South Africa is recognised as one of the world’s 17 megadiverse countries. Protected areas, declared on state, private or communal land are key to safeguarding South Africa’s incredible biodiversity and the functioning of ecological infrastructure essential to the benefit of its people and its developing economy.
Expanding, governing and managing protected areas is a costly undertaking and limited resources and capacity, as well as other socio-economic constraints, hinder these processes. Without effective management, protected areas fail to achieve what they were created for, and without viable and sustainable business operations to support management costs, effective management is no longer feasible.
Birdlife South Africa, SANBI and Wilderness Foundation Africa, through the Global Environment Facility and United Nations Development Program funded Biodiversity and Land Use Project, have responded to these challenges by mainstreaming the use of South Africa’s first innovative financing solution through the Fiscal Benefits project.
Through this partnership, niche tax services were provided for the application of Section 37D of the Income Tax Act No. 58 of 1962 (the ITA), one of the country’s foremost finance solutions. This globally unique biodiversity tax incentive provides an extraordinary tax deduction to South Africa’s protected areas, bringing crucial financial sustainability to these areas and their stakeholders.
Initial work undertaken by Birdlife South Africa for this financing solution was funded by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) Nedbank Green Trust.
Kaingo Private Game Reserve situated in Waterberg is an effectively managed protected area and a successful tourism operation, creating jobs and stimulating the rural economy of the area. As a result of this landowner’s commitment to conservation, Kaingo has received the section 37D tax benefit.
Due to the extensive investment in the tourism venture and the management of a big game area, the tangible financial benefit of this innovative tax incentive is bolstering the Reserve’s cash flow, ensuring the continued success of this protected area.
Similarly, the owners of Rhino River Lodge situated inside Manyoni Private Game Reserve in Zululand attest to the value of the section 37D tax benefit as follows: ‘As a family of passionate and dedicated conservationists we invested in Manyoni Private Game Reserve in 2006 with a genuine desire to help save endangered spaces for endangered species.
The challenges in protecting our environment and operating a viable business in the Wildlife Economy have increased dramatically over the last fifteen years.’ says a family representative’.
The section 37D tax incentive will release funds, which will enable us to employ more currently unemployed people to further improve our environment for the benefit of all species, which will result in a greater game viewing experience for our lodge guests.
This, in turn, will lead to a busier lodge and even further employment opportunities for the rural communities in our area. Our tax saving is significant and if there is one single motivation for investors in the Wildlife Economy to join the program, this is it.’
The Fiscal Benefits project is one example of pioneering and innovative possibilities that can be achieved by partners in the sector through collaboration and layering of investments.