represent the voice of local communities as we prepare the South African position to this convention. Just to inform you that “People and Parks programme” has gained popularity both at local and international forums hence one of the objectives of this CBD programme of work on protected areas advocate “ Governance, participation, equity and benefit sharing “ by locals.
When we met in 2010 in KZN, we launched the funding by national lottery to the amount of R36 million that will assist in creating awareness and building capacity among communities to understand the protected areas management and conservation of our biodiversity.
Today, I am delighted to announce that, 837 local communities have been trained on the importance of these biodiversity, the benefit derived from this areas and how they can organise themselves in a form of forums to reap from these benefits. We have also through this partnership with Resource Africa, trained a number of SMMEs around protected areas with the view of making sure that any procurement that is done in protected areas is sourced from the locals. These SMMEs have been armed with the skills to develop business plans, financial record, tender document filling and book keeping.
I was told our protected areas system has increased and I would like to salute those communities and land owners countrywide who have taken the courageous step of making their land available for biodiversity conservation. I would urge you to work together and join forces with park management in fighting rhino poaching as the statistics for this scourge are unbearable.
Allow me to send my gratitude to those communities who have worked jointly with park officials to ensure these poachers are put behind bars. There are communities in Kruger National Parks who assisted park management to arrest poachers in recent months. We are going to deliberate more on this issue during the discussions.
In conclusion, I would like all of us to look ahead with some degree of hope and optimism for the future. There are sometimes win-win opportunities, and there are rational ways of dealing with tradeoffs. Environmental degradation is not inevitable, nor is it the unavoidable result of socio-economic growth. On the contrary, sound and equitable environmental management is key to sustained poverty reduction and achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.
There are significant policy opportunities to reduce poverty and improve management in our protected areas, but more integrated and pro-poor approaches are needed. Let us then all use this conference as an opportunity to focus on what is most important and to forge a coherent framework for action, with clear goals and achievable targets backed up by adequate resources and effective and transparent monitoring mechanisms.
I sincerely thank all of those who made this conference a reality. I hope that these three days of deliberation will be useful to all of you, and I believe that the outcomes of this conference will be a true reflection of our undivided commitment to the importance of reducing and ultimately eradicating poverty in our country.
I thank you.