Linking land and water conservation to community development in ecological restoration policy and projects: Lessons from South Africa

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André Britz

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Gouritz Cluster Biosphere Reserve’s Jobs for Carbon Project rehabilitates degraded arid landscape by planting Spekboom where it used to occur naturally. Spekboom is an iconic plant that historically dominated large parts of the arid Klein Karoo region. Severe degradation through overgrazing and erosion over time resulted in reduced water infiltration, loss of productivity, and destruction of biodiversity. We present a case where approximately 80 hectares of an organic olive farm was used to plant 100,000 Spekboom cuttings for which the farmer signed a 50-year Memorandum of Understanding with the project. Activities included implementation of fine scale mapping of potential restoration sites and landscape carbon assessments, training of 60 local labourers, harvesting and planting of Spekboom cuttings, and excluding livestock in planting sites. We found that major impacts were generated by the project. First, the formerly poor and unemployable labourers have experienced a boost in their self-confidence, and are found to be economically empowered, proud, and skilled. This has had an exponentially positive benefit for the village and will sustain long-term benefits for their children. Secondly, Spekboom sequesters carbon into the soil, it improves water infiltration, and facilitates germination and survival of other plant species – this would otherwise be impossible in similar arid conditions. The mature Spekbooms are surrounded by other mature trees and plants in good variety, providing shelter, food, soil food, and habitat for a variety of micro-organisms, insects, birds, and animals. It is therefore expected that a restored eco-system will emerge from the barren soil.

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Audio/Video, Conference Presentation, SER2019

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Society for Ecological Restoration