An update on progress from the Chairman of the Biosphere Initiative Group
By Paul Fatti
Earlier this year, we had heard that, because of budget constraints, the Biosphere project had been placed on hold.
The Biosphere Initiative Group (BIG) took the decision to “go it alone” after months of inaction by the North-West Department of Agriculture, Conservation, Environment and Rural Affairs (NW-DACERD). We felt it important to keep this initiative going through structures such as the website and this newsletter, and by establishing contact with Stakeholders.
We continue to promote the Magaliesberg Biosphere, to set up some of its structures and we believe there is a lot that can be done by the public.
But, NW-DACERD is our key partner since a biosphere has to be a joint project between the public and the provincial government (and, at a later stage, the central government). The Department’s involvement is crucial, particularly as regards developing the application to UNESCO for formal registration as a biosphere.
To our delight, NW-DACERD has come back on board sooner than we had expected!
The Department has a long-standing partnership with the Finnish Environment Institute, and through the Institutional Cooperation Instrument (ICI)'s there is assistance to establish the Magaliesberg Biosphere.
The first step was a visit by three members of the Institute to SA. The purpose of the visit: to prepare a proposal document recommending support from the ICI for the Magaliesberg Biosphere Project.
The Finns’ mission commenced with a one-day workshop, to which members of the Magaliesberg Biosphere Steering Committee and other interested parties were invited.
The workshop included a presentation on the ICI, which provides institutional support and funding for projects supported by the Provincial Government and the relevant Finnish institution. This was followed by presentations on the Paijanne Biosphere Initiative and the environmental collaboration that has been taking place between Finland and Russia.
Vincent Carruthers and I then presented the details and motivation of the Magaliesberg Biosphere Initiative. Presentations on the Cradle of Humankind, followed and included in the Biosphere and the Harties Metse a me (Hartbeespoort Dam water remediation) programme.
The Finnish Mission visited the Cradle of Humankind, Hartebeespoort Dam and the Kgaswane Mountain Reserve.
BIG members of the Steering Committee gave further input to the proposal. The first draft will be sent out soon for comment and revision, and then the proposal will be presented to the Ministry, which is expected to give its response in early 2010.
Assuming that the response is positive, a full-time coordinator (funded by the ICI) will be appointed for the Magaliesberg Biosphere project, whose task will be to prepare the UNESCO application document, as well as to carry out all the other required activities, such as consulting with stakeholders and establishing a Stakeholder’s Forum, most probably with the help of a consultant (funded by NW-DACERD).
The process will then gain momentum quickly!