Stewardship and Protected Areas

The potential 55 000ha Protected Environment (MTTM PE) is located along the South African watershed with Lesotho, in the upper catchment of the Umzimvubu river basin in the northern Eastern Cape Province. It is a primarily communal tenure landscape, comprising six Traditional Areas in the Matatiele region of the former Transkei, stretching from the Mt Fletcher area in the west in an easterly direction
towards the uKhahlamba Drakensberg World Heritage Site (UDWHS) and provincial boundary with KZN. It will effectively link the UDWHS with the proposed NE Grasslands Park in the Mt Fletcher-Rhodes area, extending the protected corridor either side of the provincial 13 500ha Ongeluksnek Nature Reserve, which includes the Ongeluksnek pass between RSA and Lesotho.

The area comprises climax montane grassland with five vegetation types (see fig 2), hundreds of hectares of Proteas, and unmapped patches of Afromontane forest, rising from around 1750m up to the watershed, with high points up to 2850m. Streams and springs abound. The proposed PE includes two international mountain passes between SA and Lesotho, Qacha’s Nek and Ramatseliso’s pass, with the closest town being Matatiele some 20km to the south. The climate is temperate and pleasant, and can be extreme, ranging from over 30o during summers, down to -8o during freezing winters with frequent frost days and some snow. Annual rainfall is in the region of 800mm.

The land is State-owned, with several surveyed farms with title deeds. The primary use is extensive communal seasonal grazing, under a traditional governance system with varying degrees of co-operation and over 13 grazing associations, most of whom have signed Conservation Agreements with UCP NGOs along the buffer zone of the proposed PA to restore traditional rangeland management and rotational rest. Stock posts are scattered across the proposed PE: settlements are located in the adjacent buffer zone.