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Creating co-benefits for

both the environment and

the people.

The biggest threats facing the

environment in southern Africa today

are habitat loss, biological invasion,

ecosystem mismanagement and

climate change. The declaration of

protected areas has expanded

considerably across the planet. But

these areas can only protect a small

amount of biodiversity. Our biodiversity

is becoming increasingly threatened by

human activities and poor management

decisions. As a result of this the life

support systems on which we all

depend for our livelihoods and

well-being are being put at risk.

The poor in South Africa, in particular,

depend more directly on functioning

ecosystems for food, water, building

materials, medicinal plants and cultural

artifacts.

With the unprecedented population

growth the planet has seen in recent

years, it has become increasingly

difficult to motivate for and achieve

conservation for biodiversity's sake

without also demonstrating benefits

for people. We approach all our

conservation work with an aim to create

co-benefits for the environment and

people because, by protecting

biodiversity and ecosystem services,

we can, and should, create social and

economic benefits for people.

Ecological restoration in practice

The overall goal of our ecological

restoration work is to improve rural and

urban economies and ecosystem health

and resilience.

For the past few years the

Working

for Ecosystems (WFE) programme

has

been facilitated by us on behalf of the

eThekwini Municipality in KwaZulu-Natal.

This poverty relief/sustainable

development programme is aimed at

providing job opportunities to

predominantly rural communities in

high priority biodiversity areas of

conservation significance.

WFE works to restore ecological

integrity and resilience of ecosystems

through control and eradication of

invasive alien plants (IAPs) and has

been an acclaimed success, with IAP

populations in existing project areas

being significantly reduced. The

programme has a strong sustainable

development focus and partners with

the Small Enterprise Development

Association (SEDA) which aims to equip

people with the skills required for

registration and operation as

cooperatives in these communities.

The

Jobs for Carbon

project in the

Succulent Klein Karoo – a global

biodiversity hotspot - is addressing the

challenge of environmental

degradation of Subtropical Thicket

(or spekboomveld). Subtropical Thicket

comprises more than 8 000 species of

which at least 23% are endemic. 80%

of spekboomveld is moderately to

severely degraded, resulting in an

undermining of ecosystem services

such as erosion and flood control, water

infiltration, biodiversity, nature-based

tourism, carbon capture and storage.

This in turn causes rising costs, lower

farming returns, chronic unemployment,

and a depressed rural economy.

The project is a collaboration

between WESSA, as the implementer,

the Gouritz Cluster Biosphere Reserve

(GCBR) and the Rhodes Research

Restoration Group (RRRG), in association

with Assegaay Bosch Ranch. The

project aims to restore 300 hectares of

degraded Subtropical Thicket by

dry-planting spekboom

(Portulacaria

afra)

cuttings. This triggers the return of

other indigenous plants and animals

and the thicket slowly recovers. As veld

recovers, spekboom shrubs accumulate

significant stores of carbon dioxide in

underlying litter and soil, and in the

above-ground biomass.

The benefits of this project’s

restoration work include jobs for more

than 60 people in the local communities,

building entrepreneurial capacity to run

restoration teams and providing

valuable scientific work needed to test

and develop the business case for

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