Building ecosystem resilience in the Southern Drakensberg strategic water source areas

Photo Credit: Matthew Becker


The Drakensberg is a major water catchment area and forms part of South Africa’s strategic water source areas (SWSAs). The area holds the principle headwaters of the Umgeni, Mooi, Umzimkhulu and Umzimvubu rivers. Two of these rivers, the Umgeni and Mooi, play a critical role in the delivery of potable water to major metropolitans Pietermaritzburg and Durban, while the latter two systems are earmarked to become the focus for the abstraction of water for human use in the near future through the construction of large dams within their catchments.

The overall goal of this project is to build resilience within the Southern Drakensberg SWSA for the benefit of people and biodiversity, which will be achieved through the expansion of protected areas, the mainstreaming of the monitoring and management of ecosystem goods and services, and the improvement of livelihoods of people within the region.

The area is a provincial, national and global priority – for its importance as part of the country’s ecological infrastructure for water supply, as well its biodiversity value – and securing parts of it will provide a significant contribution to the protection of these critical resources for all South Africans. In addition, we want to mainstream the monitoring and management of ecosystem goods and services in the Biodiversity Stewardship Programme and beyond. We will achieve this by developing the capacity of landowners and community members, as well as extending support to staff and other NGOs facilitating stewardship, in measuring and monitoring ecosystem goods and services on each site within the SWSA.

This will lead to a greater involvement and understanding of our ecosystems by their custodians, ultimately resulting in improved adaptive management of ecological infrastructure and its products. By building the capacity of all roleplayers in protected area expansion, we will provide critical
post-proclamation support of sites, thus promoting a more sustainable model for continued protected area expansion on private and communal land.