As the country marks Arbor Week, the government has called on South Africans to plant more trees, and for public-private partnerships and cross-sectoral cooperation to help conserve the environment.
Inset: God's Window on the Mpumalanga escarpment, so called for its stunning views of the Lowveld more than 900 metres below. On a clear day, you can see as far as the Kruger National Park and, beyond that, Mozambique (Photo: August Sycholt, South African Tourism)
Speaking at the People and Parks Conference in the Free State on Thursday, Deputy Environmental Affairs Minister Rejoice Mabudfhasi said efforts to improve natural resource management in the country's protected areas should also contribute to sustainable growth and poverty reduction.
"We need to enhance the capacity of the poor to manage their own and shared resources by strengthening local management arrangements and by supporting women's key roles in managing natural resources," Mabudafhasi said.
Civil society, in particular poor and marginalized groups, needed to be empowered to influence environmental management policy and planning processes at all levels, by expanding public access to information, decision making and justice.
Partnerships with the private sector and cross-sectoral cooperation should also be encouraged to conserve the environment, said Mabudafhasi.
"I believe we need to fully take advantage of the progressive policies and laws that we have ... We need to also build formal and smart partnerships between public services, donors, private sector, business, civil society and local communities."
She said these partnerships should be based on measurable results of fighting environmental degradation and poverty.
There was a need for communities to build their own capacities to partner with the private sector through local-based enterprise development based on the sustainable use of biodiversity, such as community-based eco-tourism or sustainable harvesting of natural products.
More than R497 000 has been made available by the government for to implement the People and Parks projects in seven provinces, an initiative that had created over 4 800 employment opportunities