Generating support for conservation agencies and enabling communities to restore, conserve and develop their land remains the primary focus of our WILDLANDS programme. These dual goals remain important as budgets for formal conservation agencies continue to decline and as communities battle with changing climate patterns and declining socio-economic conditions.
To assist formal conservation agencies, WILDLANDS continues to utilise the Conservation Capital Fund to support Ezemvelo KwaZulu-Natal Wildlife in managing and protecting its reserves, particularly Hluhluwe-Imfolozi, the Karkloof Nature Reserve and the Ukhahlamba-Drakensberg Park. Additional funds are raised through our WILDSERIES events to support both Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife and South African National Parks.
The WILDLANDS team also works with a number of community-owned and private game reserves to protect priority species and to support local livelihoods for communities through the conservation economy. This includes the training and employment of game rangers, development of community homestays, development of safari guides and small businesses in the wildlife economy and the implementation of an integrated climate smart agricultural programme to foster food security in areas where weather patterns are changing dramatically.
The WILDLANDS projects are categorised under the following overarching impact headings:
- Ecological Resilience
- Protecting Biodiversity
- Social Resilience
- Leadership – Youth and Education
- Capacity Building – Learning and Development
- Advocacy and Campaigns
- Science and Knowledge Building
The WILDLANDS Ecological Restoration project, with support from the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment: Natural Resource Management (NRM) aims to restore degraded forest (using the trees grown by WILDLANDS Tree-preneurs), grasslands, savanna and fynbos landscapes combating land degradation and adapting South Africa’s landscape to be better prepared for climate change. Through revegetation and improved management of landscapes we work to re-establish ecosystem function and resilience. Over the past year, our teams on the ground cleared 649ha of alien plants, cleared 439ha of parthenium, planted 51 428 indigenous plants and 51 indigenous flora species, managed 250ha for firebreaks, employed 673 men and women (50/50) and had 2903 training days.
This project key objective is to ensure inclusive growth and social justice for rural communities living on land with marginal agricultural value through growing opportunities in the biodiversity economy. Our initiatives focus specifically on the Wildlife Economy which centres on the socio-economic benefits of eco-tourism, co-managed conservation areas and ancillary services to protected areas. The initiative is implemented at five sites in KwaZulu Natal: Tshanini-Bhekula Community Reserve, Somkhanda Community Reserve, Dartmoor (Karkloof Nature Reserve), Buffelsdraai Nature Reserve and the Upper uThukela (Mweni) area. The major focus going forward will be expanding the benefits beyond the boundaries of the reserves.
Further to the above objectives, WILDLANDS has a mandate to support the conservation of endangered and critically endangered species through improved ecosystem management and interventions that secure vulnerable animals. When we focus on iconic species we draw attention to vulnerable ecosystems, and when we put in place mechanisms to protect iconic species, it benefits the broader ecosystem. So, our species initiative should not be seen in isolation of our biodiversity economy, restoration, or sustainable communities’ projects, but as an integral part that conveys the message and sounds the warning bells when intervention is needed. We are currently involved in conservation activities linked to rhino, elephant, lion and wild dog (and several endangered bird species) – To actively get involved in our species protection and fundraising initiatives visit https://wildtrust.co.za/wildseries/ and to find out how you can contribute.
The vision for this project is to encourage and support individuals who display commitment, determination and business acumen to grow their entrepreneurial ideas and activities and to provide them with an opportunity to enter the Green economy. As the project has evolved, we have been able to integrate a greater training and development component, providing the entrepreneurs with a better foundation from which to grow their businesses
Our key focus communities in Northern KwaZulu-Natal for the past year have been KwaJobe, Mandlakazi, Gumbi, Tembe, Zwenelisha and Sokhulu. In these communities we have established 4 Community Hubs, employed 5 local community members, trained community members in growing climate smart crops which are also high in nutrition, protecting them against climate change and food insecurity. Further to this, 67 new subsistence business owners have been established, making the communities more self-sufficient and resilient.
Leadership – Youth and Education:
In developing our youth in leadership and education, WILDTRUST has been involved with the YES programme for the past 2 years. The YES programme is a business led collaboration between Government, business, and labour; and seeks out ground-breaking ways, through innovation and technological best practice, to reignite the economy and give youth an employment and growth opportunity. Through the WILDTRUST’s terrestrial and marine programmes (WILDLANDS and WILDOCEANS) together with its 22 partners, the WILDTRUST has created employment for 1 109 youth placed across Mpumalanga, Western and Eastern Cape as well as KwaZulu-Natal funded by Nedbank. The jobs created are within the fields of office administration, environmental education, marketing and communications, land care, eco-tourism and sustainability, conservation and early childhood development. Youth placed in these sustainable impact projects, are offered diverse and unique opportunities to immerse themselves in an experiential journey that will directly or indirectly impact the environment for the better.
Capacity Building – Learning and Development:
While most of the WILDTRUST projects focus on transforming eco-systems and empowering the people impacted by this, the WILDTRUST Capacity Building project seek to address a shift in values, thinking and knowledge that is required to make the changes sustainable in the longer term, and to provide the capacity to build communities that thrive into the foreseeable future. This is executed and achieved through Ubuntu Earth Ambassadors and local community volunteers who hold Citizen Days to reach communities on environmental issues. Our experienced team has accredited and non-accredited training programmes which they run in the communities where we work.
Training in the past 2 years has been negatively affected due to Covid-19 restrictions but through the support of our team, 124 Citizen Days were held over the past year, reaching almost 4000 community members with 25 workshops, enabling 416 Training days.
Science and Knowledge Building:
This unit is still young in the WILDLANDS programme but over the last financial year, our team has been able to achieve the following:
- Developed a National Ecological Monitoring Framework for the Department of Forestry Fisheries and Environment
- Facilitated Community workshops around resource use and management of the Reserve: 3 (Bhekula), 2 (Somkhanda)
- Formalised partnership with Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife to establish a Suni monitoring project
- Conceptualised partnership with BirdLife SA to determine status of Southern-banded Snake Eagle
- Published research publications associated with WILDLANDS Projects: 11 Somkhanda, 7 Buffelsdraai
For more information about any of our terrestrial conservation projects email firstname.lastname@example.org