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South African National Parks (SANParks)
Overview of Programmes
In line with our new vision of “Connecting to Society”, SANParks promotes constituency building to give effect to its transformation mission of facilitating dialogue and mutually beneficial partnerships with most of the stakeholders.
For poor rural communities, SANParks is engaged in the implementation of programmes promoting access and benefit sharing, socio-economic development and improved living conditions for local communities adjacent to national parks. SANParks also enhances the recognition of, and appreciation for conservation values. A number of programmes, as outlined below, are implemented to realise this.
Park Forums provide a legitimate platform to communicate SANParks issues to stakeholders on matters affecting national parks. Ultimately, Park Forums facilitate interactions between the national parks and their stakeholders in support of the natural and cultural heritage conservation goals of SANParks. The objective of a Park Forum is to engage stakeholders on all issues affecting the collective good of the national parks and adjacent communities. SANParks is obliged to engage in stakeholder participation processes to foster good relations. However, Park Forums have no decision making powers. The members participate in all the processes of Park Management Plans, where they give input. Indeed Park Forums exist for all national parks except for Richtersveld where the RGBK (Richtersveld Gesamentlike Bestuurs Komitee) or the Joint Management Committee is in operation. A minimum of four engagements per annum with Park Forums take place in each national park to ensure continuous information sharing.
SANParks, through Environmental Education (EE) programmes, promotes environmental ethics whilst facilitating understanding and appreciation of the SANParks mandate. EE enhances understanding and awareness of environmental issues by accessing national parks for participatory learning opportunities within the framework of the school curriculum. By equipping leaders of tomorrow with knowledge and skills required for taking action, SANParks believes that the implementation of EE at tschool level will contribute to the development of a cadre of educators, learners and communities that will respect and value national parks. Programmes are implemented throughout all the national parks, attracting over 170 000 learners per annum.
Now in its eighth year of implementation, KiP is a partnership programme between the National Department of Environmental Affairs, SANParks and Pick n Pay stores. This programme provides opportunities for learners and educators to use national parks as learning environments. Approximately 5000 learners per year from disadvantaged communities have visited national parks. Furthermore, learner support materials aligned to the national school curriculum are developed to strengthen the educational experiences of kids. KiP entails workshops for educators on topics such as environmental ethics in a three day sponsored field trip to the national parks. KiP is hosted in EE centres found in the national parks.
Held annually in September, the National Parks week was launched in 2006 with the objective of cultivating a culture of pride for all South Africans under the theme "Know Your National Parks". The main feature is free access for all South African day visitors. It is a week dedicated to creating awareness about national parks, raising their public status and educating the public about the need and use of national parks. The aim is to encourage all national parks to offer Open Access Days to the public, especially local communities, for the duration of a week. Members of the public are given an opportunity to learn more about the park's business as they are being guided through the exhibition and other interpretive centers or public facilities in the park.
Imbewu is an educational initiative to pass traditional and cultural knowledge from elders to the youth in a wilderness setting to promote an understanding of the connection to the earth. The concept is based on discovering and using traditional ecological knowledge and methodologies of learning that Africans used in the past to relate to their environment. Imbewu is a three day visit to a national park, where a group of eight to sixteen young people are exposed to a wilderness experience. Time is spent with local expert elders as interpretive guides who tell African folk stories in rustic low impact bush camps. Imbewu envisions that this personal experience will build attachment to the environment and to national parks. On return to their communities and schools, the youth are expected to start their own conservation clubs, school or community based environmental projects. The Imbewu camps are held throughout the year. Over 7000 youths have participated in the programme.
The KGSI is a SANParks Environmental Education (E)E programme involving schools and their communities in climate mitigating projects. The KGSI enables learners to gain an understanding of the magnitude and significance of climate on society and to influence them to adopt responsible lifestyle choices that mitigate against climate change. Seven schools in different parts of Gauteng are involved in the KGSI and the number is increasing. Projects implemented range from waste management, food gardens, recycling, water conservation and greening.
The Kids in Kruger programme was initiated through the My Acre of Africa Trust in 2004. Through a National Lottery Grant, 6000 children per annum from communities within the seven municipalities on the western boundary of the Kruger National Park are bussed into the park for a day of unforgettable educational experiences. Most of these kids are from disadvantaged backgrounds and have never been to a park. This programme builds effective ongoing relationships between the Park and local communities. A total of 40 000 learners and 1 200 adults have participated in the Kids in Kruger programme since its inception. Apart from the benefits of providing school learners with an exposure to environmental and conservation issues, one of the aims of the programme is to stimulate a process whereby the children pass some of their experiences and knowledge back to their parents and the communities they come from.
The Science Week programme is presented as one of the special projects within the Kids in Kruger programme with core activities embedded in Environmental Education (EE). The primary aim of Science Week is to give children an opportunity to enjoy, learn and appreciate science at an elementary level by engaging in practical science-related activities with learners from the communities bordering the Kruger National Park. Ultimately, the Science Week aims at achieving:
- Exposure to SANParks natural resource management by engaging local schools.
- Networking and partnerships.
- Understanding science through practical experience.
- Providing learners and educators with field laboratories.
The Junior Ranger programme provides a conservation ethos for youth by mobilizing them towards service in national parks.The programme offers structured training that will hopefully inspire youth to be committed to conservation as it challenges them to be actively involved in local community conservation projects. The Junior Ranger training programme is also curriculum aligned, leading to the awarding of certificates of competence. The youth recruited for the Junior Ranger programme are from all provinces.
The Heritage Education (HE) partnership between the Department of Basic Education, National Heritage Council and SANParks, was implemented in 2009 and runs annually. Schools in the nine provinces are given the opportunity to showcase their understanding of cultural heritage issues through heritage projects and topics related to their areas. The ten best performing schools from these provinces are then afforded a week's camping in a selected national park to explore and discover the heritage aspects within the park, research these and write about their discovery. Prizes are awarded to the top three positions.
National parks are increasingly required to contribute to the social and economic well-being of adjacent rural communities. One such mechanism is access to biological resources for traditional, subsistence and commercial use. In the 2011/12 financial year, the following projects were implemented in five national parks:
- Agulhas Sour Fig harvesting by the community in the Agulhas National Park from November to March of each year. Progress has been made towards estimating sour fig populations and setting harvesting prescripts.
- Indigenous Timber Harvesting where SANParks formed a partnership and a third party was given rights to harvest timber in the indigenous forests of the Garden Route for commercial purposes, thus providing down-stream benefits and employment opportunities.
- Farleigh Eco Furniture Factory uses wood from invasive exotic species and off-cuts from indigenous species to produce desks for schools and furniture for SANParks rest camps. The aim of the project is not to make a profit but to sustain employment. At full production 100 people will be employed at the factory.
- Medicinal Plant Harvesting and Nursery Development. The Diepwalle Nursery in the Garden Route National Park is used to propagate plants used by traditional healers and it includes the Rastafarian Rooiwortel (Bulbinelatifolia) project, sleepad saplings, orchids from felled trees and research into traditional bark harvesting.
- Forest Fern Harvesting. The project employs 120 local people on a full-time basis.
- Outeniqua Eco Honey Bee Farming. Beehives belonging to trained local bee farmers are located in national park areas so that they can produce honey and generate an income.
- Khomani San have access to harvesting plants for medicinal purposes in specified areas in the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park. Permits are issued and records of plants and animals harvested are kept. A monitoring project involving the harvesters and SANParks staff has been initiated.
- Kruger National Park (KNP) Grass Harvesting for sale to the KNP and to outside enterprise.
- KNP Pepper Bark Nursery Propagation is a conservation project to mitigate the threats on this endangered, widely used medicinal plant. The project involves building relations with the traditional healers and starting a community nursery to cultivate the plant.
- Mopani Worm Harvesting for communities along the boundary of KNP.
Socio-economic Development Programmes:
SANParks is one of the largest and most successful implementers of Government's Expanded Public Works Programmes (EPWP), having implemented R1,46bn worth of projects since the inception of the programme in 2001.
SANParks initiated a Social Investment Programme for legacy projects within rural communities bordering national parks. Funding for these projects is raised through a community levy charged on all accommodation in national parks. A number of social investment projects are planned, such as the building of an administration block at Dumisani High School and establishment of computer centres at Masiza and Sindiswa high schools and other high schools around Mapungubwe National Park.