Seeking community partnership in GaMampa Wetland, Limpopo
The Water Research Commission (WRC) continues to focus on researching various ways by which to involve rural communities in sustainable wetlands utilization without further degradation of these systems. The WRC was invited by the International Water Management Institute (IWMI) to its wetland community workshop at Mafefe Village in Limpopo Province. IWMI is the lead agent of the WETWIN (win the wetland) Programme on wetland community management projects currently being implemented in various countries. " The WRC is looking at establishing strong work relationships with IWMI and strengthening the collaboration, as well as expanding the concept to other communities in South Africa" says the WRC Research Manager ,Bonani Madikizela .
The WETWIN Programme is funded by the 7th Framework Programme of the European Union to look at community-based solutions for integrated water resource management (IWRM) of selected wetlands on three continents. The projects have been targeted for the period 2007-2013. The GaMampa Wetland (in the Olifants Basin, Mohlapetsi River) in Limpopo Province was chosen as one of the study sites in the Southern Hemisphere for comparing the wetlands management solutions within this twinning initiative.
The wetland covers approximately 1 km2 in a total catchment area of 490 km2 at the confluence of the Mohlapetsi and Olifants Rivers. Although only a small tributary, the Mohlapetsi is perceived as important for the hydrology and hence water resources of the Olifants River. The general perception is that this tributary makes a significant contribution to the flow of the lower Olifants, particularly in the dry season. The area falls within the Lepelle Nkumpi Municipality, Capricorn District of the Limpopo Province. The majority of people living there are of the Pedi tribe.
The European Union community-funded WETWIN Programme runs projects that are based on 'twinned' case studies of wetlands in Europe, Africa and South America. As part of this initiative in the Limpopo Province a stakeholder workshop was held in Mafefe Village on the 5th of August 2009. The workshop was attended by the GaMampa community and leaders, Centre for Rural Community Empowerment (University of Limpopo), IWMI, WRC, SANBI-Working for Wetlands, Lepelle Nkumpi Municipality and the Departments of Agriculture, Water, Environment and Tourism.
Ms Sylvie Morardet of IWMI and Mutsa Masiyandima, an IWMI contact researcher based in South Africa, presented the objectives of the study and also gave broader management perspectives on the project itself.
The study is aimed at working out management solutions for the selected wetlands with the aim of supporting the achievements of IWRM. Knowledge and experiences gained from the case studies will be summarized in general guidelines aimed at involving communities and sharing experiences on options to better manage wetlands.
The WETWIN’s twinning system bases its approach on its motto ‘Win the wetland and you win the river basin’. Despite the international protection of the Ramsar Convention and the multiple functions that wetlands provide for ecology and society, many wetlands in Africa and South America still lack sustainable management and are being threatened. The study has targeted 6 international sites, one in each of the participating countries, which are: Hungary, Germany, Ecuador, Mali, Uganda and South Africa. The workshop held in Mafefe Village was one of the Programme’s efforts to encourage stakeholder participation and exchange information.
Through the involvement of stakeholders, science-based outcomes will be produced with direct benefits for the needs of society, without compromising the environmental needs. Ownership of project results will largely benefit from strong stakeholder involvement and is a precondition for sustainable development. According to the National Environmental Management Act, (Act No. 107 of 1998),community participation and stakeholder engagement are important in natural resource utilization and conservation. The public participation process ensures that all stakeholders affected by the development, including interested and affected parties are consulted and informed about potential decisions that may affect them and that they must be afforded an opportunity to influence those decisions.
The study will also contribute towards meeting the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) for drinking water and sanitation, within the context of an integrated approach to water resource management.
The Mafefe community is highly committed to working with the researchers and government representatives. "This commitment is reflected by the presence of leadership, the Chief, Ward Counsellors and different age groups representing the entire community" Bonani adds. The GaMampa Wetlands Committee has been put in place by the community specifically to look after the wetland and for interaction with any interested party, research or developers.
"The WRC is considering establishing close working relationships with IWMI in supporting the research around sustainable utilization of the GaMampa wetland and to extrapolate the lessons learnt from this collaboration to other wetlands in the country where there is immediate pressure on wetland development activities by highly impoverished rural communities" says Bonani Madikizela. It is critical that such studies are conducted in order to inform the policy development and conservation of wetland systems while providing a service to the communities and generations to come.
The South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI), University of Limpopo, Department of Agriculture and other key parties will be invited to form the consortium, particularly on expertise that researchers are lacking, such as sociology, community communication approaches, rehabilitation of wetlands, appropriate agricultural crops and grazing habits, including harvesting of reeds, fish and medicinal plants. Ideally, the WRC should take the lead for further research through solicited or non-solicited proposals.
Compiled by:Hlengiwe Cele
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