Lesson Learned

Karen J. Esler, Associate Professor, Department of Conservation Ecology and Entomology, University of Stellenbosch

Esler, who teaches ecology and scientific methodology at all undergraduate levels, is co-editor of “Karoo Veld: Ecology and Management,” which was published by the University of Stellenbosch with support from the Succulent Karoo Ecosystem Programme (SKEP) and the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF).

The publication aims to raise awareness among stakeholders in the Succulent Karoo Hotspot (including commercial and game farmers, researchers, and conservation managers) of sustainable management techniques in this semi-arid region.

What was the most important lesson learned?

Since conservation of the future relies heavily on the actions of private landowners, there is a great need for science to be translated into a format that is palatable for the average landowner and communicated in the local language.

Describe how you learned this and whether / how you have adapted your approach or specific project elements as a result.

The vast landscapes and uniquely southern African biodiversity of the Karoo region are entrenched in the hearts and heritage of so many South Africans, but we need to ensure sustainability into the future.

The Karoo has its fair share of threats, including overgrazing, invasive alien plants, and climate change.

Our approach was to produce a book with practical and accessible visual as well as verbal messages, to assist in raising awareness of the Karoo among as wide a readership as possible.

For this reason we had the book published in two languages: English and Afrikaans. Our hope is that every farmer in the Karoo, as well as every visitor to the area, will have access to this book and will buy into its principles, because hope lies in knowledge.

Early indications show that the book has been very successful. Most Afrikaans copies are being sold in rural areas, whereas the English books are selling in the cities, indicating that language is important in targeting the right audience.

- April 27, 2007