image-1
hhr
langkloofleft1r

The peacefulness and colours of the Langkloof

langkloofleft2r

Tafelberg Nature Reserve, a stewardship site clearly visible centre-right in this photograph. This site forms part of the proposed central Langkloof corridor.

langkloof3r

Young boomslang watching, learning…….

Rob Markham was appointed the Langkloof Project Coordinator and started work in January 2011. Rob has a Honours Degree in Entomology and Zoology obtained from the University of Natal 1976 and is a former Head of Nature Conservation in Ciskei. Rob was an Ecologist and Executive Director for Msinsi Reserves and Game Reserves and project manager for the Local Ocean Trust “Watamu Turtle Watch” in Kenya. With his vast experience Rob is a valuable addition to the Eden to Addo Corridor Initiative.

Progress with the proposed Langkloof corridors

The three sites for biodiversity/wildlife corridors were chosen with the assistance of others from the Langkloof, especially the local agricultural extension officer and the chairmen of the two local farmers’ associations. Both of these men (Andre de Wit (Misgund) and Johann du Plessis (Suuranys)) were extremely helpful and positive in their approach, trying to link up willing landowners for me to visit and share information. As leaders, they also made their respective properties available to be within a proposed corridor, and they signed up early for the first stage of the stewardship program, the biodiversity site assessment process. Unfortunately Johann passed away during this year. He will be missed by many, from all walks of life.

As in most work of this nature, the dynamics change according to the needs and concerns of the landowners involved. The proposed central Langkloof corridor dynamics have changed a bit over the past year and E2A needs to continue working here to help ensure that a positive outcome is realised here. Some neighbouring landowners based at the Heights have  indicated their willingness to have their land declared as protected areas. All corridor work, because it involves numerous landowners, comes down to the landowner’s agreement to sign up, as without their final signatures, the process simply stands still.

The proposed Suuranys Corridor’s dynamics have also altered over the past year, and the shape of the initially proposed corridor has changed. So initially, this site may result in a large parcel of land flanking both sides of the Kouga River being set aside as a protected area, potentially linking with the central Langkloof corridor.

The proposed Misgund Corridor has received a recent boost from CapeNature indicating its intention to increase its stewardship staff and hopefully this will have a positive influence on this proposed corridor. Only one property here has been assessed for its biodiversity value so far.

langkloof

Handbook development

A corridor handbook (40 pages with appendices) has been developed for use by future Langkloof corridor members. For maximum benefit it should be translated into Afrikaans. Appendices on aspects like the biodiversity stewardship program and the history and relevance of Eden to Addo make up a good proportion of the handbook. Contents include the formation and importance of partnerships wildlife corridors, the global, regional and local contexts, an agricultural description of the Langkloof, and some proposed management activities, like invasive alien plant control planning, rehabilitation and restoration of degraded sites, fire management, soil erosion and livestock management. This document will hopefully become a useful manual for corridor life.

General approach to our corridor work

Eden to Addo has established a method of initiating corridor work in new areas. First a commissioned study by a researcher is undertaken to seek out biodiversity valued land and levels of willingness amongst the landowners. This information is then linked to help determine where the corridors could be initiated. The local municipality should be visited to let them know that we are planning biodiversity corridors, linking significant protected areas across the municipal-serviced land. This becomes important at a later stage when rates rebates and reductions are sought from the municipality, along with any support sought from this source. It is also wise to seek out the support of the district municipality, as it may be able to support the initiative, especially if some work opportunities arise, like nature guides. The Department of Agriculture’s local extension officer was visited early in the Langkloof corridor process, as he understands the agricultural values of the land, the people, and also the local cultures observed. The local farmers association’s chairmen are important links and need to understand and hopefully support the initiative, so that their members are approached from a positive stance. Landowner visits are very important and provide a good platform for listening, better understanding and casual chats. Meetings including as many of the local landowners as possible are important, but are difficult to organise and best left up to the locals to arrange. Meetings should ideally only take place once a positive element has been established, otherwise they can be quite disruptive and may even work against the program.

Biodiversity site assessments

Eden to Addo has established a method of initiating corridor work in new areas. First a commissioned study by a researcher is undertaken to seek broadly out biodiversity valued land and levels of willingness amongst the landowners. This information is then linked to help determine where the corridors could be initiated. The local municipality should be visited to let them know that we are planning biodiversity corridors, linking significant protected areas across the municipal-serviced land. This becomes important at a later stage when rates rebates and reductions are sought from the municipality, along with any support sought from this source. It is also wise to seek out the support of the district municipality, as it may be able to support the initiative, especially if some work opportunities arise, like nature guides. The Department of Agriculture’s local extension officer was visited early in the Langkloof corridor process, as he understands the agricultural values of the land, the people, and also the local cultures observed. The local farmers association’s chairmen are important links and need to understand and hopefully support the initiative, so that their members are approached from a positive stance. Landowner visits are very important and provide a good platform for listening, better understanding and casual chats. Meetings including as many of the local landowners as possible are important, but are difficult to organise and best left up to the locals to arrange. Meetings should ideally only take place once a positive element has been established, otherwise they can be quite disruptive and may even work against the program.

Biodiversity site assessments

Part of the stewardship process includes a biodiversity site assessment for each site/property or combination of properties. By early December 2011, the Eastern Cape Parks and Tourism Agency (ECPTA), assisted by E2A completed eight provincially-based biodiversity site assessments within the Langkloof. An additional large property was assessed early in 2012 and presented to the ECPTA stewardship review panel.

The biodiversity site assessment plays a few significant roles. First it provides information on the relative values of biodiversity on the property, allowing it to be compared with other similar sites throughout the Province; second it provides some baseline information for the drafting of a management plan for the property; and thirdly the results are used by a provincial review panel to ascribe a stewardship category to the site. Once the biodiversity site assessment has been conducted and the results shared with the landowner, he often then begins to understand and appreciate the relative biodiversity values found on his property.

The structured biodiversity assessment process consists of two major parts. The first is a desktop exercise, undertaken by an ecologist, and which employs various databases, like the ‘critical biodiversity areas’ of the Province, vegetation overlays, red data species lists and general threats.

The second part of the assessment is the field visit that allows the assessor to verify and ground truth the desktop work, and also to add local information seen on the ground and importantly, that obtained from the landowner. Local information is valuable and significant, as it adds historical and personal perspectives. The biodiversity site assessment enables the assessor to gain information on habitats, species, ecological processes and ecosystem services, cultural values, major threats, and management issues raised by the landowner for the site.

Management advice stemming from the biodiversity site assessment process and placed within a management plan drafted with the landowner assist him to improve his management of the natural areas on his property.

Magazine article

An article on E2A’s corridor work in the Langkloof was published in the Endangered Wildlife Trust’s ‘Environment people and conservation in Africa’ magazine during 2012.

The theatre comes to the Langkloof

Hundreds of laughing and shrieking school children at each performance…..lovely stuff indeed!

During 2011, the Lunchbox Theatre group was hired by Eden to Addo to put on a series of plays and workshops for pre-primary and primary schools in the Langkloof. Six schools were visited stretching from Louterwater to Kareedouw. The play included a workshop, so that the children could re-enact parts of the play helping to ensure their understanding of the play, whilst having a fun time on the stage in front of their mates and teachers. It was a very good way of carrying the wildlife corridor story across to the children, with hundreds gaining a meaningful understanding of the need to protect our biodiversity assets and the importance of corridor work on private land.

Eastern Cape Parks and Tourism Agency (ECPTA)

The Eastern Cape stewardship ‘hosting’ organisation, ECPTA, manages and conducts the Eastern Cape Biodiversity Stewardship program. The organisation is able to provide a small staff component to the program. We have needed to work closely with ECPTA (an MOU was signed) to help ensure that we are able to assist and back each other in our work efforts. When involved in extension work and being in contact with landowners, once the process starts, one needs to keep the momentum steady, otherwise the recipients lose faith and hope in the structures and initiative.

The basics of wildlife extension work

Wildlife extension work can be described as the sharing of technical aspects of wildlife management concepts and information with landowners. Extension workers are essentially ‘agents of change’. As extension workers, we share and exchange with landowners and they share and exchange their experience and local knowledge with us. Extension work is this combination of dealings, leading to improved and living landscapes for all.

It is important to keep all communication in the form of a dialogue, because if the extension worker comes with a message, but is not able to listen to the needs of the landowner, or does not understand the landowner, most of the extension effort will be lost. The ‘listening bit’ is of huge importance in any information sharing process. Being ready and able to listen to the issues and concerns of the landowner allows us to tap into some of the needs of the landowner.

The needs of the landowner are upper most in their minds, and must become important to the extension worker. The fact that we have goals to achieve is really not that important in our negotiations. Once my work contract has expired, I leave the Langkloof and the landowners that I have met and shared information with in discussions, negotiations and at meetings stay on, as this is their ‘home’ ground. They remain and live with the product they have traded for in our negotiations. The biodiversity stewardship product is important, as it is the understanding and use of the product into the future which gives local biodiversity assets (all natural life forms) and ecological processes (like plant and animal migration, bird and insect pollination, fire regimes and flood attenuation by wetlands) a chance to continue. The landowners need to benefit from this product in their farming enterprises, and it is our work which needs to provide some of the answers about living within corridors and enhancing their farming endeavours and income streams where possible. The business of farming has rapidly changed into a challenging struggle with high input costs, slowly improving product values, political interference and direct confrontation with unstable and often harsh weather patterns, as climate change becomes more relevant and real.

LANGKLOOF CORRIDORS – July 2013

About 90% of landowners who should or could be included in the 3 potential/proposed Langkloof corridors have been met, mostly on their properties, and discussions have been held on the Langkloof corridor initiative. The process is a slow one moving at the speed of the landowner, as it is he or she whom must finally decide about signing up their properties or not.

Nature conservation-based extension work has generally been lacking in the Langkloof in the past. Nature conservation-based extension work can be defined as “the sharing of knowledge and experience between nature conservation practitioners and the local landowners, in an attempt to uplift the knowledge base”. This historical lack of contact and sharing of information means that prior to introducing a concept like biodiversity corridor work, one needs to determine landowner by landowner, the level of understanding and knowledge he/she has so that the concept is introduced in a manner which allows for some degree of acceptance, rather than a hesitant, lack of understanding and negative stance from the beginning. Extension work in all its forms takes time and patience, with repeated visits and knowledge sharing events. Most of these visits should take place on the landowner’s property, for best effect/results.

The Langkloof corridor work has been given the hint of a lifeline by CapeNature, allowing us now to extend our corridor work into the Western Cape side of the provincial boundary near Misgund. This means that where previously our biodiversity stewardship work was confined strictly to the Eastern Cape, with some assistance being given by the Eastern Cape Biodiversity Stewardship Program, we now can venture across the boundary. This move is obvious for us, knowing that more open naturally-vegetated landscape (more suitable for biodiversity corridors) around Misgund occurs within the Western Cape in this part of the Langkloof. We have discussed this new angle with the local farmers’ association and now have some proposed corridor lines drawn on a map. The map indicates where we should be approaching landowners to determine their willingness to help establish a biodiversity corridor.

A series of about 10 short articles on the work of Eden to Addo’s corridor work have been drafted and will hopefully be published in local newspaper for the purpose of raising the corridor and E2A profile amongst the farmers and landowners in the Langkloof.

Three biodiversity site assessments undertaken within the proposed Skilderkrantz/Heights Corridor were presented to the East Cape Parks and Tourism Agency review panel for a formal stewardship category allocation.

Some landowners are unwilling to follow procedure to protect their land by Provincial Authorities.  E2A is exploring other ways of protecting and managing land into the future by means of legal restrictions being placed on the title deeds. Corridors already exist in the landscape. It may seem strange to state that the corridors we are trying to point out and ‘establish’ with the landowners are already present in the landscape. What we are doing is formalising them and attempting to get them written into title deeds, so that they have some lasting ability. We also need to create sustainable ‘living landscapes’ within and around the corridors, trying to ensure that as many business enterprises and interests are investigated and implemented for them to last over the long term.
E2A attended the inaugural Eastern Cape Biodiversity Stewardship Forum held in East London recently by East Cape Parks and Tourism Agency. The main purpose of this forum is to bring together stewardship practitioners from across the Province. This platform allows for some detailed discussion on stewardship work, as well as establishing a lobby for greater input into stewardship by the authorities.