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Bonus for KZN Conservation - Agreement over traditional land


Conservation awareness in rural KZN has been given a major boost with the announcement that 45 000ha of traditional land will be given over for use as a wilderness area.

Last week two amaKhosi entered an agreement, and have applied for part of their land to be included as a wilderness area with a long-term vision for inclusion in the uKhahlamba Drakensberg Park World Heritage Site (UDP WHS), according to Ezemvelo KZN-Wildlife.

Their agreement to set aside the vast expanse of their combined traditional land is considered one of the most dramatic and progressive community conservation decisions made in KZN.
In doing so the two amaKhosi - Nkosi Menzi Hlongwane of the amaNgwane community and Nkosi Mthetho Miya of the amaZizi community in the Upper uThukela region - have laid down a footprint of understanding that the protection of this land is crucial for the supply of water as well as the fauna and flora that exists in this mountainous ecosystem.

After two years of negotiation, both are jointly in the process of applying to have this land proclaimed as a Wilderness Nature Reserve under Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife's Biodiversity Stewardship programme.

Speaking outside Estcourt in the Midlands, both amaKhosi spoke with different emphases as to why they had reached this common objective. "We must bring back the klipspringers. Once you could see more than 20 a day in the region, now there's nothing," Hlongwane said.

Miya said the rock art paintings (heritage) and the grasslands had to be preserved: "We must make sure that our cattle don't graze this land as it will affect the clean supply of water for others downstream. We understand how important the grasses are for the animals that survive up here, as well as the soil."

Both want the land left untouched for future generations and have agreed that this 45 000ha will be fenced off from the remaining land that they can still use for their cattle.
"We still have a lot of work to do to convince all members of our communities who live all over South Africa," said Miya. "Some think we are selling off our land, but this is not the case.
"With the assistance and support of Ezemvelo this land will now be managed in the interests of conservation but it remains our community land."

CEO for Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife, Dr Bandile Mkhize, who has been working to align conservation with the needs of rural communities, said: "Without doubt, this is a pivotal decision in South African community conservation. I am absolutely thrilled that following much work - and I thank the Wildlands Conservation Trust among others who have contributed to this - they have grasped the significance of preserving this land. "It is a critical development, both in itself and the broader message I hope it sends to other communities in KZN."

Mkhize said he hoped a broader pattern of "environmental awareness" was taking place, noting recent remarks made by two other amaKhosi in KZN. He was referring to Nkosi Buthelezi near Ithala Game Reserve in the north-east of the province (Ithala Game Reserve) and Nkosi Tembe near the Mozambique border (KwaNgwanase), both of whom have recently called on rural communities to embrace conservation and eco-tourism as tools for protecting wild animals and sensitive ecosystems in their areas.

The mountains of this particular region in the Upper uThukela form a critical component of the Maloti-Drakensberg Mountain System. This land (known as the Mweni-Busingatha Gap) constitutes a critical region that presently cuts the UDP WHS in two. For decades this gap has been considered particularly vulnerable because it has no formal conservation status yet comprises part of one of the most valuable conservation regions in South Africa, the uKhahlamba Drakensberg Park World Heritage Site.

Part of its value lies in the critical ecosystems it supports, such as highland grasslands and rare fauna and flora. But perhaps its most strategic value lies in the water that emanates from it. The quantity and quality of this water is considered indispensable to the country and as such depends on future protection of the catchment areas.

Bonus for KZN Conservation - Agreement over traditional land

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