Celebrating our natural heritage
By Mahlatse Mapheto
Heritage can be defined as our inheritance, which is what the past has conceded to us, what we value in the present and what we choose to preserve for future generations. This is comprised of cultural and natural heritage. Cultural heritage includes tangible references such as artefacts or any work of art, monuments, cultural landscapes and buildings. This also includes intangible references such as language, knowledge systems, myths, beliefs, memories and traditions. The term ‘natural heritage’ is said to pre-date what we now describe as bio-diversity, which are the different categories of flora and fauna within a specific habitat area, that are considered to be important and desirable as they are the foundation of ecosystem services to which human well-being is intimately linked.
South Africa has 9 World Heritage sites which are classified as either cultural or as natural heritage sites – including culturally significant natural landscapes and biodiversity. The Mapungubwe Cultural Landscape, Robben Island, Cradle of Humankind, Khomani Cultural Landscape and the Richtersveld Cultural and Botanical landscape, are regarded as our Cultural Heritage Sites. Our Natural Heritage Sites include the Barberton Makhonjwa Mountains, iSimangaliso Greater St Lucia Wetland Park, Vredefort Dome and the Cape Floral Region Protected Areas.
The Cape Floral Region has one of the richest bio-diversity collections for a region of its size and is comprised of 8 protected areas namely;
- Table Mountain National Park
- De Hoop Nature Reserve
- The Boland Mountain Complex
- The Groot Winterhoek Wilderness Area
- The Swartberg Mountains
- The Boosmansbos Wilderness
- The Cedarberg Wilderness Area
- And Baviaanskloof Mega Reserve
The World Heritage Convention Act 49 of 1999 (WHCA) ratified the Cape Floral Region as World Heritage Site. This was later promulgated by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) as a World Heritage site, in 2004, largely because of its importance as a centre of great terrestrial bio-diversity. It is described by the organisation as having ‘outstanding universal significance to humanity’ as it has ecological and biological processes associated with the fynbos vegetation, unique to the Cape Floral Region.
As one of the richest biodiversity areas in the world, coupled with the internationally acclaimed Table Mountain, the Cape Floral Region is an area of great heritage significance, and this should be celebrated and conserved for the benefit and enjoyment of future generations.
The Table Mountain Fund is a capital conservation trust found within the Cape Floral Region aimed at providing catalytic funding towards conservation projects focusing on the protection and preservation of this natural heritage site, while also providing socio-economic opportunities to local communities. The Table Mountain Fund has a Pride Programme which is aimed at instilling a sense of appreciation of the diverse flora and fauna which occur within the Cape Floral Region. This is done by encouraging individuals to gain a better understanding of the diversities within the Cape Floral Region and thus gain a sense of respect for our shared natural heritage, with the hope of developing a shared priority for the preservation of our natural heritage in the process.
The preservation of our natural heritage is important as it encourages communities to take responsibility for their natural landscape and participate in the development and conservation of their heritage, which in essence, creates a greater sense of pride and belonging.