WE NEED YOU!
Thirteen blogs down and we are wondering whether this information overload is chasing you away rather than attracting you to participate in Quo Vadis Africa and the work we do.
Today this blog is inspired by yesterday’s release of a report issued by the Minister of Environments high level advisory panel. This advisory panel is purported to be a group of experts nominated to look at legislation and improve this legislation in order to enhance conservation actions in general.
Sadly, most of the report findings simply regurgitated ‘stuff’ that we (those of us working at the forefront of conservation spaces) know and have been pleading for for years.
And that is EXACTLY why we need you to volunteer with us! Because our government, admittedly says, they have neglected communities who have acquired land of high biodiversity level, however they have failed to teach, mentor and build capacity within the communities that now own this land.
And that is exactly why we are calling for your help. Because we have been doing this all ourselves with zero government assistance of the resources we need. We call on you to be our resource.
If we have to wait for the government to capacitate themselves, to empower communities like those who own the Shongweni Nature Reserve, that land will be long destroyed. The tree’s will be cut down for firewood, woodlands will be transformed to grassland and livestock driven into this grassland will slowly degrade these grasslands, as if they have in the Transkei, and erosion paths will eat away at what is left, leaving a sterile environment that local people will receive no benefit from.
PROTECT SHONGWENI NATURE RESERVE
So let’s put Quo Vadis into perspective for those of you who have been following the Quo Vadis story thus far.
The vision for Shongweni Nature Reserve is clear. We have to have the 1700 hectares of pristine proclaimed as protected area. This vision fulfils global biodiversity conservation goals and if one is to study each of these goals, and if one has been following our stories, you will know that this project meets so many of the IUCN biodiversity goals. These include:
- Broad conservation targets
- Species preservation
- People development
- Job creation and empowerment
- Habitat protection
- Broad conservation of biodiversity.
- Food security
As we have stated on so many occasions, the gears of government do not have the means to assist this project. Whilst we bring this mess to the attention of the relevant departments, these government departments do not have the means to assist. This might seem so strange to those of you on the other end of the globe, living in 1st world dynamics, however it is what it is.We are currently in the process of taking this matter to the highest office of government, however we cannot wait for this process because their priorities are clearly elsewhere.
And that is how Quo Vadis was born, to actually save this piece of paradise and turn to volunteer tourism to make the difference our government cannot.
THE LAND RESTITUTION ACT:
Our communities setup to fail!
Blog 16 is dedicated to giving you some background to dynamics and realities we face in Southern Africa, and in this case – Shongweni Nature reserve.
In the Shongweni Nature Reserve case, the state identified this land as the perfect space to build a dam to supply potable water to residents of Durban . At that time (1920’s) They simply went and removed people living in those areas and proceeded to build the dam and claim the area for the state to provide such services.
Each family removed from the area told their story and the state recorded the names of these families, so to identify those families who were removed at the time of building the dam (1927), was relatively easy.
In 1994, the new constitution recognised that these families that were disenfranchised, should be compensated. The Land Restitution act described how this restitution process should take place. The intention of the act is quite clear and seeks to empower those families in such a way that they are better off after being recognised as a disenfranchised group of people.
In the Shongweni Nature Reserve the formula is (or should have been) quite simple:
Firstly, the land was owned by the state, so for the state to give the land back to the disenfranchised community members was a relatively easy process.
Secondly, the land they received had a 50 hectare dam on it with a 1700 area of pristine biodiversity. This biodiversity is so significant that during the tenure when the state owned company operated the area, the state paid over 3 million rand a year to this state owned company for ‘biodiversity management’.
This state owned company only generated R1,4 million from gate takings (tourism and hospitality), and yet they still posted and average of R500 000 rand a year loss.
Thirdly, the land was transferred to a Trust established for this community of disenfranchised people in 2013, however they were only notified of this 16 months after the transfer. Furthermore the state owned company continued to operate on the reserve for another five years before handing over to this community for them to benefit. Logical questions include; how did the new owners of this reserve benefit during those five years?
Well, they did not!
The new owners received a broken reserve, with no fencing keeping the animals safe and infrastructure that was dilapidated and vandalised. How can these new owners, who are rural people with little or no business knowledge, operate profitably with no capital when in fact the state failed to operate profitably WITH a R3 million grant?
This community of people have been set up to fail!
BE A PART OF THE SHONGWENI REBUILD
And so the story of rebuilding Shongweni Nature Reserve begins. Our goal is to rebuild this initiative for the benefit of the people who should be benefiting from this beautiful land, but the goal is to also to preserve this piece of biodiversity to ensure that this island can be counted with all the other biodiversity spots around the world to ensure we maintain global targets. If we cannot get proclamation for small projects like this, how will we ever achieve proclaiming bigger areas as protected?
We currently commit to this task whilst migrating through a maize (or mess) of government incompetence, and people in general being ignorant as to ‘why’ it is so important to conserve this biodiversity.
We find that legislative intent is completely lost to the desired outcome it intends to achieve, and whilst academics write about what should be happening and how this should be happening, the reality on the ground is that there is simply a disconnect between these very different worlds. They are all out of touch with the many demands natural spaces are subjected to, and their theories and solutions are not even scratching the surface to achieving the level of sustainability needed.
And yet it was only yesterday that people visiting Shongweni for a Sunday outing marvelled at its beauty, the peace and calm it offered them and ultimately received the benefits of nature without even knowing how we all got to where we are at this beautiful place, without the help of government, its intended legislation and the many departments whose mandate it is to preserve and conserve biodiversity, provide food security and reduce poverty.
Each week our work and progress is rewarded when we see visitors marvelling at the knowledge of our field rangers and enjoying the power of Shongweni’s natural beauty and the growth of the people we have been training for so many months and years.
For us to continue achieving these objectives we will need help, because it is within this maize of incompetence that we reach out to you through QVA and invite you to join us in making this difference. As we build each new block of progress, so the resource base for our continuity expands. With this expansion the load on our little team increases and our progress is threatened. Your participation through QVA will lessen this load and ensure success!
Join our team, become part of our progress, share the success and become the change this world needs
#Shongweni67 came about in our first month of operation. Imagine staring at 1700 hectares of pristine biodiversity and a 53 hectare dam and being faced with 20 local people, employed as is the intention of the Land Restitution act, not knowing where to start, what to do next and where their next meal would come from.
Noone wanted to take responsibility. I don’t think that government departments knew what to do, what needed to be done and this little reserve facing them was one giant nightmare.
The infrastructure was dilapidated and broken, and not only the surrounding communities were confused, but there was no sober thinking person, body, organisation or authority that had an inkling of an idea of where to start. The situation was so dire that when one unpacks the facts today, almost three years later, the reality was that the department responsible for Land restitution had zero idea of how to proceed with this project.
And yet the team selected to start the ‘new leaf’ that was to become the Shongweni Nature Reserve as we know it today, arrived at work each day to work; to do stuff that would earn them an income at the end of the month. The Big Problem though was that the reserve could never derive an income in the state that it was. So how were we going to pay those local people?
I turned to Sara, still new to South Africa and to everything that was going on, and I said that we would CrowdFund by doing something on Mandela Day. That we would paddle (canoe) on Mandela Day and get people to sponsor us per kilometre. The challenge in this thought process though was to define the challenge. On Mandela Day people do 67 minute of good. So the idea was that we do 67 units of paddling which could have been either 67 hours or kilometres. It certainly could not be 67 minutes because that simply was not a challenge.
After much debate we decided on paddling 67 km’s and Sara, who had only recently been introduced to the sport, instated on paddling the full 67 km’s with me. Training began in earnest and so the concept of #Shongweni 67 was born!