The Global Environment Facility (GEF) endorsed SANBI’s full-sized project proposal for the ‘Mainstreaming Biodiversity into Land Use Regulation and Management at the Municipal Scale’ project early in July 2014 . This $8,17 million project is set to commence implementation within the next six months and will run until 2019.
GEF is a partnership for international cooperation where 183 countries work together with international institutions, civil society organizations and the private sector, to address global environmental issues. This is done to support activities related to biodiversity, climate change, international waters, land degradation, chemicals and waste in the context of development projects and programs.
South Africa continues to experience high rates of biodiversity loss due to development pressure and habitat degradation. According to the National Biodiversity Assessment (2012), 24% of coastal, 40% of terrestrial, 43% of estuarine, 57% of riverine and 65% of wetland ecosystems are threatened. As less than 7% of land in South Africa is formally protected, critical biodiversity is under threat from degradation and transformation. Furthermore, South Africa has persistently high levels of poverty and unemployment. The unemployment rate was reported at 25.2% in the first quarter of 2012, while the number of people living in poverty is nearly 40%.
The project will work in four district municipalities in global biodiversity hotspots that are national biodiversity priority areas. These municipalities also have high rates of habitat degradation and conversion, high levels of poverty, and other pressing needs for action. The targeted municipalities are uMgungundlovu and Ehlanzeni District Municipalities which are located in the Maputaland-Pondoland-Albany hotspot and the Cape Winelands District Municipality which is located between the Succulent Karoo and the Cape Floristic Region hotspots.
Municipalities play an important role as centres of economic growth and service delivery, as they regulate land use at local scale, and are also important users and managers of biodiversity and ecosystem services. There is thus a need to strike a balance between development and job creation, and conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity. Capacity at the municipal scale to engage with biodiversity conservation and sustainable development is typically weak, and there is little co-ordination between institutions that regulate land use. With this in mind, SANBI submitted a project proposal to the GEF for the ‘Mainstreaming Biodiversity into Land Use Regulation and Management at the Municipal Scale’ project.
The project is designed to address these challenges by (a) strengthening co-operation, co-ordination and capacity of municipal and other regulatory authorities that regulate land use decisions to incorporate criteria to avoid/ prevent, minimize and/or offset impacts on biodiversity, and improve compliance monitoring and enforcement, and (b) introducing mechanisms in collaboration with private and communal land owners to better protect critical biodiversity areas and manage land, while demonstrating the potential of biodiversity to create jobs and contribute to economic growth.