Ecosystem Services


Ecosystem services are very important benefits granted to human beings through healthy and well managed ecosystems. The ecosystems range from aquatic to grassland and forest ecosystems. ERS is involved in various ecosystem projects to enhance the benefits that are or can be given to the vast population in the uMzimvubu catchment.

Rangeland Restoration

ERS provides rural development management and environmental management planning services to the north Eastern Cape. The members undertake environmental impact assessments, facilitate networking, implement appropriate development projects, and develop practical environmental management plans. Various involved activities and tasks focus on the refinement and production of a support 'toolbox' for wider application of a community mobilization and rangeland management methodology, which has been developed by the partners during their involvement from 2011 in the Matatiele communal grasslands and with DEA Natural Resource Management funding.

The "rangeland toolbox" framework builds on local traditional and respected practices within communal landscapes in the grassland biome, as well as drawing from a range of innovative holistic methodologies for community mobilization aimed at improved livestock and landscape management, which generates positive returns for both the livelihoods of participant groups as well as the ecosystem services upon which they depend, and which is self sustaining with minimum external input and improved local governance and capacity, the latter being supported by the proposed training 'toolbox'.

The toolbox components have been distilled through an initial process kick-started through DEA-funded project observations as well as CEPF support for UCP partnerships to consolidate best practice, and being drafted into a 'package' which now requires consolidation, production and sharing to a wider range of stakeholders.

Investing in Ecological Infrastructure at Catchment Level

There are a number of landscape and/or catchment partnerships piloting interventions that are necessary to build a portfolio of evidence for investment in ecological infrastructure . These pilot projects are driven by multi-sectoral partnerships consisting of government organisations, civil society, academia and private sectors amongst others. The key focus of many of these flagship projects is on multi-sectorial integration of ecological infrastructure into policy and decision making support tools. Ecological infrastructure (EI) refers to naturally functioning ecosystems that deliver valuable services to the people.

Little effort is made to capture and share important lessons, learnings and innovations from these successful pilot interventions. It is for this reason that catchment based Ecological Infrastructure Research; Development and Innovation (RDI) platforms were established in uMzimvubu and the Berg and Breede river catchments. The establishment of these platforms yielded more positive outcomes that led to expansion to other strategic catchments with strong emphasis on convening spaces, social learning and generation of policy evidence.

Concerted efforts are made to promote multi-sectorial involvement through integrated policy planning and development, as well as mobilisation human and financial resources for investment in maintaining functionality and restoration of the degraded ecological infrastructure for the benefit of society. This investment is necessary for environmental sustainability and resilience to natural disasters as required by South Africa’s National Development Plan’s Ten Critical Actions.

Value Chains for Restoration in the Upper uMzimvubu River Catchment

The Umzimvubu River is one of South Africa’s last free-flowing, undammed rivers. Biologically rich, and capturing nearly 15% of the country’s annual run-off, the upper catchment of this river is important in its own right. But, as the headwaters of a river system that provides water to a region where only 6% of the million inhabitants have piped water, the health of this catchment is crucial to South Africa’s development goals. As part of the former homeland area of South Africa, the entire upper catchment falls in the southern lower reaches of the Drakensberg Mountains along the Lesotho border.

As a social enterprise, Meat Naturally is owned by a Trust structure that consists of farmers who are compliant with conservation agreements and the NGOs that support them, but remains a private business that generates income from incentivizing restoration. This case-study reflects on the evolution of the business and its value proposition as a model for other value-chain approaches for sustaining and amplifying restoration work.

Conservation Agreements: a communal stewardship mechanism for rangeland restoration and livelihood enhancement

Conservation agreements are defined as a ‘negotiated exchange of benefits in return for changes in resource use, depending on verified performance. We know that in many parts of the world, natural resources are used unsustainably simply because there is no economic alternative. When we are able to provide tangible, concrete benefits to local communities to protect their environment, this pathway quickly becomes the chosen approach.

Through this negotiated, informed and voluntary approach, the uMzimvubu Catchment Partnership has facilitated improved rangeland management on over 5000ha of valuable grasslands, and generated over $1.4 million for communal livestock farmers in South Africa’s poorest province. These communities have also experienced significant indirect benefits of increased ecosystem resilience, and indirect social benefits of enhanced governance and empowerment. In this session we will discuss the critical factors for the design, implementation and scaling of this model, and provide examples of how conservation agreements are a successful mechanism to deliver benefits for people and nature.

Governance and effectiveness of institutional configuration for enhanced landscape stewardship

The livelihood activities of managing livestock and rangelands, clearing of alien vegetation and spring protection, among others, require the actions of a multiplicity of actors drawn broadly from government, civil society, communities and traditional leaders. In such a scenario, where variously positioned actors contribute to the attainment of the common good, the need for good governance is critical.

The objectives of UCCP’s five-year plan are geared towards formalising governance and policy influence through advocacy; supporting governance structures to adopt working models for improved catchment management with a stronger policy focus and influence; and providing ongoing support for improved governance and continued monitoring and advocacy.