Government will invest R1.7-billion into the People and Parks Programme project, bioprospecting and the wildlife economy, through the Environmental Protection and Infrastructure Programme, over a period of three years.
The investment forms part of the Operation Phakisa Biodiversity Economy initiative.
“South Africa’s natural resources can only be properly conserved if there is support for initiatives from communities living adjacent to protected areas,” Environmental Affairs Minister Dr Edna Molewa said at the recent People and Parks conference.
South Africa is home to more than nine-million hectares of protected area networks, which include national parks, nature reserves and world heritage sites, equating to about 8% of the country’s land.
These protected areas serve as sites for conserving South Africa’s ecosystems, protecting high biodiversity value and providing ecosystem services. Most of these protected areas are geographically located in rural areas, forming an integral system with rural communities whose livelihoods and cultures are closely dependent on these areas.
The People and Parks Programme is an initiative of the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA), which promotes the interface between conservation and communities in South Africa’s protected areas.
“It is through the People and Parks Programme that the DEA is actively involved in restoring and maintaining natural ecosystems to stimulate rural economies; upgrading and developing new infrastructure in protected areas to boost tourism, developing commercial assets for communities owning and/or living around protected areas while supporting related industries,” explained Molewa.