Why a Conservancy ?

Mount Moreland Conservancy

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 consume less.

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.

History

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.

Types

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 underfoot.

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 found.

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

WHAT IS A CONSERVACY IN KWAZULU-NATAL?  

The exact definition of a Conservancy varies in South Africa, and in other parts of the world. 

Conservation KZN’s definition of a Conservancy is a group of “committed individuals”, an organisation, not just a physical area. The areas designated for conservation practice are the “Conservancy conservation areas”.

The active conservation area(s) of the Conservancy itself will depend largely on the activities of the Conservancy at the time. As the Conservancy decides on new projects the conservation areas might change as well. 

Member Conservancies are asked to provide Google maps, spatially delineated, of their conservation area(s) or, should there be no specific conservation area, to indicate the range(s) over which they are carrying out conservation activities. 

Creation of a Conservancy does not imply that every resident or stakeholder of the area need become a member of the Conservancy or commit to the Constitution of the Conservancy. 

Furthermore there may be residents, or stakeholders (such as in a business park) who are not necessarily interested or committed to the ideals and programs of the local Conservancy. In such cases the non-adherent parties are still bound by the environmental laws of the municipality, province or national legislation.  

It is always recommended to make the planned activities of the Conservancy known to everyone in the Conservation area regardless of whether they are members of the Conservancy or not.  

THE BENEFITS OF BECOMING A CONSERVANCY. 

By starting a Conservancy you are creating an organisation that is registered with the KZN Conservancies Association and with Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife. The Conservancy can also be registered as an NGO or as a PBO, giving it both legal and a beneficial tax status. 

As a member of KZNCA you become part of the KZNCA strategy and are able to both express your views and benefit from decisions made by the Association, in a democratic and lawful way. You are integrated into the communications and information network.

As Conservation KZN develops its new strategy, there will be an increasing number of services and benefits supplied to members: technical assistance, expert advice, training, Conservation development officers, newsletters and updates, action meetings, and financial assistance for selected Conservation projects.

Being a member of CKZN, you are part of a community, sharing objectives, ideals and actions. Your views count. 

Conservancies are part of a wide range of civil and business organisations engaging in Conservation. These include farming organisations like SASRI and the SUSFARMS initiative, private parks, nature reserves and game farms, office and industrial parks, residential estates, wild-life and nature organisations and societies, and educational institutions. 

 

THE KEY ACTIVITIES OF A CONSERVANCY 

The first thing a Conservancy should do after membership approval is to organise and structure itself, elect a committee and Chairperson, define its Conservation area, create a Google map(s) of the Conservation area(s), define a strategy and draw up an implementation programme.  

It is recommended that new Conservancies establish a local membership base made up of individuals, residents, businesses and organisations in the area. The membership fee, if any, may be decided by the Committee. 

Conservancies usually work in 5 components of conservation: ecosystems (especially fresh water), habitats, species protection, waste/pollution, and community development.  

Conservancies create and engage in local conservation projects, social activities and education, and participate in the local economy.   

A good way for Conservancies to engage in the broader aspects of environmental management, with its subsequent effect on economic upliftment, is to work in Partnership Projects. This is a new development and the Association will be producing policy and procedures to guide Conservancies who wish to undertake specified projects. 

Partnership Projects, especially large projects that include other conservation organisations, government environmental agencies, local municipalities, local businesses and local institutions, are built around environmental management activities aimed at the wellbeing of communities and their economic upliftment.. 

Larger projects could attract ethical social and business investment and bring the project into the IDP of local or district Municipalities. 

This is Conservation in its truest form; the preservation and wise use of our natural capital within a beneficial economic framework. 

If you are interested in participating or want to register your own conservancy, please contact Conservancies.

Contact: Rob Crankshaw- 082 9009593 rob.crankshaw@kznca.co.za



 

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'Conservation is the only plan the last endangered species is man'
 Donald Hawkridge