Biodiversity Stewardship Project
Bushman's River

Early in 2011, the MCF steering committee submitted a proposal, to the Critical Ecosystems Partnership Fund (CEPF)/Wildlands Conservation Trust, for catalyst funding to empower the Midlands Conservancies Forum and to support a Biodiversity Stewardship Project (MCF-BSP) in the KwaZulu-Natal midlands. A total amount of USD 154 329 was granted which at the time equated to approximately ZAR 1.2 million for the project to run for 22 months. Due to fluctuations in the exchange rate, MCF was able to extend the project for a further year. The BSP project came to an end in June 2014.

The Maputaland-Pondoland-Albany Hotspot Ecosystem Profile highlights several Key Biodiversity Areas (KBA). The Midlands Conservancies Forum falls directly within the Mistbelt Grasslands KBA (18) with a rich diversity of plant and animal life. Only a small proportion of this diversity, however, and only 53% of priority species, receive protection within the existing protected area network. Currently, at least 80% of the important biodiversity lies outside formally protected areas, on privately or communally owned land, making strategic partnerships with landowners crucial if our natural heritage is to be conserved.

The Biodiversity Stewardship Programme is a good tool for improving the conservation management of sites of biodiversity significance while maintaining the productivity of the landscape for landowners. Proactive partnerships and cooperative management are the key ingredients of natural resource management and custodianship. A further aim of the programme is the creation of a network of protected areas, linked as corridors across the landscape, in order to improve the ability of species to adapt to climate change.  Stewardship processes identify land of critical importance for biodiversity conservation and/or the provision of ecosystem services, and encourage landowners to engage in biodiversity conservation and other sustainable land use practices.

The MCF-BSP project managed to secure a total of 5 198 hectares under formal conservation.  An additional 1 200 hectares are still in the process of being proclaimed as formally protected areas under the management of this project. The MCF-BSP also provided post proclamation support to many more landowners involved in the KZN Biodiversity Stewardship Programme, working with many more than 40 landowners in total. 

The MCF sites included the Dargle Stewardship Site, James Wakelin Nature Reserve, Gartmore Biodiversity Agreement, Beacon Hill Protected Area, the Fort Nottingham Nature Reserve, Snowflake and Allendale.  The Forum's work has ensured that the following hectares containing important biodiversity will be secured as formal protected areas.  The outstanding processes, leading to proclamation of these sites will be concluded by Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife.

You can see the CEPF Final Project Completion Report (2,3 Mb) here and the Presentation to the CEPF MPAH Forum (7,4 Mb) here.