Local community forums for protected areas have for
many years been an important point of contact between
nature conservation managers and the people living in
an around parks in KwaZulu-Natal.
As one of the elements of nature conservation policy
and strategy of the parastatal Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife (Ezemvelo), this has
involved the development of interactions and partnerships
through which Ezemvelo and communities engage in
co-defining and realising nature conservation value
Over the past 10 years, community conservation programmes have expanded exponentially, with conservation managers
and local communities initiating and supporting an enormous
variety of programmes, involving resource use, community
development, biodiversity education and tourism partnerships.
South Africa's transition to democracy and the removal
of the imbalances of the past has given further impetus
to programmes which concern parks and people.
a primary thrust of government policy is to democratise
the state and society and involve people in decisions
that affect their everyday lives.
An important aspect of this is the restitution of land
rights lost due to racially-discriminatory laws.
The development of a new law establishing Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife
in 1997 offered an opportunity to strengthen this relationship
between parks and people, and the concepts of statutory
Local Boards for protected areas and of a Community
Trust was introduced.
Appointed by the Minister of Environmental Affairs,
after a public nomination process, the objects
of the Local Boards are to promote local decision-making
regarding the management of nature conservation and
heritage resources within protected areas as well as
to promote the integration of the activities of the
protected area into that of the surrounding area.
The powers of the Local Boards are circumscribed by
the policies, norms and standards determined by the
KwaZulu-Natal Nature Conservation Board, which is responsible
for biodiversity conservation throughout KwaZulu-Natal,
including areas which fall outside of protected areas.
|The most important
mechanism whereby the Local Boards will influence
decision-making is through their powers to compile
and monitor the implementation of management plans
for protected areas.
These management plans must, among other things…
||Promote the development needs of
the people living in or adjacent to protected
||Promote educational programmes,
|| And determine local policies, including
resource management and zonation, the development
of ecotourism, and scientific research.
After a lengthy communication and preparation phase,
the Minister has now appointed the first four
Local Boards, and a process of capacity-building
and initiating their work has begun.
One of their most important functions is to
manage the disbursement of funds from the Community
This fund was established in 1998 to ensure that communities
living adjacent to protected areas benefit directly
from tourism activities.
Each visitor is required to pay a community
levy upon entry to the parks, and in the first two years
of operation, the capital raised has exceeded US$ 1.2
The Local Boards are responsible for receiving proposals
for the use of these funds, and payments made to date
have contributed to the building of additional
classrooms at a school, the establishment of a crèche,
the construction of a community hall, and the development
of a heritage site.
The latter project is the result of the settlement of
a land claim over a component area of the Greater St
Lucia Wetland Park World Heritage Site.
The Land Claims Court awarded the claimant community
restitution following their loss of rights of beneficial
Because restoration of the land could not be considered,
the proceeds of the Community Levy will accrue to this
community in perpetuity, and a heritage site will commemorate
their former occupation and contribution to the global
In another park, 10 traditional authorities have pooled
their levy to invest in an equity share in a tourism
development, which will also create employment in an
area where there are few other economic opportunities.
The introduction of these structures for community
governance and participation will no doubt
be a challenging and interesting phase of nature conservation
development in South Africa, and will, it is hoped,
contribute to greater social equity and sustainability
for protected areas.