Recent research by Dr Jean Harris (EKZNW) indicates that at the current rate of transformation all remaining land not under formal conservation will be completely transformed in 37 years time. Well, we just simply cannot allow that to happen but it does bring home the point that the future of conservation, particularly biodiversity protection, is in the hands of the private sector and private landowner in particular.
The Wildlands Conservation Trust (WCT) approached us in November, to consider submitting a project proposal for funding from the Critical Ecosystems Partnership Fund (CEPF). The CEPF is an international partnership between l'Agence Française de Développement, Conservation International, the Global Environment Facility, the Government of Japan, the MacArthur Foundation and the World Bank .
There are 34 biodiversity hot spots on Earth and the Critical Ecosystems Partnership Fund exists to support initiatives that protect biodiversity in these hotspots.
Three of these hotspots occur in SA and the KZ Midlands falls into one of these : the Maputaland-Pondoland-Albany Hotspot. Within this hotspot, specific priority nodes have identified and the Mildlands falls slap bang into one of them! A small Dargle Conservancy Committee task team has spent a considerable amount of time working on the proposal over the past two months and has finally submitted it for approval. Wildlands seem very confident about our chances of securing the funding. This is a short synopsis of our Vision and Plan:
Project Vision: To highlight the biodiversity value of the remaining unmodified mist belt grasslands and indigenous forest to civil society, focusing on important environmental issues and inspiring greater community action. To bring together landowners, the greater community and relevant government and NGO role players in a way that contributes meaningfully to sustainable land use and biodiversity conservation, through the Protected Areas Act (PAA) and the Biodiversity Stewardship Programme (BSP).
In conjunction with Biodiversity Stewardship Programme, the Dargle Conservancy successfully facilitated the initial process with landowners for the establishment of the "Dargle Nature Reserve". This initial phase has resulted in 10 landowners cooperating to set aside approximately 2500 ha of indigenous forest and grassland which has met all the criteria to be granted full Nature Reserve status in terms of the Protected Areas Act. The Project plans to ensure the establishment of the Dargle Nature Reserve and support landowners and EKZNW in the development and implementation of a management plan for the Dargle Nature Reserve, as well as developing a strategy to expand on the existing protected area by identifying candidate core areas suitable for 'Nature Reserve' status and linking these core areas and existing protected areas with corridors of biodiversity with 'Biodiversity Agreement' status.