The basic purpose of a Biosphere is to develop ways in which people can live and prosper, jobs can be created and development can take place all without permanently depleting the natural resources. The responsibility for directing the Magaliesberg Biosphere towards this goal falls to the Board of a non-profit company and that Board is in the process of being appointed right now. Sixteen interest groups will be represented on the Board, for example, environmental conservation, heritage, tourism, landowners, educators, etc. Nominations for each of the sixteen positions were called for at public meetings last month and candidates have been nominated.

Their names and information about them will be posted from 1 December 2015. Anyone who lives or works in the Magaliesberg-Cradle area or has an interest in the Biosphere may vote within the stakeholder interest group that resonated with them. Voting commences from 1 December and forms will be available on the website and through various stakeholder organisations.  Please take the trouble to cast your vote and encourage everyone you know to do so as well. The success of the Biosphere will depend on the people we elect to the Board.

The job of the Board

What will the members of the Board actually do and, more specifically, what can they do for you? The Board’s job is to direct activities in the area towards achieving the twin goals of economic development and conserving natural resources. It has no legal teeth and it cannot, and has no wish to,  police activities in the biosphere. Its members will therefore be involved in at least five primary activities:

The first will be building public awareness and understanding of the global necessity to live within our environmental means. This will require working with all the media, social and conventional, holding awareness functions and enlisting the help of everyone in the Biosphere to develop a community spirit on commitment. 

The Board will need to collaborate with other biospheres. There are 650 biosphere reserves in the world, eight of them in South Africa. All of them are trying to achieve the same elusive goal of sustainable development. All are experimenting with different ideas and initiatives. Some are succeeding well, others not so well but all are willing to share their experiences and help each other. Participating in this family of biosphere reserves is critically important if any of us are going to succeed.

The Board must stimulate and encourage projects. The activities of the Biosphere will take the form of projects. whether it is a school project to find ways to save water, scientific research to investigate biodiversity, a cultural project to rediscover our rich and diverse history or an industrial project to reduce air pollution. The Board itself cannot undertake all such work itself but its job will be to encourage others with the expertise and resources to do so.

Fundraising. Very little can take place in this world without financial support and one of the principal activities of the Board will be to seek funding to ensure that the wheels of the organisation can roll. Board members themselves will act voluntarily but the most important and urgent need is for a permanent Co-ordinator. This is a key position which all Biosphere reserves have emphasised is essential. At the moment two superwomen, Belinda Cooper and Mercia Komen, are sharing this huge task between them without any remuneration but both are working women and mothers and they cannot keep going forever. If any readers of this article can suggest how they might be assisted or funded, please come forward.

Liaison with government is the fifth vital responsibility. The Board will need to work closely with the relevant municipalities to help them to understand how the Biosphere can help them with functions such as the preparation of special planning, delivery of services such as water and waste management as well as marketing of their municipalities as environmentally responsible regions. Liaison with Gauteng and North West Provinces may result in financial assistance (all other provinces support their biospheres.) Collaboration with the national Department of Environmental Affairs is the most important government connection of all because it is the formal link between the Magaliesberg Biosphere and UNESCO. Regular reports must be made through DEA and in ten years’ time our Biosphere will be held accountable for its performance. Let us hope that when that international spotlight falls on us we will be able to report a truly successful decade of sustainable prosperity.

 

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