Biosphere reserves are approved by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) and play an integral role in reconciling humanity with nature, thus establishing a more sustainable future for us all.
Here are some important things to know about biosphere reserves:
Funding and collaboration
It’s important to remember that all South African biosphere reserves are NGOs and that keeping them going is a strong collaborative effort. They don’t receive funding from the national government, nor from UNESCO. All funding is generated through firmly established partnerships, both local and international.
Biospheres in South Africa
There are currently 671 biosphere reserves in 120 countries around the globe. Of which, eight officially designated reserves are in South Africa, with another in the process of being nominated.
The Kogelberg Biosphere Reserve in the Overberg was declared in 1998. Home to more than 1 880 different plant species, it is considered to be the very heart of the Cape Floral Kingdom. At 100 000ha, it is the smallest biosphere region in South Africa.
Cape West Coast was declared in 2000, followed by Kruger to Canyons and Waterberg in 2001, after which came the designation of Cape Winelands in 2007, Vhembe in 2009, and the Gouritz Cluster and Magaliesberg in 2015. The Garden Route Biosphere Reserve (number 9) is in the process of being nominated as an official biosphere reserve.
Each of these areas was nominated by different organisations and for different reasons. It’s interesting to note how very different each of these regions is in size and ecological/social make-up.
They run amazing sustainable projects and create jobs
Each of these reserves is doing incredible work as far as conservation, education, job creation and sustainability is concerned. Some of the most noteworthy projects currently running, include:
Cape Winelands Biosphere Reserve’s food forests – As much as 70% of the local population don’t know where their next meal will come from on any given day. As a result the CWBR has embarked on a program to educate and empower people to create their own food sources. This project involves planting and caring for fruit-bearing trees and vegetable gardens in informal settlements, schools, rural areas and other areas where food security is an unknown.
Kruger to Canyons (K2C) Environmental Monitor’s Program – Working closely with SANParks and a number of different institutions, K2C has managed to create more than 200 jobs to date by getting local communities involved with various conservation projects. This is the third largest in the world.
Kogelberg Biosphere Reserve’s ongoing alien clearing projects – As the heart of the Cape Floral Kingdom, it’s no surprise that the KBRC pilots various alien clearing projects throughout the region, creating jobs for locals as they go along.
The purpose of these reserves, to re-unite mankind and nature in harmony, should be more well known than they currently are. Protecting our natural biodiversity in such an openly accessible environment is a breath of fresh air that we all deserve to experience for ourselves.