South Africa adopts roadmap to integrate communities in management of protected areas

Minister says government is strategically focusing on potential of protected areas as a means of revenue generation for the benefit of local communities

By Kiran Pandey
Published: Monday 15 September 2014


South Africa has adopted a declaration, the Durban Accord, to expedite engagement and integration of communities in management of protected areas at the end of the sixth National People and Parks Conference, which concluded last week at Mthatha in Eastern Cape.

The conference on the theme, “10 years of inclusive park management”, was opened by the minister of environmental affairs, Edna Molewa, together with the minister of rural development and land reform, Gugile Nkwinti, and Eastern Cape premier, Phumulo Masualle.  

Over 600 delegates from across the country came together and reflected on work of the People and Parks Programme. They deliberated on future of protected areas and the communities surrounding them. The event also showcased government’s commitment and action to integrate local communities in the management of protected areas. 

The People and Parks Programme emanated from the Fifth World Parks Congress held in Durban in September 2003 that set the scene for an international drive towards increased community involvement in protected areas’ management .  

The programme is a departmental initiative of the South African environment ministry which aims to address matters relating to the interface between conservation and communities, and in particular the realisation of tangible benefits for communities, including those previously displaced, to pave way for the establishment of protected areas.  It encourages communities to participate in the management and access to benefits of South Africa’s biodiversity conservation, particularly in protected areas. 

Although people and conservation had been on the agenda of the South African government for some time, the World Parks Congress in Durban served as a catalyst to give further momentum, legitimacy, credibility and urgency to the efforts.  

The Department of Environment Affairs (DEA) of South Africa  launched the National Co-Management Framework in September 2010, which is in accordance with the provisions of the National Environmental Management: Protected Areas Act, 2003 (Act No.57 of 2003). The purpose of the framework is to ensure more effective redress of land rights in a fair and equitable manner to land claimants. The framework provides for a range of benefit options, including revenue sharing, capacity building, development rights and ecotourism benefits. 

The department of rural development and land reform has been working closely with the DEA through the people and parks steering committee (comprising provincial environment departments, regional land commissions, protected area management authorities and communities living adjacent to protected areas) to discuss challenges related to settlement of land claims. 

Revenue generation 
During the opening ceremony, Nkwinti and Molewa, handed over fourteen title deeds to various communities across the country.

Molewa said that the government is committed to facilitating the entry of previously disadvantaged communities into the conservation space. She said that the government is strategically focusing on potential of protected areas as a means of revenue generation for the benefit of local communities. Unless local communities receive tangible economic benefits and become part of protected areas management, the concept of conservation will still be regarded as an elitist one, she said. 

As the country’s World Rhino Day approaches (September 22), followed by Heritage Day on September 24, DEA has called upon forest communities to join hands in ensuring the survival of not only of the rhino as an important ecosystem contributor, but also of plants and other wild animals being decimated by international crime syndicates. This comes at a time when rhino poaching is increasing. As many as 769 rhinos have been poached for their horns in South Africa since January this year, with 227 people being arrested countrywide, says a statement released by the environment ministry on September 11. The Kruger National Park continues to bear the brunt of rhino poaching in South Africa, having lost 489 rhinos so far this year. On August 6, Cabinet deliberated and discussed the 2013 rhino population census undertaken in the Kruger National Park and decided on integrated strategic interventions for the management of rhinoceros in South Africa.  A total of 103 rhinos have been poached in Limpopo, 65 in KwaZulu-Natal, 47 in North West and 43 in Limpopo.  (See ‘Rhino Poaching Statistics’).

Highlights of the declaration 

  • Exploring sustainable financing mechanisms for the People and Parks Programme

  • Strengthening partnerships and relationships between government and communities

  • Expediting implementation of co-management, and facilitating access and benefit sharing strategies associated with protected areas

  • Addressing poaching of endangered species of fauna and flora 


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