Cape Town - The issue of land is in the spotlight across South Africa at the moment - with many speculating how the slow-moving policy will affect perceptions of SA as a whole, as we contend with the poor example set by neighbouring Zimbabwe.
But for one Xhosa community in the Eastern Cape, it has finally resulted in the creation of a new wildlife economy project and mentorship programme intent on building a new legacy through the Likhaya Lethu Communal Property Association (CPA).
'Displaced from their land during Apartheid'
On Wednesday, 7 March Minister of Environmental Affairs Edna Molewa launched the Double Drift Wildlife Economy Project in the Great Fish Nature Reserve in Eastern Cape, which aims to assist the Likhaya Lethu community who was displaced from their land during Apartheid when the reserve was established.
Likhaya Lethu CPA has received R6 million to develop the project on the Naudeshoek farm that was bought for them when their land claim was settled in 2012. They lost their residential and grazing rights in 1991 due to the 1913 Land Act. The CPA is made up of over 1 500 community members.
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Molewa signalled the handing over of the title deed for the land from the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform to Likhaya Lethu CPA by releasing ten mountain zebra and 20 hartebeests into the Double Drift Nature Reserve section of Great Fish. These animals were donated by the Eastern Cape Parks and Tourism Agency who will provide mentorship to the community in a co-management agreement.
The funds they received will be used towards installing a 10km game fence, entrance gate, rangers and hunters accommodations, a buffalo holding boma and the training and development of community members. The project will focus on game breeding and live sales, as well as trophy hunting and production of game meat and other wildlife products. Harvesting of indigenous plants can also be done as another income-generating stream, with the aim of promoting a diverse skill-set in the youth of the community.
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"Today we are standing on the shoulders of the great Xhosa warriors who resisted colonialism for more than a hundred years during the Xhosa Wars, more commonly known as the Cape Frontier Wars, from 1779 to 1889," said Molewa in her speech at the event.
"It was in these valleys around us that the spears of our people faced the bullets of Dutch and British colonisers, refusing to give up their land and cattle."
She pointed to the importance of remembering this past through the maintenance of historical sites in the nature reserve, and that the establishment of protected areas in the past didn't benefit the people that lived in these areas.
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Environmental laws in democratic South Africa aims to provide more access to local communities to tap into the benefits of the conservation and wildlife economies and promoting ownership. Sixty jobs have already been created so far.
'New era in conservation'
"Today we have gathered to witness a new era in conservation - where local communities and government join hands in fighting the economic ills of poverty, unemployment and inequality through the sustainable use of our biological resources for the economic benefit of our communities."
"In the wildlife sector, the participation of previously disadvantaged individuals has been, and continues to be, overshadowed by several barriers, including insufficient access, ownership and inefficient utilisation of land, as well as a lack of infrastructure development support for entrepreneurs.
"The high capital costs for acquiring land, fencing and game are amongst the major barriers to entry and transformation. Overcoming these barriers or challenges to entering the sector requires coordinated efforts," says Molewa.
The Great Fish River Reserve falls under the Greater Amathole Biodiversity Economy Node, which has been pinpointed as a development priority for the Eastern Cape provincial government. This includes the establishment of a multi-purpose processing plant and increasing ownership in communities to avoid their exploitation.
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