Keynote address by the Minister of Environmental Affairs, Dr Edna Molewa at the Launch of Double Drift Community Wildlife Project in the Eastern Cape
To the Royal Highnesses who are here to grace this occasion;
The Premier of the Eastern Cape Province, Premier Phumulo Masualle;
MEC of Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs in the Eastern Cape, Mr Sakhumzi Somyo;
The Executive Mayor of Amathole District Municipality, Ms Nomfusi Nxawe;
The Mayor of Raymond Mhlaba local municipality, Mr Bandile Ketelo;
The Director General of the Department of Environmental Affairs, Ms Nosipho Ngcaba;
CEO and Board Members of the Eastern Cape Parks and Tourism Agency;
The leadership of the Likhaya Lethu Community Property Association;
The Community of Double Drift and surrounding areas;
Government officials and media;
We are greatly honoured to be here and thank you for allowing us to share this day with you.
Today we are standing on the shoulders of the great Xhosa warriors who resisted colonialism for more than a hundred years during the Xhosa Wars, more commonly known as the Cape Frontier Wars, from 1779 to 1889.
It was in these valleys around us that the spears of our people faced the bullets of Dutch and British colonisers, refusing to give up their land and cattle.
Our people paid the ultimate price in their thousands as they were not prepared to give up their land and wealth. The history of these battles is visible today in the remains of Fort Double Drift located here in the game reserve we are celebrating today.
We must preserve and share this history with generations to come as what we are doing here today will hopefully contribute to healing the wounds that were opened so many years ago.
Since time immemorial, and long before colonialism and apartheid, our communities interacted with nature and in the process sustained their livelihoods, whilst at the same time respecting their immediate environment.
During apartheid and colonialism, our communities were displaced and denied access to the resources upon which they were dependent on, and often benefited from, to make way for the establishment of Protected Areas. While the establishment of Protected Areas is welcome, the manner of execution was characterised in the main by forced removals.
Historically, many African countries including South Africa have pursued exclusionary policies which alienated people from conservation. This led to the establishment of protected areas on land formerly owned or occupied by local communities characterised in the main by forced removals. Local communities were frequently displaced, denied access to the resources upon which they were dependent and seldom benefited from the establishment of such protected areas.
Following South Africa’s transition to a constitutional democracy in 1994, the country embarked on a massive land reform programme to redress inequalities perpetuated in protected areas. One component of this programme was land restitution, which enables persons who were dispossessed of land for political reasons to reclaim such land of the applicable laws governing land restitution.
Thousands of land claims were lodged, some of which related to land incorporated within existing national parks and nature reserves.
The national environmental laws provide for the participation of communities and land owners in sustainable utilisation of natural resources like plants and animals, most of which are found here this province. In this context, the environmental authorities are working together in harmonising the policy framework and guidelines for game donation and game loans.
This initiative enables access to start-up game or wild animals which in itself fosters the ownership of game in the hands of communities, particularly the previously disadvantaged. It further advances the interface between communities and protected areas which in-turn contributes to promoting sustainable livelihoods through ecotourism, job creation and protection of natural and cultural heritage.
The launch of this Double Drift Project marks the new dawn in community-led wildlife management which unlocks wildlife ranching that includes a focus on game breeding and live sales. Secondary activities associated with these include veterinary services, translocation services, fencing and infrustructure maitenanace. Other widlife activities include trophy hunting, production of biltong and other wildlife products of game meat processing, skin and hides, curios and jewellery. I mention these to highlight the many skills required that young people need to acquire to participate meaningfully in wildlife economy. This area, is endowed with a variety of indeginous plants, including Aloe Ferox (Ikhala), and Pelargonium (Ikhubalo) which are mainly haversted informally by the local communities, to be explored for bioprospecting product development.
I call on young people to pursue careers in the fields of, among others, nature conservation, verterinary sevices, ecotourism, texidemy, animal husbandry, zoology, botany and ecology. Government will continue to work as partners with communites and private sector to provide the necessary support required for these kinds of initiatives to succeed.
Programme Director, we are serious about empowering communities through job creation. Currently, we have started with the development of primary infrastructure using labour intensive methods to erect a 10km fence, entrance gate with a guard house, construction of an animal holding boma and capacitation of community members. This project has contributed sixty job opportunities within the communities around Double Drift nature reserve since February 2018, furthermore eight environmental monitors have been allocated to park to bolster our efforts for combatting wildlife crime.
The implementation of the National Biodiversity Economy Strategy, which includes wildlife and bio-prospecting value chain activities, is but one mechanism for advancing beneficiation of communities adjacent to protected areas. Such a strategy is conducive even in marginal lands that are not agriculturally productive, but that are able to advance ecotourism, hunting, expansion of conservation estate, and other related support activities. The contribution of the biodiversity economy in poverty alleviation and enhancement of rural livelihoods can therefore not be undermined.
In ensuring the improvement of the well-being of our people, the Department of Environmental Affairs is working closely with the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform, the Department of Cooperative Governance and other sister departments within the three spheres of government, as well as their agencies and affected communities to achieve these goals.
The role of the private sector cannot be over-emphasised as our communities’ need skills; mentorship, and investment to realise the full economic benefits and opportunities presented by our Protected Areas.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Today we have gathered to witness a new era in conservation — where local communities and government join hands in fighting the economic ills of poverty, unemployment and inequality through the sustainable use of our biological resources for the economic benefit of our communities.
The Double Drift community is one of the communities that were dispossessed of their land and grazing rights under past laws.
In 2016, the Double Drift community formed a Communal Property Association called Likhaya Lethu CPA consisting of approximately 1 500 members. This CPA has since entered into a co-management agreement with the Eastern Cape Parks and Tourism Agency (ECPTA).
The Department of Environmental Affairs has provided R6 million in funding to the CPA to develop a Wildlife Economy business venture on the farm Naudeshoek (1 400 hectares), which has been bought as part of the land claim settlement by the state through the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform.
The activities undertaken with this funding include the installation of a 10km game fence; construction of an Entrance Gate; construction of rangers and hunters accommodation; construction of Animal Holding Boma, and training and development of community members.
The community beneficiation includes extensive game breeding of high value and plains game species for live sales; beneficiation of products such as game meat, product development from skin and hides, and ecotourism activities such as accommodation.
In terms of the co-management agreement between the CPA and the ECPTA, the provincial parks and tourism authority committed to providing technical assistance, training and expert advice on the management and operations and also start-up game.
In the wildlife sector, participation of previously disadvantaged individuals has been, and continues to be, over-shadowed by several barriers, including insufficient access, ownership and inefficient utilisation of land, as well as a lack of infrastructure development support for entrepreneurs. The high capital costs for acquiring land, fencing and game are amongst the major barriers to entry and transformation. Overcoming these barriers or challenges to entering the sector requires coordinated efforts.
Ladies and gentlemen,
The Eastern Cape Province has confirmed that the Greater Amathole Biodiversity Economy Node, which extends to the Great Fish River Nature Reserve, is a development priority for the district.
As part of the Biodiversity Economy initiatives, government intends investing in a multi-purpose processing plant in the Amathole district areas and similarly do the same in other districts within the Province. This will require close cooperation between communities, government and industry through Community Public Private Partnerships.
It is also important to note that we have already appointed a team of transaction advisors who will be working closely with the people of the Eastern Cape on the issues relating to and particularly the exploitation of community members. These are situations where community members are reduced to becoming tappers and harvesters of genetic resources with little revenue received in exchange.
I want to see a full emancipation of the people of the Eastern Cape through:
Becoming owners and operators of their own businesses;
Some becoming black industrialists;
Localisation of industries close to the geographical areas where genetic resources occur;
Local value addition of products in South Africa, especially in far flung rural areas;
Output orientated research and development on genetic resources; and
Optimal utilisation of marine resources.
I would like to wish the Likhaya Lethu CPA well in the new business venture and hope that through its expansion it will bring benefit not only to this generation, but to many generations to come.
The CPA should allow the land to be optimally utilised through conservation and business principles. Young people should be given space to come with great innovations within the wildlife economy space that will see the creations of jobs and ultimately the upliftment of your community.
CPAs countrywide must not waste time fighting each other, but should rather exhaust their energies optimally utilising the land so that it can work for the beneficiaries.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Our President, Mr Cyril Ramaphosa, has challenged us to lend a hand and work towards changing other people’s lives. Let us all join the Thuma Mina movement and build our communities.
Source: Government of South Africa