Engagement with the Succulent Karoo Ecosystem Programme (SKEP) partnership through two workshops provided insights and direction in the process of reshaping the governance of SKEP. The first workshop took place at Goegap Nature Reserve near Springbok and the second at the Karoo Desert National Botanical Garden in Worcester on 1 and 3 November 2016 respectively.

The workshop programme was designed to give SKEP partners and stakeholders the opportunity to reflect on the achievements of the partnership, and to provide their insights in relation to the future governance of SKEP.

With the facilitation of consultant Jenifer Zungu, SKEP partners mapped the drivers of success and identified challenges and gaps. This was done through group work and feedback to the plenary session. The consultative process identified key priorities and also key recommendations in terms of governance and coordination. SKEP partners also shared their views on current and future SKEP communication needs and priorities.

The workshops built on the outcomes of a SKEP special session held during the Arid Zone Ecology Forum (AZEF) at Prince Albert in October 2016, facilitated by SKEP Interim Steering Committee (ISC) chairperson, Noel Oettle, with support and inputs provided by Jenifer Zungu, vice-chairperson, Shahieda Davids, and other members of the SKEP ISC. AZEF partners were informed of the SKEP consultative process and its purpose with regards to the coordination and governance arrangements for SKEP.

Engagement was also conducted via an online survey with SKEP partnership members and stakeholders who could not attend the workshops in November 2016.

It was refreshing to see the positive attitude that partners showed towards redefining the governance and coordination structures and mechanisms of SKEP. SKEP partners have long recognised that their work on the ground needs the SKEP umbrella to promote coherence, linkages and long-term sustainability.

When asked about their experiences of SKEP, what SKEP has contributed to, and areas of work partners contribute to, workshop attendees responses included: ‘Many structures (are now) in place as a result of SKEP’, and ‘SKEP has contribute to agriculture, stewardship, land acquisition, scientific baseline studies, coastal management, communication, awareness, capacity building, development and protected area planning.’

Plans are afoot to take the process to its conclusion through further engagements with partners during 2017. Engagements with smaller groupings of the SKEP partnership are planned to broaden input and representation of community groupings, local government and private sector partners.

The next phase of engagement will explore the implications of proposals for the regional nodal areas or geographic priority areas in the SKEP domain. Through engagement with the SKEP partners on the priorities identified during the first phase of the consultative process we anticipate fleshing out a robust and dynamic programme for SKEP in the coming years.

It is of vital importance that the leadership of the institutional partners of SKEP engages closely in this process, and this has been greatly appreciated. The consultative processes allowed for the engagement of a wide range of SKEP partners. All of the contributions have been documented and key recommendations are reflected in a report of the consultative workshops.

SKEP ISC members and consultant Jenifer Zungu would like to thank the Northern Cape Department of Environment and Nature Conservation, the curator and staff of SANBI’s Karoo Desert National Botanical Gardens in Worcester, as well as Hannes Botha from the Western Cape Department of Agriculture for providing their facilities in support of the SKEP workshop.

For more information, contact SKEP ISC secretariat, Eugene Marinus: e.marinus2@sanbi.org.za

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