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GREEN ZONE


INITIATIVES SUCH AS THE WWF-SA GRASSLANDS PROJECT AND MANY OTHERS AROUND THE COUNTRY DISPLAY JUST HOW DEEPLY COMMITTED TOYOTA REMAINS TO THE ENVIRONMENT AND ITS ONGOING PROTECTION


S


A is renowned for its natural diversity. The country boasts forests, deserts, mountains and bushveld, but one of the least protected,


yet most ecologically sensitive and biodiverse regions is the grasslands. In 2008 the World Wide Fund (WWF) launched what’s now known as the WWF-SA Grasslands Project with the aim of protecting more than 500 000ha of pristine Mpumalanga, Free State, Eastern Cape and KwaZulu- Natal (KZN) grasslands. This region is home to both rare and endemic plant and animal species, as well as being the catchment area for three major river systems: the Vaal, Thukela and Pongola. The expanse under protection has now grown to over 200 000ha and includes over 4 000 land-owners of farms, natural reserves and communal or land reform properties, positively affecting millions of downstream water users and directly benefiting those who’ve formally committed to stewardship of their land for conservation. The sustainability of this ecologically significant project has been made possible by ongoing financial support from Toyota SA Motors (TSAM). Through its contribution, TSAM has ensured the day-to-day running of the programme and covers the salaries of two staff members – the Programme Co-ordinator and the Biodiversity Co-ordinator – as well as other operational costs which include fleet management, fuel costs and vehicle repairs. The project’s work not only contributes to the sustainability and success of local communities and their environments, but is of national importance, since its positive impact is felt along the entire length of the three river systems. The programme has a three-fold agenda. It focuses on communities and land-owners by ensuring they’re supported and given the tools needed to manage their land


THE PROJECT’S WORK NOT ONLY CONTRIBUTES TO THE


SUSTAINABILITY AND SUCCESS OF LOCAL


COMMUNITIES AND THEIR


ENVIRONMENTS, BUT IS OF NATIONAL IMPORTANCE.


in an ecologically sensitive manner, while still benefiting economically. The programme then maps economic activities that put the region at risk and may impact future food, energy and water security. Finally, it works to implement a conservation model for the key river catchment sources. The past financial year has seen


a great deal of progress across the programme’s key objectives, many of which wouldn’t have been possible without Toyota’s support. The highlights have predominantly focused on ensuring the environmental protection of the area, but also include lobbying and consulting on mining, and helping communities fight fire risks.


HIGHLIGHTS OF THE YEAR: • A focus on deed endorsement of


70 000ha of land will result in the in-perpetuity protection of these areas for future generations.


• Five title deeds have been signed off by the Mpumalanga or KZN MEC, with a further 22 to be signed in the near future. This builds on the existing 130 000ha of grasslands already secured by the programme.


• The near-finalisation of the 40 000ha Elandsberg Protected Environment declaration.


• Progress, albeit slow, on the Versamelberge Protected Environment gazetting that will protect 16 000ha of priority grassland habitat through partnerships in the landscape.


• The Mgundeni community upgrading its protected area stewardship status from a biodiversity agreement to a protected environment.


• The Thekwani community having signed a biodiversity agreement with Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife through WWF-SA facilitation.


• Grassland condition assessments on more than 40 community and commercial biodiversity sites in Mpumalanga and KZN.


• Lobbying and consultation regarding proposed coal mining in the area.


• The development of fire management programmes with the Ndlamlenze and Mgundeni communities. Co-funding will see the supply of equipment and training for these communities, while Toyota funding has contributed to the initial screening and set-up of the process. The importance of protecting richly


biodiverse and sensitive environments like SA’s grasslands is key to ensuring the sustainability of the rural communities and farmers operating in those areas. It also plays a vital role in protecting precious water resources for the benefit of the entire country.


THE GRASS IS GREENER


19


WORDS: GAYE CROSSLEY. IMAGES: COURTESY OF WWF-SA


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