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The Biodiversity Stewardship South Africa (BSSA) programme is an initiative of the national Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism (DEAT) in partnership with key conservation organisations. The BSSA programme was conceptualised by a coalition of non-governmental organisations during an exploratory workshop in 2005. The Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT) then approached DEAT’s Directorate: Biodiversity Conservation with a proposal to develop the stewardship concept further. A Memorandum of Agreement was signed by the two parties and the EWT started Phase 1 of the programme in August 2006.
The BSSA is an umbrella programme that provides a powerful new tool to assist national and provincial government in fulfilling its mandate to conserve biodiversity outside of state-owned protected areas, in terms of the National Environmental Management: Protected Areas (Act 57 of 2003) and Biodiversity (Act 10 of 2004) Acts. The programme helps to implement provincial conservation plans through a consistent, national, landscape-scale approach to stewardship. It also assists government in meeting the targets set out by the National Spatial Biodiversity Assessment and the National Biodiversity Framework (NBF).The BSSA’s goals are aligned with those of DEAT’s National Protected Areas Expansion Strategy and Community-Based Natural Resource Management (CBNRM) programme.
Vision, goals and principles
a) The vision of Biodiversity Stewardship South Africa is:
for all land with high biodiversity value outside of formally protected areas to have secure legal protection through conservation stewardship agreements and be linked to a network of other conservation areas in the landscape. This will be based on strong partnerships between conservation agencies and landowners that result in good biodiversity management practice and in tangible benefits for landowners.
b) The goals of Biodiversity Stewardship South Africa are:
• to provide guidance and co-ordination to agencies managing sites of biodiversity importance to ensure that natural systems, biodiversity and ecosystem services are maintained and enhanced for present and future generations
• to support, motivate and co-ordinate provincial and other biodiversity stewardship initiatives within an enabling national framework, contributing effectively to achieving the various national, provincial and local biodiversity conservation targets outside of state-owned protected areas
• to promote the provision of incentives for landowners to commit their property to a stewardship option through the relevant conservation authority, including assistance with the development and implementation of a management plan for optimal natural resource productivity and ecosystem functioning.
Responsibilities for implementation
The current institutional structure of the BSSA programme is represented in the diagram at the end of this section. In Phase 1 the programme has been driven by an Executive Reference Group with representatives from the Botanical Society, the EWT, WWF-South Africa, the Maloti Drakensberg Transfrontier Project and the Directorate: Biodiversity Conservation of DEAT. A National Advisory Committee ensures that development of the initiative is in line with the biodiversity goals of the provinces, drawing particularly on the experience of KwaZulu-Natal and the Western Cape.
The National Biodiversity Framework provides that DEAT (Directorate: Biodiversity Conservation) will actively co-ordinate the programme once the developmental phase (Phase 1 & 2) is complete in 2008/9, with responsibility for implementation delegated to the provincial conservation authorities. Each Province needs to identify a conservation agency or organisation which can be the Implementing Agent for the programme in that province. One of the main objectives for the second phase is for DEAT and the coordinator of the BSSA to play a more supportive role towards the provincial authorities in developing their approach.
As the co-ordinating agency, DEAT will have the following areas of responsibility:
• building its own human resource capacity to co-ordinate the BSSA programme effectively and integrate it with the broader policy framework and related programmes
• making funding available to the provincial Implementing Agents to undertake biodiversity stewardship work through relevant sector plans or conditional grants
• assisting the provincial authorities and Implementing Agents to build internal high-level political support for the programme (highlighting the links with existing requirements)
• receiving reportbacks from the Implementing Agents on programme implementation according to the procedures and provincial biodiversity targets set out in the NBF
• liaising with private sector role-players, NGOs and land care management initiatives who want to get involved in biodiversity stewardship
• working with other national departments involved in sustainable land use management, promoting the value that biodiversity stewardship can add to their work.
• working with other government agencies to promote the provision of incentives for landowners to commit their property to a stewardship option.
Roles and responsibilities
For the purpose of achieving biodiversity stewardship with the primary goal of site security, the objectives during the process need to include the following (in order of priority):
• Conservation agencies must develop durable relationships with landowners, communities, local authorities and other government departments that control areas of biodiversity priority.
• The costs of conserving biodiversity must be shared between the public (through the state), the local municipality, the landowner and any specific direct beneficiaries of the resources conserved or the area protected, on a basis which is equitable in relation to the benefits accrued to each party.
• Conservation agencies must strive to minimise costs and maximise efficiency (in terms of resources and personnel) in conserving biodiversity outside of state-owned protected areas.
• Options should be provided to recognise commitment to and investment in voluntary biodiversity conservation within farming and other land use systems.
• Securing conservation investments must be of paramount importance, to ensure the sustainability of conservation effort and funding. Any conservation status afforded to critical biodiversity sites must thus be well managed, durable, legally sound, resilient to changing opinion on land use, and easily audited.
Prerequisites for meeting the above objectives are as follows:
• Consideration needs to be given to investing in the skills needed to achieve the objectives. Encouraging conservation action is not an event, but a process that will require using specific skills over a long time. These skills are difficult to acquire without a long tenure of conservation personnel, and are easily lost through institutional restructuring and low level job-grading. The importance of retaining and skilling staff is often underestimated by conservation agencies.
• A systematic and defensible conservation planning process (with 5-20 year goals) for a specific region at a cadastral scale is very useful to build consensus on common objectives. This will not only greatly assist in focusing expenditure and conservation action, but is a ready means of determining capacity needs to meet the local challenges.
• Securing land for conservation requires a focused approach. The new conservation objective of securing biodiversity through landowners and/or managers (i.e. stewards) retaining legal ownership will not be met if personnel have many and divergent responsibilities. Those agencies mandated to achieve this new conservation aim must have specifically appointed and dedicated staff.