30by30: A collaborative approach to protecting one of the world’s hottest biodiversity hotspots
By: Kerry Maree – The Table Mountain Fund Manager
As manager of the Table Mountain Fund, I often get asked, “How do you know if your fund is making a difference?” Some days my answer will be “It’s complex. And nuanced. And we might need decades to know for sure”. And other days my answer is, “It’s simple!”. We exist to safeguard the biodiversity of the Cape Floristic Region (CFR). Well-managed protected areas and other area-based effective conservation measures do just that. Therefore, the question is, has the network of these areas grown thanks to our investments? If yes – we are winning. One would believe that this would be the cornerstone to any conservation strategy and yet so often the conservation of these natural landscapes, these biodiversity refugia, are over-shadowed by complex, geo-political and, arguably, disingenuous efforts masquerading as meaningful and contemporary conservation.
As the world shifts from one negotiating table to the next, this time to negotiate for the Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework, here at the Table Mountain Fund we have been reflecting on our contribution towards the proposed Target 3, the catchy #30by30, and how we have supported the local conservation community in protecting our precious biodiversity.
South Africa’s Western Cape province is a botanical treasure chest, home to the smallest yet richest of the world’s six plant kingdoms. Of the 9000+ plant species occurring in the CFR, almost 70% occur here and nowhere else on Earth. Safeguarding this biome, which also happens to be one of the world’s hottest hotspots, therefore fits squarely within South Africa’s responsibility – and being the only conservation fund resolutely committed to protecting the CFR, we proudly take up our position to serve this noble cause.
Since our inception, we have positioned ourselves to be pivotal in enabling and supporting the growth of the protected area network of the CFR. Ensuring that our expansion strategies are underpinned by scientific and systematic biodiversity planning and a healthy dose of pragmatism, the local conservation community has acted as pioneers on the global stage when it comes to establishing private protected areas and unlocking resources to ensure the longevity of our biodiversity. Since the first provincial protected area expansion strategy of 2010, the protected area network has grown by approximately 40%. And TMF was there every step of the way.
Over the years, the Table Mountain Fund has invested approximately R25 million into land purchase, capacity building of and collaboration between partners, restoration of priority biodiversity contained within protected areas, and formal and informal protection of biodiversity through the Biodiversity Stewardship Programme. Biodiversity stewardship is an approach to protect and manage land in priority biodiversity areas through an agreement between private and communal landowners and the relevant conservation authority. It recognises the landowners as the custodians of biodiversity and, since the start of the programme, TMFs role has been to provide financial assistance to these landowners who voluntarily sign their land up for the benefit of us all – and our future generations.
At TMF, we never forget who the ‘we’ is that we refer to. We are fortunate in the Western Cape to have a sophisticated and collaborative community of practice represented by government and non-governmental organizations alike, that complement and support each other’s efforts to ensure that the priority biodiversity of the CFR is protected and managed in the most efficient manner possible. Of course, there will always be challenges but all things considered, we truly believe we have the right partners and the energy required to keep chipping away at our #30by30 target within the fynbos landscape.
With a rich history (PA REPORT), a full active portfolio, and a dream for future expansion, TMF holds itself accountable, together with our partners, to safeguard this critically important biodiversity for generations to come.
Our sincere thanks to the primary funder of the Stewardship Assistance Project, the Millennium Trust, who has supported this project for the past 11 years.
Cover Photo: © Olivia McMurray / The Table Mountain Fund
Gallery Images: ©Scott Ramsay and Olivia McMurray / The Table Mountain Fund