Conservation and community partners working together for water security in the Olifants Catchment at Catchment Indaba 2022
The South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI) is convening the country’s catchment community to have its third Catchment-based Indaba on Ecological Infrastructure from 1 to 3 November 2022 at the Olifants River Catchment. This catchment, known for the richness in diversity in plant species and ecosystems as it collects significant rainfall, is currently facing threats to its biodiversity.
Water quality remains a major challenge in the Olifants River Catchment as large areas in it have been substantially modified and transformed through extractive land-use practices such as mining and agriculture. This often leads to compromising ecosystem services and people’s livelihoods that are reliant on these catchments.
With the SANBI-led implementation of the Living Catchments and Ecological Infrastructure for Water Security projects over the past five years, active partnerships have been working in five provinces with communities in key catchments associated with areas that have been identified as Strategic Water Source Areas to address water security challenges. These key catchment areas are the uThukela, uMzimvubu, Olifants, uMngeni and the Berg-Breede Catchments.
‘South Africa is a water scarce country and ensuring that we have water that is safe for consumption will take the combined efforts from municipalities, community and industry,’ according to deputy director of biodiversity mainstreaming at SANBI, Dan’sile Cindi. ‘We hope to see innovative, community-led solutions emerge over the next few days at this Indaba in our efforts to manage critical catchments to ensure water security in the country.’
Healthy ecosystems are essential for water security, and healthy catchments can play a key role in building landscape resilience through protecting biodiversity. The protection of functioning ecosystems results in access to clean drinking water, and this is important in restoring the dignity of people and the natural environment.
Ensuring naturally functioning ecosystems continue to deliver valuable service to people is essential. Under the theme, Mati ya hina – ku tirha swin’we kuhlayisa mati; Meetse a rena – Go s ̌oma mmogo bakeng sa polokego ya metsi (Our Water – working together for water security), individuals representing various partner organisations will take part in a fully-packed programme that will involve multiple field trips, exposure to sustainable land-use practices, finding innovative ways to better manage Strategic Water Source Areas (SWSAs), showcase partnership landscape initiatives that have the potential to unlock finance mechanisms, explore the use of restoration technologies and built infrastructure that create jobs, as well as promote creative offerings such as video screenings and live entertainment.
This Third Catchment-based Indaba presents an opportunity to pro-actively engage with stakeholders, such as the youth who will be asked to share their careers in conservation. It is also an opportunity to showcase the importance of citizen science as a tool to enhance public participation of working in catchments. A gathering of catchment custodians is significant as it is through their collective efforts, they continue to demonstrate the intricacies involved in working across the science-policy-implementation interface.
This event forms part of the South African Water Research Commission funded Living Catchments Project, which is aimed at enhancing research, development, and innovation for socio-economic impact in key catchments associated with the SWSAs in the country.
Ms Nontsikelelo Mpulo
Director: Marketing, Communication & Commercialisation
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