A growing concern about the environment and humankind's impact on natural resources has led many
people to ask "What can I do?"
For some the concern about sustainability, the energy crisis and water scarcity has triggered a
different lifestyle. Homes are geared to be less resource intensive, and people make an effort to
Other people have looked with appreciation at what they have in their own backyard. They have
recognised that in order to protect the environment in which they live, co-operation is essential.
Working with others - stakeholders in the same situation - in a collaborative manner strengthens
their ability to make a difference where they live.
Conservancies are about doing something "in your own backyard". A conservancy is the entry-level
to community-based conservation. Unlike other conservation initiatives, conservancies do not
require you to set aside vast tracts of land and to actively stock wild animals. Conservancies can
be anywhere and any size.
A conservancy is regarded as the first tier in conservation, and in time, more formal
conservation may be appropriate. This will require stricter rules, functional management
plans and formal agreements.
The first conservancy was established in 1978 in the Balgowan district of the KwaZulu Natal
Midlands and was formed by local farmers with guidance from the Natal Parks Board. The primary
objective was to protect game on the farmlands and so this initiative became the first to protect
natural areas outside of formally protected reserves.
Since then, conservancies have contributed to the protection of specific biodiversity hotspots,
provided green corridors for the movement of game, and protected habitats and occurrences of rare
and endangered species - plant and animal.
Conservancies may be a rural natural area, a small space in an urban setting, a school or an
industrial plot. Wherever the land is managed according to sound environmental principles and best
environmental practices, you may register a conservancy.
Of the more unusual conservancies is the Marionhill Landfill Conservancy. This is an excellent
example of an ecosystem restoration project. Additionally, Durban has launched Africa's first
landfill gas to electricity project at the Marianhill Landfill Conservancy. The project that
converts landfill gas to electricity, will produce enough electricity for thousands of homes and
inject tens of millions of rands into city coffers through the sale of "green" electricity.
There are rural conservancies protecting specific biomes, ecosystems or species. In Gauteng, the
Klipkop Wildlife Sanctuary is a specialist buck reserve, located on a rare and endangered type of
high altitude grassland called Bankenveld.\Bankenveld is found exclusively on South Africa's
interior plateau and centred around Johannesburg.
Other conservancies also protect sites of historical, archaeological and paleontological
significance. One such Conservancy is the Rhenosterspruit Nature Conservancy located within the
proposed buffer zone of the Cradle of Humandkind. Some locations are "littered" with archaeological
debris, and there are dig sites where Dr Broom worked at the time of the discovery of Mrs Ples at
Sterkfontein. A linked karst landscape underlies the northern parts of the Conservancy, and
treasures yet to be discovered are protected by residents sensitive to the rich history
Registration of a conservancy does not require a change in land use. There are many farms that
are part of conservancies. An interesting example is in the Northern Cape where farmers work to
protect the most endangered mammal in southern Africa - the Riverine Rabbit. Habitats are
identified so that farming activities avoid encroaching on the areas where the riverine rabbit is
There are also more general activities which many conservancies share as practical ways to make
to protect the environment. These include:
- Monitoring river and catchment pollution, often leading to river cleanup activities
- Invasive alien pant control
- Education and awareness programs
- Waste recycling drives
- Identification, monitoring and protection of rare and endangered species
- Mitigation of pollution
- Erosion control
If you are interested in participating or want to
register your own conservancy, please contact Conservancies.