botsoc partnerships and projects

Witzenberg Eco-Centre Green Fingers Initiative
BotSoc has lent its support to an innovative programme to boost environmental education in schools in the Witzenberg Municipality of the Western Cape. The Witzenberg Eco-Centre Green Fingers initiative targets learners in Grades 5 and 6 in local schools and has involved them in a case study on seven river systems in the Witzenberg area. Each school ‘adopts’ a wetland ecosystem near them and the Green Fingers programme takes place around their wetland eco-system. All learning is designed to tie into learning outcomes as defined by the National Curriculum. BotSoc sponsored some prizes for the schools and learners at the end of the first stage of the programme that included BotSoc’s educational Fynbos and Forest posters and workbooks, and donated copies of the book Explore the Cape Flora (plants and animals) by Margo Branch. ‘We thought this would be the most obvious gift to the learners to keep the green minds exploring,’ said Zaitoon Rabaney, the Executive Director of BotSoc who attended the prize giving ceremony in Ceres on 26 September 2011 with the newly elected Chairman of the BotSoc’s Kirstenbosch Branch, Rupert Koopman (who was also representing CapeNature).

ABOVE: A beautiful wooded river valley in the Baviaanskloof. Photo: Jessica Thorn.

Investing in Sustainability
A call to landowners interested in a government-assisted Spekboom restoration programme by Amanda Bourne, CAP Project Officer

ABOVE: Children from local schools have fun studying local river and wetland ecosystems as part of the Witzenberg EcoCentre Green Fingers initiative. Photo: Johann van Biljon. This programme is a joint effort between the Witzenberg Eco-Centre and the Witzenberg municipality, Waverly Hills Wines, CapeNature, Cape Winelands District Municipality and the Department of Agriculture (Landcare). Plans are afoot to see how this programme can be implemented in other regions through local branches of BotSoc. Interested people can contact Zaitoon Rabaney on 021 797 2090.

More than a million hectares in the Eastern and Western Cape has been degraded from dense Spekboom-rich thicket into an exposed and sparsely vegetated desertlike state, largely as a consequence of overgrazing. In an effort to restore this land, and based on high carbon stores in intact thicket, Prof. Richard Cowling of the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University raised funds from the Wilderness Foundation and CapeNature for Dr Anthony Mills to investigate the carbon-storing capability of Spekboom-rich thicket. This research was pivotal in initiating a restoration programme in 2004 by the Department of Environmental Affairs’ Natural Resource Management Programmes (NRMP) aimed at alleviating poverty by providing additional work opportunities coupled with skills training. The implementing agency is the Gamtoos Irrigation Board (GIB) based in Patensie. Large-scale restoration of Spekboom (Portulacaria afra) thicket improves the carrying capacity of the land for livestock and game, reduces soil erosion leading to a reduction in the deposition of silt in river systems, repBOTSOC PARTNERSHIP lenishes ground water by allowing greater water infiThe Climate Action Partnership (CAP) is an alliance of South African ltration into the soil, environmental non-governmental organizations that aims to reduce captures atmospheric carthe impact of climate change and increase the resilience of South bon, and facilitates the Africa’s biodiversity and communities by promoting intact ecosystems return of biodiversity. that are connected at a landscape level, building human capacity and Restoration also provides implementing climate change adaptation and mitigation. Visit the website at socio-economic benefits www.cap.org.za. including employment, improved ecotourism opportunities and improved livelihoods through increased access to income from credits earned through
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carbon sequestration. Thicket restoration builds ecosystem resilience and conserves ecosystem services (such as water and carbon sequestration) enabling local communities to better adapt to climate change. Spekboomrich thicket stores large amounts of carbon, is drought-adapted and has the potential to maintain ecosystem services in a warmer and drier context. It is estimated that thicket degradation causes a loss in potential annual income of R1 500 per household per year in parts of the Eastern Cape. Restoration thus meets the aims of the National Green Economy Strategy for sustainable livelihoods to underpin a new rural economy that supports ecological integrity. The plan is for restoration to be funded by trade in carbon credits on the carbon market. One carbon credit represents one tonne of carbon dioxide captured from the atmosphere or prevented from entering it. Businesses or individuals can buy these credits to offset their carbon emissions. Spekboom-rich thicket captures and stores large amounts of atmospheric carbon. Thicket landscapes restored with Spekboom-rich vegetation can capture up to 15.4 tonnes of carbon dioxide per hectare per year over a thirty-year period. Despite growing in arid areas, Spekboom carbon stores are similar in size to those of forests that receive two to three times more rainfall. Thicket restoration offers corporates attractive low cost carbon credits with social development and biodiversity benefits. It is also possible that funding for thicket restoration could come from a ‘payments for ecosystem services’ scheme in which end users, such as water utilities companies, pay landowners for restoration and the prevention of degradation in catchments. In 2010 CAP funded a workshop and pamphlet, aimed at corporates and government, to describe the extraordinary potential of this programme which truly provides a way of investing in sustainability. Download the pamphlet from www.R3G.co.za.

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