Deputy Minister of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries Maggie Sotyu has handed over upgraded facilitates at the Lekgalameetse Nature Reserve in Limpopo.
“Using labour intensive methods, as per the requirements of Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP), we have built a staff village, camping site, shared facilities, swimming pool and upgraded water infrastructure,” the Deputy Minister said.
The facilities, unveiled on Tuesday, form part of the People and Parks initiative. This initiative ensures local communities are involved in the management of protected and surrounding areas and promotes biodiversity values in the proclaimed protected and surrounding areas.
Through the People and Parks programme, the Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries strives to ensure that communities that were forcefully removed from their land in an effort to create protected areas by the apartheid regime, enjoy the socio-economic benefits of those protected areas.
The department has provided funding for the development of infrastructure in nature reserves.
“I want to specifically urge community members, the Communal Property Associations (CPAs) and traditional leadership to play their part in ensuring that while using these facilities, vandalism is avoided at all cost. It will be encouraging when I come back to see infrastructure that is well taken care of by the beneficiaries.
“In the process of executing this task, at least 290 work opportunities benefiting women, youths and people with disability were created for the local people. All the local people working on the project are from within communities and are part of all the CPAs,” the Deputy Minister said.
The nature reserve has been identified as an anchor for the Lekgalameetse Biodiversity Economy Node given its potential to attract domestic and international tourists.
“Biodiversity Economy Nodes (BENs) can be described as areas that possess exceptional biodiversity and natural assets, such as protected areas and game reserves, undeveloped and marginal communal areas with some of the most outstanding game experiences and activities.
“These land parcels have potential for well-developed wildlife, ecotourism and bioprospecting products. BENs are platforms that provide networks to enable market access, skills transfer, creating supply chain linkages thereby achieving economies of scale especially for local Small, Medium and Micro Enterprises (SMMEs) operating within it,” Sotyu said.
A few years ago, the department commissioned a study to determine the optimal economic benefit that communities can derive from the sustainable utilisation of the natural resources within the Lekgalameetse Biodiversity Economy Node.
The study revealed the Lekgalameetse Biodiversity Economy Node has great potential to attract domestic and international tourists specifically hikers, birders, mountain bikers and 4×4 adventurers given its richness in biodiversity.
“I want to emphasise the significance of partnerships to successfully unleash the great potential of this Biodiversity Economy Node. The department commits to provide the much-needed technical support in the delivery of projects in and around the Lekgalameetse area.
“We also commit that this area will continue to benefit from other initiatives such as the Million Tree project. This is an innovative public greening initiative that contributes nationally towards the improvement of the quality of life and the development of sustainable settlements,” the Deputy Minister said.
The programme provides low-income communities with fruit trees and ornamental trees to plant at their homes. The set task is to plant a million trees across the country annually.