The Magaliesberg Biosphere initiative took a significant step forward this week. At a special celebration for World Environment Day, the North West Department of Economic Development, Environment, Conservation and Tourism also held a signing ceremony during which the province and affected stakeholders formally endorsed the Magaliesberg Biosphere Reserve.

The initiative is a partnership with Finnish Environmental Institute, and the event took place at Mount Amanzi, Haartebeespoort.

The region of the Magaliesberg Biosphere Reserve is rich in natural assets, including mineral wealth, natural biodiversity, cultural heritage and historic sites. World Environment Day aims to create awareness of the importance of the natural environment, and the ecosystem services which sustain life.

Since World Environment Day is marked in June – South Africa's Youth Month - Premier of North West Province, Thandi Modise called on young people to be actively involved in the preservation and conservation of the environment. She urged people to pay attention to the damage being done to the earth, and the impact that would have on future generations.

The ceremony was attended by approximately 350 people including representatives from Magaliesberg Biosphere landowners, communities of the Majakaneng District Municipality, Tribal Authorities, government departments, mining houses and non-governmental organisations.

The Province is in process of finalising an application to submit to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). The application be sent to National Department of Environmental Affairs later this month for submission to UNESCO.

UNESCO is the international body which lists Biosphere Reserves. The Magaliesberg Biosphere Reserve will be the seventh UNESCO Biosphere reserve in South Africa. The other Biosphere Reserves are Cape West Coast, Cape Winelands, Kogelberg, Kruger to Canyons, Blyde River Canyon and the Waterberg.

In terms of UNESCO requirements, affected stakeholders should indicate their support for the Biosphere Reserve by signing endorsement forms.

The Premier also acknowledged the role of their international funders and partners. "This project could not have been successful if it were not for the partnership that we forged with the Finnish Center for Environment Management, especially because this is our first listing as a Province", said Modise.

The region of the Magalies Biosphere is a significant tourism destination. Combined with the natural beauty and heritage value, the Magaliesberg has the potential to foster job creation. UNESCO requirements for listing a Biosphere Reserve include a research component. Modise emphasised that the region will a "laboratory for our children."

Modise expressed the desire to name the region by its original name: "Dithaba tsa Mogale''. This statement met with resounding applause.

In pledging her commitment, MEC Motlalepula Rosho said that her department will further engage landowners, as project initiators and other relevant stakeholders including mining houses to make this project a success.

Vincent Carruthers, Chairman of the Magaliesberg Biosphere Initiative Group, and author of the "The Magaliesberg" expressed appreciation to the Finnish delegation and the funding which made it possible to complete the research for the application.

He spoke emotively about the region, the immense age and significance of the mountains.

participants at the Biosphere Day in NW

Photographs by John Wesson.

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