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For the first time, landowners can actively participate in conservation activities, by setting their land aside for biodiversity conservation. Many landowners are wanting to do this, whether for philosophical reasons, or wanting to develop the area for ecotourism purposes. Either way, the Biodiversity Stewardship programme is now providing the framework and mechanism for landowners to do this.

Reasons for landowners to become involved in Biodiversity Stewardship

  • Be a trendsetter and become involved in an initiative that is the first of its kind in SA. This process will redefine the approach to conservation on privately owned land – and you can be part of it!
  • Getting involved shows that you are informed about the natural habitat and biodiversity which occurs on your property; that you are proud to become a custodian of the natural habitat and in such a way contribute to securing its long term sustainability.
  • By becoming involved in conservation on your land, you will have access to support, advice and other assistance from dedicated Nature Conservation staff in your Province. Other incentives are currently in the process of being developed.
  • By conserving natural habitats on your property you may be keeping certain plants and animal species from extinction while dramatically improving the survival chances of many others. You may be able to diversify your income base through the wise use and marketing of your natural resources e.g. ecotourism opportunities, professional hunting etc.
  • If you are part of a commercial sector whereby international approvals are required to market your produce overseas (e.g. Eurepgap, ISO1400), participating in a stewardship initiative may contribute to qualifying for these approvals.

Biodiversity Stewardship South Africa

  • Introduction

    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

    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.

  • Goals

    • 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.

Spatial Framework

KZN Spatial Framework

The KwaZulu-Natal province, which is approximately 92 000 square km in extent (7.6% of South Africa) has two World Heritage Sites and over 100 formal protected areas. It also forms the central component of the Maputoland – Pondoland – Albany hotspot as identified by Conservation International.

However, less than 47% of the more than 4000 species found here, not to mention the diverse landscapes and vegetation types are conserved in the current system of protected areas. Most of these areas are being rapidly transformed or degraded at an alarming rate, as the province has a high rainfall and extensive well-drained deep soils, ideal for intensive agriculture.

Many of these areas need to be secured in the short term if we are to meet our obligations of maintaining a representative sample of the diversity of life or to sustain ecosystem functioning that supplies critical ecosystem services to the people of the province. A further 1.4 million ha or 14.5% of the area of the province is required in order to ensure representative protection of the province’s biodiversity.

KZN Biodiversity Spatial Framework

Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife in partnership with the Development Bank of Southern Africa and the KZN Planning Commission embarked on the development of a province wide conservation plan in 2002. The express aim of this plan was to contribute to the Municipal planning process, highlight critically important biodiversity assets in the Province, provide a focus for protected area managers and provide a rational and transparent framework for evaluating the impact of proposed developments, on biodiversity.

In addition it aims to preserve an acceptable and productive environment for all the people of KZN. The primary product of the planning process is a map showing those parts of the province where conservation action is required to prevent further loss and degradation of critical biodiversity.


The development of Stewardship agreements with landowners involves legal procedures, and significant commitment from the landowner and provincial conservation agency. Therefore, it is important to focus these efforts onto the most important biodiversity areas in the province, thereby contributing to meeting the national and provincial targets.

It is important to be aware that Stewardship agreements are relevant for any land or tenure type, including:

  • Communal
  • Private (agriculture, game farms, etc)
  • State / municipal
  • Forestry land
  • Corporate

The procedure in implementing Biodiversity Stewardship involves 5 simple steps which must be followed

Pilot Programme

  • Pilot Programme

    The KwaZulu-Natal Biodiversity Stewardship Programme (KZN BSP) has adopted a piloting approach in its first years of operations. During this period, the programme will focus on eight pilot sites, of differing tenures and land-uses, with a view of developing the methodology of the programme and learning about issues relating to the implementation of stewardship. After the pilot phase is complete, the programme will be extended more broadly across the province.

    Potential stewardship sites from across the province were identified through: 1) requests at Regional Operations Committees (ROC) for information on potential sites from the three regions, and 2) interviews with a subset of Ezemvelo KwaZulu-Natal Wildlife (EKZNW) officials involved with stewardship related activities. A total of 171 sites were identified as potential pilot sites. These included Sites of Conservation Significance (SoCS), Natural Heritage Sites (NHS), Private Nature Reserves, Conservancies, Community Conservation Areas (CCA’s), land set aside to offset biodiversity loss to development and land required to be proclaimed as a condition of Records of Decisions (RoD’s).

  • Criteria for Site Selection

    The following criteria for site selection were identified by the KZN BSP unit:

    Conservation value of the property – the KZN BSP must contribute to the achievement of biodiversity conservation targets and must secure areas that are important for conservation. Sites with high conservation significance should thus be prioritized over sites with low conservation significance.

    Landowner’s willingness to participate in the KZN BSP – given the short duration of the pilot phase of the KZN BSP, it is important for the programme to initially work with willing landowners. The transaction costs associated with obtaining stewardship agreements from willing landowners are likely to be far lower than those associated with unwilling landowners. As the programme matures, and after its methodology has been developed and incentives have been secured, we may seek to find ways to incorporate land owned by less-willing landowners.=

    The urgency for the KZN BSP to engage with the site – this criterion prioritizes sites where early engagement by the programme is crucial for success (e.g. sites where biodiversity may be lost without urgent intervention should be prioritized over sites where the biodiversity is not threatened. Additionally, sites where landowners expectations have been raised, and there is a danger of their interest waning, should be prioritized over sites where the landowners’ expectations have not been raised)

    The presence or absence of an external facilitator – an external facilitator (such as a consultant or involved NGO) may be able to assist the KZN BSP in the development of stewardship agreements and management plans. Sites with external facilitators should be prioritized over sites that do not have external facilitators.

    The opinion of EKZNW officials on the suitability of sites as pilots – EKZNW officials may have knowledge of why certain sites are suitable / unsuitable as pilot sites for the programme. Such information may not be captured by the other criteria. Sites that EKZNW officials regard as good candidates for pilot sites should be prioritized over sites that EKZNW officials do not regard as good candidates for pilot sites.

    The property size – it may be more efficient in terms of target achievement (i.e. amount of biodiversity secured in relation to transaction costs per site) to work with larger properties than smaller properties.

  • Site Categories

    In order for the KZN BSP to gain an understanding of implementing stewardship in varying contexts, the pilot sites should reflect an array of tenure and land-use categories. The KZN BSP unit identified the following pilot site categories:

    • Private land with conservation-compatible land-uses
    • Private agricultural land
    • Communal land
    • Forestry land
    • State-owned land
    • Land required to be proclaimed as a condition of Records of Decisions

    Specific pilot sites were selected based on their biodiversity value (irreplaceability), landowner willingness, and their urgency for protection. A simple multi-criteria decision analysis model was developed to assist with the selection of the pilot site as indicated in the map below.

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