Wednesday, 29 June 2016

Kukula Traditional Health Practitioners Association Bio-Cultural Community Protocols Revision Workshop & Peer-to-Peer Learning Exchange

Community mapping
Natural Justice’s Cath Traynor together with Mina Buthelezi (SANParks BSP/K2C Data Collector & Field Assistant), and Prof. Wayne Twine (Wits University) facilitated a 3-day workshop with the Kukula Traditional Health Practitioners Association to revise their bio-cultural community protocol (BCP). The Kukula’s original BCP was finalized in 2010, and the past 6 years have seen a growth in Kukula membership, a change in their priorities plus the introduction by the South African Government of several new laws and policies which will impact the Kukula. The objectives of the workshop were to (i) finalize the BCP revision process, (ii) focused discussions concerning leveraging the revised BCP, (iii) furthering engagement around medicinal plant issues with protected areas managers, and (iv) peer-to-peer learning exchange with Ndindani Community Nursery in Phalaborwa.

During the first session of the workshop the Kukula agreed on a BCP revision process, this was then followed by a discussion of new laws and policies of relevance to the Kukula, which had been analysed by Johan Lorenzen. These included a reminder of the ‘Indigenous Knowledge Research Ethics Policy’, and an introduction of the possible implications of the ‘Bioprospecting, Access and Benefit Sharing Amendment Regulations, 2015, made in terms of the National Environmental Management Biodiversity Act 10 of 2004, and the Intellectual Property Laws Amendment Act, 2013.

Further sessions on the first day related to engaging with protected areas managers. Prof. Twine (Wits University) facilitated the session which included a mapping exercise to demonstrate the geographic coverage of Kukula members, and Louise Swemmer (Social & Economic Scientist, Savanna & Arid Research, Kruger National Park, SANParks) discussed SANParks Pepper Bark Project and engaging traditional healers [the pepper-bark (Warburgia Salutaris ) is an endangered species, once widespread in South Africa but now limited to monitored populations inside protected areas, it is threatened by harvesters who strip it’s bark in an unsustainable way – the bark is used in traditional medicines]. Tshifhiwa Ramatshimbi from Mariepskop Forest Reserve then provided an update on the application procedures to harvest plants or seeds from the reserve and actions required to ensure adherence to regulations.

Louise Swemmer, SANParks
Tshifhiwa Ramatshimbi, 
Mariepskop Forest Reserve

The second day of the workshop focused on procedural issues relating to healing and traditional practitioners and included a practical session exploring medical certificates for sick leave. New developments were then discussed and these included a data monitoring framework introduced by Mina Buthelezi, fundraising initiatives, and Dr. Britta Rutert introduced (via teleconference) a new potential research project with a focus on indigenous entrepreneurs, within which the Kukula will consider participation.

On the final day of the workshop the Kukula traveled up to Ndindani Community Nursery in Phalaborwa, Limpopo Province. There they met key nursery members and also Michele Hofmeyer (Skukuza Indigenous Plant Nursery, SANParks), and Thembi Marshal (K2C) who have been assisting the members to establish the nursery and develop a business plan. Challenges were shared which included developing business plans with short-medium- and long-term strategies, moving from funding to income generation phases, accessing land and markets, and utilizing the land available fully by planting a variety of seasonal produce. The Ndindani Nursery members then escorted the Kukula on a nursery tour highlighting their vegetable produce and also their recently established medicinal plant nursery, which includes pepper-bark saplings. During the tour the Kukula identified some additional indigenous medicinal plant species growing within the nursery grounds.

Medicinal plant identified by the Kukula

Ndindani Community Nursery - vegetable production

During the workshop the Kukula had highlighted the importance of certificates, and thus at the end of the workshop ‘certificates of attendance’ were provided for all participants. Over the next few months the Kukula hope to finalize the text of their revised BCP, and deepen their relationships with SANParks and Mariepskop Forest Reserve.

The Kukula with their 'certificates of attendance'

Monday, 23 March 2015


Acornhoek is a rapidly growing rural centre situated in the Bushbuckridge Local Municipality in Mpumalanga. The extended Acornhoek community is severely impoverished, characterised by high unemployment, HIV Aids prevalence rates and poor education and health infrastructure.
Nedbank has partnered with Wildlands and Kruger2Canyon to catalyse and support a unique partnership that will enable the transformation of the Acornhoek community into one that is cleaner, greener, and more sustainable, whilst empowering local residents.
The Partnership is anchored by financial support from Nedbank, ENGEN and the National Department of Environmental Affairs, who collectively contributed over R 6 000 000 to initiate the Project, and a further R 2 000 000 per annum over the next two years. The partner organisations are the Global White Lion Protection Trust, Klaserie Eco-Training, the Timbavati Foundation, Nourish and Hlokomela.
The initial Partnership objectives are:
  • The establishment of networks of Tree-preneurs and Waste-preneurs throughout the Acornhoek community, growing trees and collecting recyclable waste to be bartered for livelihood goods.
  • The establishment of Tree-preneur and Waste-preneur inspired schools (and school children), enabling them to generate income on a sustainable basis to progressively improve their facilities.
  • The expansion of the Eco-schools and Star Lion Eco-cubs Projects across the community.
  • The greening of Acornhoek and restoration of the Blyde River area in partnership with the Moletele Community.
The partnership was initiated in September 2014. Since then the partnership has:
  • Enabled the creation of 42 full-time jobs, facilitating the establishment of the Tree-preneur and Waste-preneur networks, and greening and restoration activities;
  • Activity in 24 Schools, 3 Creches, 1 Old Age Centre and the Hloklomela HIV /AIDS Support Group.
  • The recruitment of 423 Tree-preneurs, who have propagated over 60 000 Indigenous Trees and 19 500 Moringa seedlings;
  • The establishment of a pilot Waste-preneur based recycling network.
  • The recruitment of 10 Eco-Schools and 5 Star Lions Schools.
The seedlings and recycling will be bartered for a range of livelihood support goods including, product hampers, education support, building materials, bicycles, water tanks, solar equipment and Hippo Water Rollers.
“The project has helped the empowerment of participating individuals who were once marginalised from the local economy to become viable small businesses in their own right.  Nedbank is proud to be part of this ground-breaking partnership which aligns so closely with our vision of integrated sustainability,” concludes Nina Wellsted, Sustainability Manager at Nedbank.
Acornhoek Project Visit - Photographer Kirsten Oliver
Acornhoek Project Visit (Picture: Kirsten Oliver)

(From L to R) Mokgadi Mokgode (K2C), Mbali Mashele (K2C), Principal Raganya Eckson, Corne Havinga (Klaserie Eco – Training), Dr Andrew Venter (Wildlands CEO), Nina Wellsted (Nedbank) and Lineth Sekgobela (K2C) celebrate the successes of their environmentally beneficial interventions at Seganyane Primary School. The group are surrounded by hundreds of indigenous trees and Moringa seedlings, which will not only benefit the school, but also the sustainability of this area.

Monday, 17 February 2014

Report on a Visit to China - Freek Venter, SANParks - December 2013

I had the privilege to attend a conference called the Changbai Mountain International Eco-Forum,held from 15-19 September 2013 in Changbai Mountain National Nature Reserve(CMNNR), China. The CMNNRis approximately 1600km northeast of Beijing, close to the boundary between China and North Korea. I was nominated by the Kruger to Canyons(K2C)Biosphere Reserve to attend, howevermy talkcovered both the KNP and K2C. therewere two South Africans at the conference as Mr ThivhulawiNethonondarepresented the Department of Environmental Affairs, South Africa.
The conference was attended by roughly 200 delegates whoincluded representatives from Chinese Government Departments, the Changbai Mountain Administrative Committee, Changbai Mountain National Reserve Management Bureau, and Changbai Mountain Management Committee as well as UNESCO Beijing Office Man and the Biosphere (MAB)Programs, Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), etc. Many managers of protected areas (PAs) from all over the worldattended the conference. 
The conference was jointly organized by the Provincial Environmental Protection Bureau, the Provincial Forestry Department, the Provincial Foreign Affairs Office, the Changchun Branch of Chinese Academy of SciencesandChangbai Mountain Administrative Committee. It was funded by 
the Ministry of Environmental Protection, the State Forestry Administration, theChinese Academy of Sciences, the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, the UNESCO Office in Beijing, the Chinese National Committee for MAB, and the People's Government of Jilin Province.

The Venue: Changbai Mountain National Nature Reserve
The conference was held in the 5-Star King Eastern Gem Hotel, Chibei Area of Changbai Mountain Protection Development Zone, on the edge of the CMNNR. This zone is in itself a bone of contention in the province, as the “twin topics of Protection and Development have given rise to an acrimonious debate”. 
The CMNNR is located in the Jilin Province, northeastern China. The reserve was established in 1960, joined the UNESCO MAB Reserves Network in 1980, assessed as an "A-Grade Protected Area of Global Importance" in 1992 by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), and ranked as one of the most important mountain monitoring areas by UNESCO MAB in 2003. Changbai Mountain is the source of the three big rivers in Northeast China, namely the Songhua, Tumen and Yalu riversand is therefore an important natural resource provider. The mountain has one of the highest species richness and best conserved biodiversity amongst areas along the same latitude in the world. It represents the typical natural complex of the northern half of the Eurasian Continentand is an important mountain-forest ecosystem. The name of the reserve means "Ever-White Mountain” due to it being covered by snow for most of the year. 
Figure 1: The dormant volcano crater on top of the Changbai Mountainduring Spring.Photo credit -photographic exhibition, Fairview Landscape.

CMNNR is China's largest nature reserve at 210,000 ha. It is a famous tourist attraction, especially the dormant volcano with its beautiful oval lake (the Lake of Heaven) which formed inside the crater of the volcano. The border betweenChina and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) goes throughin the middle of the lake. The lake is about 13km in circumference and 200-300mdeep. There are 16 named mountain peaks on the rim of the volcano, with the highest peak, White Cloud Peak, some 2,744m above sea-level. Evergreen tree species like Korean pine and Japanese yew share the slopes with Mongolian oak, dwarf birch and other deciduous trees.
An interesting and clear change in vegetation and animal life occurs with increasing altitudes. From the foot of the mountain to 1,000m it consists of mixed coniferous and broad-leaved woodland. From 1,000m to 1,800m the vegetation is characterized mainly by coniferous woodland. Above 2,000mAlpine Tundra occurs, and generally only lichenssurvive. Within thereserve more than 300 medicinal plantspeciesoccur. The most important of these are the winter daphne and wild ginseng.Predators such as Siberian tigers, leopards, lynx, and brown bears occur, and they prey on the shy deer, gorals, wild pigs, otters and dozens of other mammal species. Rare, endangered birds like hazel grouse, black storks, mandarin ducks and oriental storks occur in the reserve.
There is a well-developed tourism infrastructure, including roads, public transport, hiking trails and information centresin place. Approximately 2 million people visit the park annually.
Figure 2: The information centre at the entrance to the Changbai Mountain Reserve

Figure 3: Drop-off zone near the crater. No private vehicles are allowed and all visitors are transported by minibus along a long,winding road up the mountain.

Figure 4: There are many beautiful waterfalls as the mountain is one of the most important sources of water for the region.

Creation of the World Protected Area Alliance
The conference kicked off with a workshop to discuss the feasibility of establishing a new 
organization, i.e. the World Protected Area Alliance (WPAA). Overall, the feeling of delegates was thattheWPAA could promote better communication among managers of PAs, instill some new energy in protection circles and assist to improve management levels of PAs throughout the world.Some concerns, however, are thattheWPAA may overlap withtheWorld Commission of Protected Areas(WCPA)/IUCN) and that it may struggle to find funding to operate properly. It would also be a daunting task for the WPAA to influence managers of over 200,000 PAs in the world.  It was recognizedthat the relationship with the WCPA needsto be very clear from the start. It was generally anticipated thattheWPAA would be a professional association, whereas the WCPA would be more of an expert commission.
Theoccasion was used for the signing of a cooperation agreement between the Chinese National Committee for MAB and the Russian National Committee for MAB. 

Changbai Mountain International Ecological Forum
The conference itself was held over two days with the theme “Strengthen Natural Conservation, Inherit Ecological Civilization”. It covered a wide spectrum of topics, mostly dealing with specific issues related to the PA or organization represented by the presenter. During the opening ceremony a strong political contingent attended and several presenters reflected a growing conservation ethic in the Jilin province, but also throughout China.This was demonstrated by the signing of a cooperation agreement between Changbai Mountain National Nature ReserveandUS Alaska Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and Russian Sikhote-Alin State Nature Biosphere Reserve respectively. 
There were very interesting talks about tiger, Amur leopard, fire, ecosystem goods and services, human threatsto ecosystems, medicinal plants (ginseng grows naturally in this area), conservation and ecology of many MAB related PAs, to name but a few. Talks covered Alaska, Canada, the Pacific Islands, Mongolia, Japan, Thailand, Africa, several on Russia and many onChina. Many of the talks were in Chinese with interpreterstranslating toEnglish and Russian. My presentation focused on management of Kruger with specific emphasis on buffer areas such as GLTP/GLTFCA, but specifically the K2C Biosphere Reserveand all the current projects related to this area(i.e. GEF5, RESILIM, DEA Wildlife Economy and Lowveld Protected Area Managers Forum).
One of the presentations I personally found very informative was by Dr. Brian MacSharry, Senior Program Officer of Protected Areas Information Coordinator of UNEP-WCMC. In his talk “PA conservation and management –a global perspective”, he summarized the global situation regarding conservation and PAs, emphasizing the following(seealso the Protected Planet 2012 reportwhich containsmost of the information):
  • There arecurrently 177,547 nationally protected areas around the world. They represent 12.7 % of the terrestrial and inland water areas, while the target for 2020 is 17%;
  • Only 1.6% of the global ocean area is currently protected (target 10% by 2020). Most marine protection (7.2%) is concentrated along near-coastal areas (0-22 km from land), leaving the wide open oceans exposed toabuse; 
  • Where the global PA network does not provide protection for specific biodiversity in specific important areas, “Key Biodiversity Areas” have beenidentified and specific plans are put in place to improve protection in these areas, anticipating full national protection in the future. Examples are sites identified as Alliance for Zero Extinction (AZEs) and Important Bird Areas (IBAs). There are approximately 600 AZEs and 11,000 IBAs worldwide, of which 22% and 28% respectively are fully protected in PAs;
  • Although most of the world’s large mammals are nowadays found in PAs, approximately 11,600species of mammals, birds, turtles and amphibians arenot found in any protected area, emphasizing the importance of protection in communal, farming and rural areas;
  • Several studies found significant declines (up to 60%) in large mammal populations since the1970’s in African PAs. However, further analysis of the data shows steep declines in West and East African parks, but stable and even growing numbers in southern African parks(in KNP the biomass of large mammals have doubled in the past decade);
  • Management effectiveness of PAs is still a reason for concern. A 2010 global study showed that only 24% of PAs have sound management, with 27% experiencing major deficiencies in management, and 13% with completely inadequate management;
  • Finally, the role of governments in the global protected area network has declined from 95.8% in 1990 to 76.9% in 2010. Over the same period Indigenous People’s Territories and Community Conserved Areas (ICCAs) haveincreased from 3.8% to 9.3%, and that of co-managed areas from 0.1% to 13.5%. This is indicative of the increasing role communities are playing to conserve our planet’s biodiversity.

Field trips
There were organized field tripsup Changbai Mountain to the Crater Lake, a beautiful area with excellent access(Figures 1-4). Before going to Changbai Mountain I also visited the Red Beach, a wetland area near Panjin (approximately 200km from Beijing). From Panjin my wife and I thentravellednortheast for approximately 1,600km by trainto Changbai Mountain. Herewith a summary of myexperiencesen route:
  • China is in a very steep growing and developing phase. The giant that has been sleeping for millennia out of sight of the rest of the world is waking up and will soon be a dominant factor in the world. Eachand every town or city is characterized by massive newdevelopments. Infrastructure such as roads, hotels, malls andaccommodation flats is being constructed at a high rate and the name of the game is high densitieson small areasto provide for the massive Chinese population(Figure 7 & 8);
  • The resources necessary to provide for this development must have an immense impact on the environment. Most government buildings and hotels I visited were tiled with granite blocks. Even sidewalks are built with granite blocksin some areas;
  • Public transport is of a good quality and generally on time, but communication is often non-existent due to language barriers. An App that can be offloaded on one’s cell phone called “Translate” was often a saving graceas it can translate English to Mandarin writing and can even verbally pronounce the translation;
  • Train stations and bus terminuses are usually overcrowded and it is important to be on time or early. One benefit of being an African is that even in huge crowds one is still head and shoulders above the general public and can maintain a view!;
  • Safety and security is generally not an issueandviolent crimes occurseldom. The people are generally very friendlyand helpful.Chinese people are mostlycommitted, hardworkingand loyal to their country and nationality.

Figure 5: A quiet day at the new tourism facilities constructed at the Red Beach to cater for the growing awareness and interest of Chinese people in conservation matters. 

Figure 6: In rural china every possible squaremeter of land is utilized for food production to be able to feed so many mouths.In this picture it is mainly mealiesand rice.

Figure 7: New developments such as these accommodation flats are being constructed at a massive scale and arevisible in almost every city or town in China.

Figure 8: New developments in the form of accommodation flats to provide accommodation for the large population of China. Note the large notice boards/posters at the foot of the building and the trees planted and supported by struts to create a buffer with the railway line.

What I have learnt
The following is a summary of lessons learnt on this trip:
  • Parks Canadahasa similar vision as SANParks, i.e. “Connecting hearts and minds to the essence of Canada”. However, they put a lot of emphasis on doing it on the terms of the people they want to connect to, which needs extensive and continuous consultation, obviously within the restrictions of the laws. The net result of this kind of engagement with their constituency is very strong buy-inand support, especially as far as zoning and creation of amenities areconcerned. They attempt not to decide for the people but allow space for themto provide firm directions regarding their needs. 
  • One of the keynote speakersfrom the University of Kent, UK, Dr John MacKinnon, summarised his experience of when conservation fails as follows:
    • Failure to communicate the real value of ecosystem goods and services to politicians and the broader public;
    • Failure to invest in taxonomy;
    • Failure to invest in adequate training;
    • Failure to utilise indigenous knowledge;
    • Over reliance on logical frameworks;
    • Too many meetings, plans and reports.

Looking at this from a positive perspective gives one a feeling of what one needs to focus on.
  • As with developments in China, conservation is also on a steep upwards curve. There aremore than 6000 PAsof many kinds, which cover nearly 20% of the land surface. The main types of PAs summarized in the table below. Data is fromWeihua QIN( of the Ministry ofEnvironmental Protection of Chinaand 

Type of PA
Size (km2)
Ratio to land area
Nature reserves
National parks
Forest parks
Wetland parks
National water parks

Thursday, 7 November 2013

K2C to start a blogging page

From the 1st Dec 2013, K2C will start a regular blog posting on this page.   Various potential bloggers will be approached by K2C to submit regular blogs on their life in the K2C, their challenges and opportunities.   If you would like to contribute and be a regular blogger on the K2C blog page, please contact   If you would like to be able to follow the regular blogs, please fill in your email address in the email block below "Follow by Email"