Minister Launches Botanic Gardens in Eastern Cape

The South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI) in partnership with the Eastern Cape Parks and Tourism Agency (ECPTA) celebrated the declaration of the Kwelera National Botanical Garden (NBG) on Tuesday 30 September 2014 in East London. The establishment of Kwelera NBG in the Eastern Cape brings the number of South Africa’s National Botanical Gardens (NBGs) managed by the SANBI to 10 in seven provinces as per NEMBA (Act 10 of 2004).

Kwelera, derived from an old Khoi word ‘Goerecha’ meaning ‘many aloes’, is the first National Botanical Garden to be established in the Eastern Cape, and marks a significant  step towards delivering on the Minister of Environmental Affairs, Ms Edna Molewa’s, Outcome 10 commitments and a major achievement in reaching the country’s conservation targets, ensuring ecological sustainability. The Kwelera Nature Reserve, which is managed by the ECPTA as a protected area, has been identified as the anchor site for the new Garden. Under the signed Memorandum of Agreement the reserve will remain under ECPTA but be co-managed with SANBI as the natural portion of the proposed new Kwelera National Botanical Garden.

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The Kwelera National Botanical Garden, as declared on 25 July 2014, is an important biodiversity corridor in the region which comprises 160 ha of pristine coastal dune forest, natural vegetation, marine frontage, coastal grasslands and as such does not currently have visitor facilities. SANBI is planning to develop administration and visitor facilities for the new Garden on an adjacent portion of land over the next three years.

As part of SANBI’s Gardens Expansion Strategy, approved by the SANBI Board in 2010, the Garden will serve as a ‘window’ into the traditional biodiversity practises and cultural diversity of the Eastern Cape. Its roles will include, amongst others, biodiversity research and information hub for the Eastern Cape, conservation biology, wild plant species research, conservation management (both in situ and ex situ), plant reintroductions and habitat restoration research, library services and information centre, environmental education programmes for adults and learners, empowering and building the capacity of local and rural communities for conservation, curriculum-based teacher training, tourism and ecotourism, public recreation, horticultural research, cultivation and training on the indigenous plants of the Eastern Cape, herbarium studies, laboratory research, systematics and ethnobiological research.

Economic benefits will include job creation, use of SMMEs and other potential service providers, and the continued conservation of the Kwelera Nature Reserve as a pristine example of Southern Coastal Forest vegetation.

“Our reserves are located in some of the most rural and impoverished areas in the province. And yet these natural wonders offer some of the most significant experiences in the world, which can be translated into tangible benefits for communities,” said ECPTA Chief Executive Officer, Vuyani Dayimani.

SANBI/ECPTA PARTNERSHIP AND CO-MANAGEMENT OF KWELERA

The Eastern Cape Parks and Tourism Agency (ECPTA) and SANBI identified the Kwelera Nature Reserve, 18km NE of East London as the anchor site for the new partnership Kwelera NBG using criteria of biodiversity value, accessibility and tourism potential.

A letter of consent, as required under the MoA, was issued by DAFF to the ECPTA, giving consent to use the Kwelera Nature Reserve as a National Botanical Garden, in March 2013. In addition, a Management Plan for the existing Kwelera Nature Reserve as the natural portion of the now declared Kwelera National Botanical Garden was developed jointly by SANBI and ECPTA. Under the signed MoA, the Kwelera Nature Reserve will remain under the ECPTA, but be co-managed by SANBI. The new Garden will provide an additional nature-based scientific tourism attraction for the Buffalo City Metropolitan Municipality and the greater East London area specifically and will also play a significant role in promoting biodiversity education to surrounding communities.

SANBI CEO, Dr Tanya Abrahamse said that the new Garden “will provide a ‘window of biodiversity’ to the public. Biodiversity is our natural capital – a valuable resource which if managed correctly offers countless economic, social and emotional benefits”. According Dayimani, “the establishment of the new Garden is the culmination of our sustained efforts to deliver not only on our mandate, but to also create mutually beneficial partnerships with other government entities that serve to support the national strategy”.

The South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI) is an autonomous, state-aided organisation whose mission is to champion the exploration, conservation, sustainable use, appreciation and enjoyment of South Africa’s exceptionally rich biodiversity for all people.

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