For the latter half of 2011, the monthly SKEP electronic newsletter was not in circulation as we embarked on a process to improve the functionality, look and feel of the SKEP website. The SKEP coordination unit would like to convey a heartfelt apology to all biome wide SKEP stakeholders who have not been able to send us their news, events, valuable learning resources and materials which the SKEP website avails itself to as a portal to the partnership. The new and improved website allows improved functionality, better alignment with SKEP’s objectives, creative and innovative opportunities for the partnership and the SKEP coordination unit to engage.
And although the monthly SKEP electronic newsletter was out of circulation for a while, that did not prevent exciting biodiversity conservation activities and celebrations from taking place in the Succulent Karoo. Below are some of key events which took place in the absence of the SKEP web presence.
One of the most anticipated events during 2011, the SKEP Partners Conference themed 'Ten years of adapting in the Succulent Karoo' which was held at the Masibambane Thusong Centre in Vanrhynsdorp. The event was proudly co-hosted by the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF), SANBI, CapeNature, Conservation South Africa (CSA), the Desert Research Foundation of Namibia (DRFN), the West Coast District Municipality and WWF-SA. The conference was extremely well attended, boasting 121 people in attendance during the two day event. The SKEP Partners Conference emphasized the importance of civil society and capacity building in biodiversity conservation.
As part of the activities taking place at the 17th Conference of the Parties (COP17) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Durban, the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI), unveiled the Living Beehive on 30 November 2011, which is an art installation built in the shape of a traditional Zulu hut. The purpose of this art installation is to re-visit the traditional “Beehive Thinking” that brings together people, engineering and biodiversity and shows that when these elements work in tandem, solutions to major challenges such as climate change can be found. The Living Beehive is a legacy of COP17, which will remain, remind, challenge and inspire long after COP17 has ended.
SKEP held its inaugural learning exchange which saw eight learners from Alexander Bay High School, local community champions and institutional stakeholders strength knowledge sharing, unlocked networking opportunities and learning in the Greater Richtersveld, the Namaqualand Uplands and the Central Namaqualand Coast. The intention of the exchange was to showcase the interrelationships between humans and nature, and the importance of sustaining these relationships for future survival. This SKEP learning exchange marvellously displayed the biodiversity conservation efforts of the SKEP partnership.
The Knersvlakte received a donation of 49 springbok from the Nortier research Farm. The springbok were translocated from the Nortier Research Farm, which is situated on the periphery of the coastal town of Lamberts Bay. The game capture team was ably assisted by the field rangers from CapeNature’s Knersvlakte Conservation office, Bird Island and Matjiesrivier Nature Reserves. Knersvlakte Conservation Manager, Adrian Fortuin, said “The operation was a success and served well as a good training session for the field rangers.”
During August 2011, the Greater Cederberg Biodiversity Corridor (GCBC), Gouritz Corridor and Knersvlakte team of CapeNature along with the Programme Managers for Corridors and Wildlife embarked on a learning exchange to Namaqualand, with 11 participants from Conservation South Africa (CSA), the Northern Cape Provincial Department of Environment and Nature Conservation (DENC), SANParks, and Indigo Development and Change. The intention of the exchange was to share knowledge and learn from each other and build new partnerships as well as strengthening the existing partnerships. This learning exchange was a first for the CapeNature team to learn and get exposure to the biodiversity conservation efforts in the Namaqualand Uplands, the Knersvlakte and Bokkeveld-Hantam priority areas of SKEP.
On the 28th of October 2011, the Akkerendam Nature Reserve launched its hiking trails. Akkerendam Nature Reserve is situated on the semi-arid slopes of the Hantamsberg overlooking Calvinia. The mayor and municipal manager from Calvinia were in attendance at the launch. The launch was well attended with over 30 people hiking the routes.
The whole project was a good example of partnerships in action, as the National Department of Environment and Nature Conservation (DENC) assisted with the laying out of the trail and designing the brochure and boards for the municipality. The Department of Tourism provided the funding for the project and Professor Frans Kotze through his NGO ROADS assisted as well.
The SKEP coordination has joined Facebook, and now occupies a proud presence on the largest social networking service in the world in the form of a Group. This means that you as a SKEP partner can ‘Like’ the SKEP page, post current status updates on the digital wall of SKEP’s Facebook page, post videos, post and tag photo’s for all to see and interact with. To ‘Like” SKEP on Facebook, you can follow the direct link from the new SKEP website, or search for the SKEP (Succulent Karoo Ecosystem Programme) page on Facebook.
SKEP learning network and communications officer, Shahieda Davids, is the official administrator of the SKEP Facebook page. When enquired as to why the need to create a Facebook page for SKEP, Davids simply says “I want to raise awareness of the unique Succulent Karoo biome and bring the partnership closer in working towards achieving the SKEP vision in this creative platform”. Davids is encouraging everyone in the SKEP partnership to interact on the page.