C.A.P.E. Partners' Conference

In Focus, July 2004

by Elizabeth A. Foley

More than 260 people gathered at the base of South Africa’s world-famous Table Mountain for the Cape Action for People and the Environment (C.A.P.E.) first partners' conference in June.

Entitled "Innovating Conservation," the conference brought together 20 partner organizations alongside government agencies and donors all helping to implement C.A.P.E. The participants reviewed progress, shared lessons learned and planned for the next five years of implementation in the Cape Floristic Region.

C.A.P.E. is a government program developed together with experts and stakeholders with funding support from the Global Environment Facility through the World Bank. Launched in May 2001, the program has three broad areas of focus:

Its goal: "By the year 2020, the natural environment of the Cape Floral Kingdom will be effectively conserved, restored wherever appropriate, and will deliver significant benefits to the people of the region is a way that is embraced by local communities, endorsed by government and recognized internationally."

The Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF) is a cornerstone funder, allocating $6 million over five years to support the most urgent priorities identified by C.A.P.E. CEPF investments support civil society-led efforts in the Cederberg, Gouritz and Baviaanskloof mega-reserves and in key lowland areas.

Inside the Conference

The conference, held June 1-3 at Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens in Cape Town, featured a keynote address by Marthinus van Schalkwyk, the minister of environmental affairs and tourism, who characterized the Cape region as a national and global treasure but also "an asset under siege."

"The question that C.A.P.E. correctly asks, and around which this conference centers, is how best to build the biodiversity economy – especially when most of these natural riches lie on private and communal land," van Schalkwyk told the participants.

"There is no chance of ever conserving biodiversity without the active support and understanding of the people who live on that land," van Schalkwyk said. "It can never be a question of the people or the environment, conservation or the economy. What is needed is greater innovation to unlock the economic potential of conservation-friendly land use."

Participants also learned of three new grants to support the overall program.

The first two, from the Global Environment Facility, will bring a further $11.32 million through UNDP and the World Bank to the next five-year implementation phase.

The funds will be used to strengthen conservation institutions and conservation education as well as to help establish the Baviaanskloof, Cederberg and Garden Route protected areas, two marine protected areas and two estuarine protected areas.

The third, from the UK-based Rufford Maurice Laing Foundation, will provide GBP1 million (approximately $1.83 million) to establish a Center for Biodiversity Conservation at Kirstenbosch.

The facility will bring the new South African National Biodiversity Institute—the legal successor to the National Botanical Institute under South Africa's Biodiversity Act signed into law May 31—together with more than a dozen partner organizations.

Sessions on the conference's first day highlighted challenges and initial progress reports from government agencies and civil society groups that act as implementing agencies for the program as well as from Trevor Sandwith, who heads the C.A.P.E. Coordination Unit and acts as overall coordinator of both C.A.P.E. and CEPF implementation in the biodiversity hotspot.

More than 30 speakers addressed the participants over the course of four workshops covering topics such as governance and institutions, protected areas and linkages in the landscape, and models for involving and benefiting people.

In addition to assessing progress in the overall program, the participants shared experiences and lessons learned.

"It was valuable as a coming together of all the partners and catching up with people from all the different projects who you don’t get to talk to on a day-to-day basis, and engage with projects that are somewhere on the road to implementation to see what the challenges are," said Tanya Goldman, project manger for Cape Flats Nature.

Goldman leads a CEPF-supported project to achieve good practice in sustainable management of sites in the city of Cape Town's biodiversity network being established within the context of the city's Integrated Metropolitan Environmental Policy and Biodiversity Strategy. The project is working with communities surrounding four pilot sites in the midst of poor townships on the Cape Flats.

She said she would have liked to see more in-depth discussion about challenges related to involving communities and generating economic development from conservation, but the level of discussion "was more a reflection of where projects are at the moment versus a process flaw."

The final day wrapped up with remarks by review panellists and 8-10 person working group discussions to develop key recommendations for future action. The participants developed a set of 13 recommendations on topics ranging from funding sustainability to influencing land-use decisions to involving communities.

Facing the Challenges

Key to accomplishing C.A.P.E.'s goal will be making the conference's buzzwords "mainstreaming biodiversity" a reality.

The people of the region are diverse but socioeconomic disparities are marked, as are disparities in skills and access to resources.

There are sizable pockets of poverty in both rural and urban areas. Many poorer rural communities are dependent upon wild resources, particularly marine resources and medicinal plants for subsistence purposes and income generation.

Approximately 5.2 million people live in the Cape Floristic Region, which spans the provinces of the Western Cape and Eastern Cape. Rural areas harbor the greatest biodiversity, while some 20-30 percent of the human population and many urban communities reside in or adjacent to biologically significant areas.

The unemployment rate in Cape Town is 16.9 percent. Many Cape Town residents have never had jobs and most have little or no applicable skills.

As C.A.P.E. moves from pilot to implementation, it will build on already established programs helping to implement C.A.P.E. with CEPF support, such as the Cape Flats Nature project, the Table Mountain Fund Capacity Building Program and others geared toward engaging and building the capacity of local citizens and communities.

"Professionals working in conservation are not representative of the broader South African community," said Rodney February, manager of the Capacity Building Program and one of the conference’s workshop speakers.

The program provides funding to previously disadvantaged persons, particularly black and female South Africans, for academic bursaries and one-year placements in the workplace. It aims to change the face of conservation in the country, creating trained conservation role models who can merge conservation with social development. (See related story – The Table Mountain Fund: Granting Better Futures)

Other programs working to bridge the conservation-local involvement and employment gap include the government program Working for Water and the Flower Valley Conservation Trust.

Ten years into a new democracy, South Africa’s political and social climate is geared toward fast-moving economic development. C.A.P.E.'s challenge will be to move as quickly as the soaring direct foreign investment in the region, where development is escalating in step with investments.

Approximately 80 percent of the land in the region is also privately held.

C.A.P.E. partners will need to "get smart" according to National Botanical Institute CEO Brian Huntley.

Speaking during one of the workshops, Huntley said that developers are already "trading on nature" and forming partnerships is crucial, particularly with the number of golfing estates and other intensive land uses rising.

But there is a unique opportunity to harness this momentum by working with the parties involved. One idea Huntley thinks worthy of following up came from a meeting with estate agents who suggested a levy be placed on all property sales.

There is also headway being made in the form of partnerships with farmers and other landowners as part of unique initiatives helping to implement C.A.P.E. with CEPF support.

In the Slanghoek Valley of the Western Cape, for example, some 327 farmers have formed the Rawsonville Wine and Tourism Cooperative to promote the sustainable use of their natural environment and contribute to the social development of the entire community.

As part of their project, the farmers have joined forces with the Western Cape Nature Conservation Board, the Department of Agriculture and a botanical specialist to craft a regional plan for the conservation of the locally endemic and highly irreplaceable plant species that are threatened by agricultural development.

The team has been working with 13 key landowners in the valley and five of these have been hooked up with a complementary CEPF-supported program implemented by the Botanical Society of South Africa. The project is developing both incentives and benefits for landowners to act as stewards of their biodiversity-rich land.

From Pilot to Implementation

C.A.P.E.'s pilot phase has provided an important learning period, one that has seen innovative project development and helped establish which types of projects can be sustainable in the long term.

The strong governmental commitment to linking conservation and sustainable development and the extremely broad network of civil society organizations in the region bodes well for the future success of C.A.P.E.

However, mainstreaming biodiversity through increased and sustained involvement of ordinary South Africans remains pivotal.

"Partnerships are popping up like mushrooms, but there are still few implementers willing to get their hands dirty and get things going on the ground," said David Daitz, chairman of the C.A.P.E. Implementation Committee and one of the conference speakers.

By combining the energies, insights and resources of the government, civil society organizations and donors, C.A.P.E. continues to be a unique partnership approach with immense potential.

The conference proved to be an important extension of this approach, with partners assessing progress and sharing lessons and challenges together. The results: a renewed commitment to the overall strategy and joint action among all the partners as well as a consensus-based blueprint for future action.