Spatially aligning projects in the Kruger 2 Canyons Biosphere Region using ESRI GIS software

By W. van der Merwe


The Kruger to Canyons Biosphere Region (K2C BR), as a UNESCO ratified Region in the Man and Biosphere Programme, is coordinating and facilitating the implementation of projects aimed at promoting environmentally sustainable socio-economic empowerment and improved conservation efforts.  Currently the K2C is implementing 5 different projects.  There are: 

  • SANParks GEF 5 Protected Area Programme
  • SANBI GEF Mainstreaming Project
  • SANParks Biodiversity Social Projects
  • DEA Environmental Monitor Programme
  • WWF Water Stewardship Programme. 

The K2C spreads across 2 provinces (Limpopo in the Norther and Mpumalanga in the South), with 8 local municipalities, as well as a large part of the middle of Kruger National Park, falling within its boundaries.  This is a vast landscape, spanning across 2,97 million hectares, includes savannah, afro-montane and grassland biomes.  This diversity means there are a multitude of projects, programmes and various different entities; all working towards common goals aimed at socio-economic empowerment; sustainable usage of natural resources and ecologically appropriate stewardship of the landscape.
The challenge of having such a multitude of entities operating in the K2C Biosphere across such a geographically large and institutionally complex landscape is that it makes true collective and collaborative action difficult. Through the SANParks GEF Protected Area Programme and various other projects, the K2C is currently attempting to functionally engage the broader landscape and co- champion working towards collective outcomes. The levels of nuance and continuous change in which this landscape finds itself, makes having a comprehensive prioritisation process that will align the work of all the entities in the landscape in order to achieve collective outcomes, nearly implausible to develop in a short time span and with limited funding. Through the acquisition of NPO licenses for ESRI ARC Software however, we were able to take one of the initial steps in this process. This step was the development of a spatial prioritisation tool that helps identify key biodiversity; ecological infrastructure; socio-economic and climate change priority areas, in collaboration with Southern Connections NPO.

Integration of spatial priorities using ARCGIS

In order to more closely align the projects being implemented in the K2C landscape, geographical priorities were identified. These were developed through utilising national datasets based on the four themes, these were integrated using ARCMap 10.4, predominantly the Spatial Analyst component, as well as the Conversion Tools, Data Management Tools; Analysis Tools and others. Below is an example of the different layers used to develop the composite dataset used to identify Climate Change priority areas through the development of a weighting system that took into consideration various factors, as listed below, to develop a composite heat map raster. A similar process was followed to create composite layers for Ecological Infrastructure; Biodiversity Value and Social Demand.

The result

As a result of having this improved understanding of where the priorities lies in the landscape we have been able to more closely align projects according to their key focus areas. Below an example of the overlay of projects currently being implemented through the K2C. 
The BSP and EM programmes (blue and red dots) for instance has a strong overlap with areas of high social demand; the Protected Area and Mainstreaming Programmes with the climate change and biodiversity priority areas.

Benefits of getting this right

To the right a list of all the programmes in the landscape. Where we aim to end up, is with all the projects working towards landscape level goals in an integrated and harmonised way through collective action and closer alignment and collaboration.


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