Wind Energy Facilities Supporting Enterprise Development In The Conservation Sector
GREATER KROMME STEWARDSHIP PROJECT UPDATE:
By Kevin McCann and Wentzel Coetzer
Securing threatened Fynbos habitats, in new protected areas, is an extremely important response to the risks and threats facing this endemic vegetation type. This is a key intervention of the Greater Kromme Stewardship (GKS) initiative in the Kouga region of the Eastern Cape, an area characterised by fragments of important fynbos habitats. This GKS initiative, which has been the focus of a TMF-funded project for the past 4 years, was established by a group of renewable wind energy developers* in collaborations with the Kromme Enviro-Trust, and was developed in partnership with Conservation Outcomes and Eastern Cape Parks & Tourism Agency (ECPTA). The initiative’s aim is to engage and work with landowners, communities, government, conservation agencies, and other stakeholders in an effort to conserve threatened fynbos ecosystems, through the establishment of new protected areas on private and communal land, as well as to support ECPTA in securing additional areas of state land that are currently not declared. In all these circumstances, the challenges of resourcing the management of these new protected areas is significant, which is a common problem in securing small fragments of threatened ecosystems.
The GKS initiative began investigating innovative solutions to this challenge in partnership with the wind energy collective, who are invested in the region as key economic players. This investigation focused on integrating the wind farm requirement (according to the Renewable Energy Independent Power Producers Procurement Programme) of investing a percentage of revenue towards socio-economic and enterprise development, focused in a 50km area surrounding the wind farm’s operations.
Working on Reserves
The TMF-funded project supporting this initiative explored the development of a “Working on Reserves” concept, whereby resources from the wind farms are allocated to supporting teams of people, trained in conservation management, to manage the under-capacitated state protected areas or biodiversity stewardship sites. This could include access control, fence-line patrols, fence maintenance, alien plant clearing, fire management and nature guiding where appropriate. The ultimate aim is to develop these small teams into SMMEs that are their own self-contained businesses, providing a conservation management service to a range of different landowners in the landscape.
This idea has been fully endorsed by the wind farm collective in the region, and they have activated the concept via their economic development divisions. Each wind farm is contributing financial resources, collectively valued at R2,4 million per annum, to cover start-up costs, equipment and training needs of small teams of local people to focus initially on alien plant clearing. Extensive alien wattle infestations exist in the key water catchments of the area, which will be the focus of this clearing work. These teams will be built into SMMEs that will contribute biomass to an existing community-managed charcoal production business in the Kruisfontein community outside Humansdorp. This initiative aims to create a layer of private sector conservation management in the landscape, providing extensive concurrent alien plant infestation removals in key water catchments, and to build economic opportunities around the use of alien plant biomass. The initial activation of these teams was unfortunately delayed by the Covid-19 pandemic, but the teams are now currently completing their initial training and will start implementing their clearing activities shortly.
*The renewable wind energy developers include: Globeleq representing the Jeffreys Bay Wind Farm, Enel Green Power representing Gibson Bay and Oyster Bay Wind Farms and Cennergi representing the Tsitsikamma Community Wind Farm and Kouga Wind Farm.