It feels like we just started the year yet we are at the end of the first quarter of 2021 already. Time certainly moves steadily ahead irrespective of the coronavirus impacting so many lives locally and globally.

The year 2021 sees us in the final months of implementation for the Biodiversity and Land Use (BLU) project. The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) approved the request from the project to be extended until end August 2021. The hard lockdown implemented since last year has delayed the implementation of some of the project activities and has particularly made land owner engagements and capacity development interventions challenging.

Since the project was initiated in 2015, the project team and implementing partners have implemented many activities, developed a number of resources and tools and created a number of employment opportunities. The work of the project is not just being implemented in the environmental sector but also in the planning, forestry, fruit, sugar and water sector.

A number of our project activities have concluded. These include the work with the biodiversity tax incentives, the work in the fruit sector and the sugar sector, co-development of various protocols and guidelines for the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment’s online screening tool; offering of a suite of capacity building opportunities to the biodiversity stewardship community of practice, completing the BLU Environmental Impact Assessment course, to mention a few.

With the extra time provided we continue to implement a number of activities until end August 2021 with the aim of minimizing the threats to our shared biodiversity. We do this by working with local municipalities, provincial government, national government, NGOs and land owners; collectively building and expanding our capacity to make informed decisions around regulating land use and managing biodiversity in threatened ecosystems.

It is especially important that we are achieving this at the municipal scale as municipalities are at the forefront of service delivery, promoting the sustainable utilization of natural resources in order to ensure economic growth and social development for our people. The independent Terminal Evaluation, scheduled to be completed before project closure, will be an opportunity to document and reflect on the success and challenges in implementation.

Thank you for all your hard work and contribution to the project to date. We count on your continued  efforts to see the Biodiversity and Land Use project through to project end.

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