It is imperative that local communities and the Kruger National Park (KNP) join forces to support sustainable conservation and improve socio-economic circumstances
MALALANE – Glenn Phillips, the managing executive of the Kruger National Park, discussed the importance of partnerships between the Kruger National Park (KNP) and the communities bordering it during a presentation at the recent meeting of the Malelane Business Chamber.
Local business people gathered at Malelane Ford on August 15 to find out more about proposed developments along the KNP.
Phillips explained that the KNP consists of around two million hectares with a 1 078-kilometre boundary. This includes seven community forums, three district municipalities, nine local municipalities, two biospheres and the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Conservation area. It is also bordered by several poor communities.
Phillips told attendees that a large part of the Kruger National Park is under land claims. He explained that the community needs to stand together to ensure that the existence of the park is not threatened and the natural heritage is protected for future generations.
The border communities also have a huge impact on the KNP’s finances, which are severely under pressure. Through tourism and community activities, communities such as Malalane and Komatipoort draw visitors to the KNP, bringing in essential funds and in turn grow the area’s economy.
The KNP has been steadily moving towards involving local communities, traditional authorities, land claimants, as well as the public and private sectors, in the decision-making processes and holding them accountable for the impact they have on the KNP and nature conservation.
In 2017/18 more than 54 public and interest group meetings were held as part of the KNP Management Plan consultation and hundreds of inputs were received.
Hunting in neighbouring areas also has a negative impact if it is not correctly governed, not sustainable and incorrect marketing strategies are employed. Public sentiment and incorrect media statements can also have a damaging effect.Phillips mentioned the negative impact of protests in the areas surrounding the park’s gates. This has made tourists wary of certain areas, or completely avoiding them.
Phillips moved on to mention the broad safety and security concerns they face regarding the species in their care, their staff and visitors. This includes poaching, hijacking, human trafficking and the pollution caused by littering and illegal waste dumping both on land and in water sources.
Other challenges include poor communication between the stakeholders, misaligned stakeholder strategies and projects as well as corruption, damage-causing animals and waste and water management.
He explained that everyone needed to work together to tackle these challenges. Firstly, all stakeholders need to understand how the KNP operates, what the challenges are, which goals they have and how it can be reached. Next, the groups need to find out what their role is, collaborate and partner programmes should be optimised. All the strategies need to be monitored and evaluated to ensure resources are used efficiently.
To reach their objectives, the KNP has employed a cluster approach, grouping 13 areas on the KNP border together. The Onderberg is included in the Komatipoort cluster. Each cluster has different strengths such as tourism or wildlife security and they each have opportunities for development.
The local cluster’s contact person is Peter Scott. He can be reached on 083-455-3669 or via email at Peter@mjejane.com.
Phillips explained that there are programmes, funded nationally and internationally, which are in place and deal with fence maintenance, conservation, buffer implementation and community involvement and education.
Over the next year, the KNP will work towards formalising its plan, engaging with stakeholders and setting up community offices as part of a pilot project.
In 2019, it plans to establish the Greater Kruger Regional conservation business department and set up more community offices.