Making our fragile environment more resilient
HOEDSPRUIT - It seems inevitable that the climate in southern Africa will become hotter and drier. The population in the Limpopo River Basin – including 15 million people in South Africa – face floods and increasing water shortages as climate change affects a region which is dry even under normal conditions.
To address these problems, the USAID funded RESILIM (Resilience in the Limpopo River Basin) programme seeks to improve the water resources management of the river with the involvement of all four countries affected. Co-operation between South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe and Mozambique is a key issue in preventing further degradation and protecting the livelihoods of people living in the basin. Musonsa Ngubele, representing USAID, said that although the substantial aid from the US people to South Africa was mostly focussed on health care, the RESILIM programme was a partnership with SA and neighbouring countries which addressed the health and wellbeing of the ecosystem.
USAID-RESILIM uses science-based evidence to guide their actions in building a more resilient environment. The use of new knowledge requires training, and to address the training need, the Southern African Wildlife College (SAWC) was invited to become a partner in RESILIM. A grant agreement was signed in January this year, and to celebrate this collaboration the agreement was officially launched at SAWC on June 11. In her opening speech, Theresa Sowry, CEO of SAWC, thanked RESILIM for the invitation which she said was to the college ‘a dream come true’. Training at SAWC already includes Community Based Natural Resources Management (CBNRM) and a resilience training programme fits neatly into this.
Kule Chitepo, Chief of Party for RESILIM, gave an overview of the programme’s objectives, and said that today’s event was not just a launch but the culmination of several months of training needs assessment. SAWC had commissioned an assessment from Dr. Brian Child, a wildlife ecologist and resource economist currently based at the University of Florida. The assessment showed a major mismatch between what was provided and what was needed, with a need for CBNRM identified as the biggest gap.
Dr Marisa Coetzee, a programme manager with RESILIM-Olifants, based in Hoedspruit, also talked about how the programme could help improve economic output,sustainability and resilience. People could be made richer and more resilient by what she called ‘integrating the bio-experience economy into the production landscape’, in other words, to accept that an old-style commodity production (e.g. cattle farming) may not be suitable, as it carries economic and environmental risks. The world is changing, and farming may not be the future in dry areas. Shifting from a commodity to a bio-experience economy was discussed again later and thought to be one way forward. The wildlife economy also brings the advantage that the income is spread widely outside the park or reserve.
The launch event was well-attended by stakeholders from a wide range of backgrounds. The other countries in the Limpopo Basin were represented, and the local community was taking an active part as headmen from villages, trusts and tribal authorities attended the meeting. The variety of views and backgrounds led to interesting discussions and many useful visions of the way forward.