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The Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment has started to prepare for the successful implementation of the Forestry Master-plan, which will ensure the creation and sustainability of decent employment, long-term investment, and the transfer of skills and expertise to the next generation.

Addressing the National Assembly on Friday during the department’s Budget Vote for the 2021/22 financial year, Deputy Minister of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment, Makhotso Sotyu said the Forestry Master-plan is a formal implementation plan that has been endorsed by Labour, Industry and Government.

“To prepare for a successful implementation of this Master-plan, the Ministry has begun with inspection visits to all our regional offices across the nine Provinces, to ensure that, our structure and reconfiguration of our department is in line with the governance structure as adopted in our Departmental Master-Plans.

“We want to ensure that our Department has a human capital/work-force that always offer well trained and skills graduates, vocational training in the Forestry, Fisheries and Environment sectors.

Empowering communities

In an effort to empower communities so they can manage their own eco-tourism projects within the cross-border environments, the department has set aside R400 000 in this financial year for four projects.

This is part of the department’s Biodiversity Economy Programme, which will implement projects in Qwaqwa, Free State, Awelani, Mahlati, and Gijana/Bevula in Limpopo Community Structures.

“Two Community Conservation Areas (Awelani and Mahlati) will receive boreholes this year for the provision of water in their reserves. The amount allocated to this is R350 000.

“The Khomani San and Mier (Botswana and South Africa) community-owned lodge in the Kgalalgadi Transfrontier Park — !Xaus Lodge —  is to be fitted with solar panels to not only deal with regular power outages, but also to improve the energy efficiency of the lodge. A total of R450 000 has been allocated to this project,” the Deputy Minister said.

The Lubombo Transfrontier Conservation Area Integrated Development plan will be concluded this year.

It is aimed at  developing a structured plan for developing areas that fall within the Lubombo Transfrontier Conservation Area (TFCA) encompassing areas in Eswatini, Mozambique and South Africa.

“This process will follow substantive stakeholder consultation processes at ground level in all three partner countries to ensure that the plan is aimed at benefiting all that reside in these areas as well as creating economic opportunities as well as transboundary eco-tourism. R800 000 has been allocated to this project,” she said.

The department will also be implementing projects approved through a grant from the Global Environment Fund of R56 million over a five-year period to sustainably manage grazing lands (the Fetakgomo Local Municipality in Limpopo and in the Dawid Kruiper Local Municipality in the Northern Cape).

This fund will alleviate the effects of desertification, land degradation and the severe drought in the country.

“Given the strategic importance of rehabilitating and restoring degraded landscapes, through the presidential stimulus package, a programme to support restoration of degraded land for sustainable livelihoods, through upscaling of sustainable land management practices in different provinces, has been developed,” the Deputy Minister said.

She said her department wants to focus on re-building an economy that is resilient, low carbon and sustainable, after the COVID-19 pandemic ravaged the country’s, continent’s and world-wide, economies and livelihoods.

“By unlocking the potential that exists with traditional communities, rural poverty will be reduced, and traditional communities will be able to participate fully and effectively in South Africa’s and the African continent’s economic recovery,” Sotyu said.

For the last six months starting in November 2020, the department has continued with the official opening and handing-over of facilities to Municipalities to ensure that a nature-based Green Economy is a reality.

“Recently, we officially opened and handed over the Awelani Eco-Tourism Lodge and Community Conservation Area in Vhembe District Municipality in Limpopo.

“This Lodge employs 23 permanent staff members, all of whom are from beneficiary communities. This year accredited training will be provided to empower these and other community structures that are being supported in their eco-tourism projects within TFCAs,” the Deputy Minister said.

In March 2021, the department handed over the Lekgalameetsi Nature Reserve in the Maruleng District Municipality, Limpopo.

On 30 April 2021, the department also handed over the Environmental Education Centre to the Maluti A Phofung Municipality in Qwaqwa, Free State.

SAnews.gov.za

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