Enabling community resource security & protected area expansion in a post Covid 19 future

Photo Credit: WWF

The smallholder farming and informal food trade sectors ground to a halt due to the onset of Covid 19 and the lockdown that followed.  Given the importance of these sectors in supporting large numbers of South Africans, the complete lack of economic activity meant that many people were in dire straits.  The WWF Nedbank Green Trust recognised this challenge and made a special call for catalytic project proposals that would address the havoc wreaked by Covid 19 on the livelihoods and food security of those working in the sector and those reliant on its success. One of these enormously successful projects, managed by WWF South Africa’s Land Reform and Biodiversity Stewardship Programme, is the Enabling community resource security and protected area expansion in a Post Covid 19 future.

There are approximately 2 million smallholder farmers in South Africa and many of them rely on the land to feed their families, with hopefully some surplus to sell or trade.  These farmers urgently need to become resilient to dramatic environmental and socials changes such as climate change and the Covid 19 pandemic. This project, which worked with the women within the communities of Thekwane, Mgundeni, Bambanani and the Ukuthanda Ukukhanya Communal Property Association, provided the necessary training, skills sharing, equipment, and networks in order to ensure that this ability to survive, adapt and thrive to current and future challenges becomes ingrained in these communities.

The women were trained to create environmentally friendly, climate resilient gardens and they successfully produced vegetables to feed themselves and sold the surplus to neighbouring communities and towns. This project specifically targeted rural women who often do not have access to the income generated from farming with large livestock and care for the most vulnerable – the elderly, ill and orphaned, of their communities. This focus on and education of women gave them financial mobility, access to education and networks, the ability to feed themselves, their loved ones and those members of the community unable to care for themselves.

The project engaged a number of properties and within its life span managed to declare two as Protected Environments. These are the Afrikan Farms Protected Environment that measures 1357 ha’s and is in Mpumalanga; and the Mkhothane Community Protected Environment that measures 2600 ha’s and is in KwaZulu Natal. This is a critical element of preserving the grasslands, wetlands and biodiversity of the area, ensuring healthy soils for crops and grazing while protecting the foraging grounds and habitats of species such as the blue crane and the bald-headed ibis.

This project has secured the livelihoods and food security of vulnerable South Africans; has protected critical wetlands and pristine grasslands in order to ensure clean drinking water and healthy rangeland and crop land for farmers; and has defended and conserved the future of key and endangered species all through working closely with these communities. We are excited to see people and nature thriving in partnership and look forward to spreading the knowledge and best practices gained to even more parts of our country.