Conservancies find common ground and create a meaningful partnership between nature conservation and agriculture.
The agricultural sector uses some 80% of South Africa’s 120 million hectare land surface, incorporating some of our country’s most sensitive ecosystems. Many of our country’s farmers are indeed good land conservationists. Unfortunately, with ever increasing financial, resource and manpower burdens placed at the foot of our agricultural industry, many farmers are forced to ensure that every portion of their land becomes financially productive. How we avoid the negative impact on our biophysical environment?
A conservancy is a voluntary association between land users/owners who cooperatively wish to manage their natural resources in an environmentally sustainable manner without necessarily changing the land-use of their properties. Registration is granted by the relevant provincial nature conservation authority.
A conservancy is NOT a miniature game reserve or nature reserve (even if it is about farming in a way which is game and nature friendly).
A conservancy is a voluntary and co-operative action by landowners/users to provide for the yearnings of their souls, e.g. space, silence and the aesthetic therapy of natural beauty, and in doing so are compelled to look after the requirements of nature. To live and/or work in a conservancy does not imply that you have to change your form of land use, or that your title deed is going to be amended. It also does not imply that someone is going to offer you monetary compensation for the time, effort and money you invest into the quality of your own life and for the common good.
What living in a conservancy does imply is that each individual slowly but surely starts to consider the consequences, both positive and negative, of his or her actions. The consequences for self, family, neighbours, community, own property, adjacent properties, the conservancy as a whole and eventually much wider. For example, a river does not flow through only one smallholding, farm or even conservancy.
A conservancy looks after the interests of nature because it assumes that the best interest of humans and nature are inextricable. What is good for the one is good for the other and vice versa. In a conservancy, people are considered key species of the ecosystem or agroecosystem and have to learn to rub shoulders with other life forms in such a manner that most can continue to exist.
Both the words “ecology” and “economy” stem from the Greek root oikos that can be translated as household. Perhaps the idea that what is in our best interest is also in the best interest of nature or vice versa, is not far fetched at all.
3. The case for conservancies
South Africa’s game parks and nature reserves are not sufficient for the conservation of biodiversity, simply because most of our biodiversity exists outside these formally protected areas.
Conservancies bring many advantages, for the biodiversity as well as for the communities living or farming within it:
- Biodiversity survives and physical resources are conserved.
- The reporting, monitoring and co-operatively managing of exotic plants and animals happens.
- Wildlife increases in conservancy areas.
- The economic value of the area is improved owing to healthier veld conditions and better overall security.
- Landowners become more conscious of their indigenous animal and plantlife.
- Game becomes tamer and is more readily seen, but protected at the same time.
- Conservancies are extensively used to release rehabilitated wildlife
- A closer community is formed.
- The local population usually supports the presence of Game Rangers.
- Vagrants tend to avoid a regularly patrolled area.
- Harassment of local population is reduced.
- There are marked decreases in stock and crop theft in the conservancy area.
- There is better control of stray dogs, and less hunting by dogs and the chances of rabies.
- Fences are patrolled more regularly.
- Pumps and water holes are patrolled more regularly.
- There are fewer uncontrolled forest and veld fires in the area owing to co-operative fire management strategies.
- There is better general security. New skills are developed. Conservation by people for people (conservancies) is a new conservation ethic, which embodies coexistence rather than segregation. How this is to be planned for and managed will tax local people to the utmost, but also be the means to heal the wounds of the past and create a dignified existence. We need to coexist with nature in a manner that will allow most species to survive well into the next century. For this to become reality local people will need to develop many skills.
- Conservancies enhances the use of the district for nature based education.
- The opportunity for eco/agro tourism is also enhanced.
- An overall better social, cultural and natural environment leads to a more healthy environment and, in turn, instils a greater sense of community pride in one’s surroundings.
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