Pretoria: As the country marks Arbor Week, government has called on South Africans to conserve the environment by planting more trees.
Speaking at the People and Parks Conference in the Free State on Thursday, Environmental Affairs Deputy Minister Rejoice Mabudfhasi said efforts to improve natural resource management in protected areas should also contribute to sustainable growth and poverty reduction.
“We need to enhance the capacity of the poor to manage their own and shared resources by strengthening local management arrangements and by supporting women’s key roles in managing natural resources,” Mabudafhasi said.
Civil society, in particular poor and marginalized groups, needed to be empowered to influence environmental management policy and planning processes at all levels, by expanding public access to information, decision making and justice.
Partnerships with private sector and cross-sectoral cooperation should be encouraged government activities to conserve the environment, said Mabudafhasi.
“I believe we need to fully take advantage of the progressive policies and laws that we have the willingness to co-operate by all the stakeholders involved, we need to also build formal and smart partnerships between public services, donors, private sector, business, civil society and local communities”.
She said these partnerships should be based on measurable results of fighting environmental degradation and poverty.
There was a need for communities to build their own capacities to partner with the private sector by providing incentives for local based enterprise development based on the sustainable use of biodiversity such as community based eco-tourism or sustainable harvesting of natural products.
More than R497 000 was made available by government for seven provinces to implement People and Parks projects, an initiative that had led to over 4874 employment opportunities.