The Northern Cape Department of Environment and Nature Conservation (DENC) held its quarterly Northern Cape Stewardship Forum (NCSF) meeting on the 20th of May 2015 at the Papkuilsfontein Guest Farm outside Nieuwoudtville.
Various partners working in the Northern Cape participate and gather once a quarter at this forum, which is aimed at aligning biodiversity conservation priorities in the province and collaborating towards successfully implementing the province’s Protected Area Expansion Strategy (PAES).
Breaking news at this gathering was the announcement of the signing of a Memorandum of Agreement between the DENC and WWF South Africa, for the DENC/Leslie Hill Succulent Karoo Trust Stewardship project. This agreement facilitates a two year project to strengthen DENC’s stewardship and protected area expansion work in the province and is the first phase of longer term collaboration.
Meeting participants gathered at the Papkuilsfontein Guest Farm, a perfect setting which embodies the ethos of stewardship, to ensure that biodiversity conservation priorities are integrated into the land use activities. Papkuilsfontein Guest Farm is also one of the first Biodiversity Partnership Agreements signed between DENC and the landowners on the Bokkeveld Plateau in 2012.
Exciting events and activities in the province were shared amongst the participants at the meeting, such as the partnership collaborations between DENC, NGO’s and landowners. Feedback given at the meeting on projects included establishing and developing emerging farmer cooperatives, eco ranger training programmes, landscape functioning analysis, mapping and veld restoration within conservancies, a Rooibos Heritage route from Nieuwoudtville to Wupperthal, innovative social development opportunities, alternate management models for protected areas and assisting farmers in Namaqualand to source a niche market for goats.
The partners are also assisting with expertise on the ground, working with landowners to improve the management of critical biodiversity and encourage participation in the province’s protected area network. This work with landowners extends across the Northern Cape Province, from Steinkopf in Namaqualand through to Loxton in the Nama Karoo and up to the Karoo Seekoei River Nature Reserve in the north east of the Province.
Enthusiasm, expertise and institutional strength are combined to make this a formidable team. Due to the increasingly important role of the NCSF, the Terms of Reference are currently being revised to take the forum to the next level.
The Northern Cape is a vast Province of some 372 889 km², which in itself presents unique challenges for managing biodiversity. Forum’s, such as the NCSF, provide a great way to share knowledge and resources, vital to achieving common goals and reaching the Province’s conservation targets.
Article by Mandy Schumann (DENC) and Bonnie Schumann (Endangered Wildlife Trust)