Latest News16 November 2012
Custodians of the future
Children in the Wilderness is an environmental and life skills educational programme for children focusing on the next generation of decision makers: inspiring them to care for their natural heritage and to become the custodians of these areas in the future. → read more…
The Greater Mapungubwe Transfrontier Conservation Area has become the cultural TFCA. Visitors flock to the area not only to see the magnificent sandstone formations, the wide variety of trees - notably the enormous baobab - and game and birdlife, but also to experience a kinship with past generations. The cultural resources of the Limpopo-Shashe basin are generally associated with Iron Age settlements of around 1200 AD. The similarity of ivory objects, pottery remains and imported glass beads excavated at different sites spread across the modern international borders of Botswana, South Africa and Zimbabwe, attests to the cultural affinity of the people that lived in the Limpopo-Shashe basin during the Iron Age.
The Mapungubwe World Heritage Site is a major attraction park and was home to the famous gold rhino - a symbol of the power of the King of the Mapungubwe people who inhabited the Limpopo River Valley between 900 AD and 1300 AD. At that time Mapungubwe had developed into the largest kingdom on the subcontinent. It is believed that a highly sophisticated civilisation, which traded with Arabia, Egypt, India and China, existed at Mapungubwe.
The Mapungubwe Cultural Landscape was proclaimed a World Heritage Site in July 2003. Peace Parks Foundation, De Beers, the National Parks Trust and WWF-SA assisted SANParks by facilitating negotiations with landowners and buying up farmland to consolidate the core area of South Africa's contribution to the proposed TFCA.
The 30 000 ha Mapungubwe National Park was officially opened on 24 September 2004. A memorandum of understanding (MoU) towards the TFCA's establishment was signed on 22 June 2006 and an international coordinator was appointed. Since then, a strategic plan for the TFCA's development has been drafted to determine a vision and mission, long-term goals, objectives and actions.
On 19 June 2009, Limpopo/Shashe was renamed the Greater Mapungubwe TFCA. The Ministers of Botswana, South Africa and Zimbabwe announced the new name at the confluence of the Limpopo and Shashe rivers where the three countries meet. The Ministers said the decision to change the name of the TFCA was based on the need for a name that accurately reflected the uniqueness of the TFCA, adding that the name Greater Mapungubwe was preferred because all three countries had sites called Mapungubwe.
On the same day, Peace Parks Foundation handed over an electric fence worth R250 000 to the Maramani community of Zimbabwe to help deter stray elephants from destroying crops in the Shashe irrigation scheme. This is the first step in the proper zoning and planning of the area that will encourage the reduction of dryland cropping in sensitive wildlife dispersal areas, a key element to the TFCA's functioning.
Much time was spent ensuring responsible mining operations at the Vele Colliery that lies 5.7 km from the boundary of the Mapungubwe National Park and World Heritage Site. The end result was a significant improvement in compliance and a sincere effort towards best practice. Prior to operations commencing, the South African Department of Environmental Affairs, SANParks and Coal of Africa signed a memorandum of agreement (MoA) that seeks to ensure the conservation and integrity of this globally significant natural and cultural World Heritage Site and to maintain and strengthen cooperation between the signatories. In the MoA, the parties commit themselves to 10 joint undertakings, key among which are:
- developing means by which local communities and other stakeholders can participate in and tangibly benefit from the management and sustainable use of natural and cultural resources in the World Heritage Site
- developing detailed biodiversity offset programmes and action plans
- monitoring the implementation of these through a steering or environmental management committee
- providing adequate financial, human and other resources for the effective implementation of the MoA.
A meeting between SANParks, the South African Heritage Resource Agency, Limpopo Province and South Africa’s Departments of International Relations and Cooperation, Environmental Affairs and Mineral Resources resulted in an alignment of the TFCA’s management plan and objectives with those of the World Heritage Site and its buffer zone.
The Maramani community’s Shashe irrigation scheme received funds from NGOs Saffire and CESVI and rehabilitation work on the old scheme was started, with funds confirmed for an additional commercial irrigation scheme. In 2009, Peace Parks Foundation handed over an electric fence to this community to help keep stray elephants from destroying crops in their irrigation scheme. Irrigation schemes or agricultural support zones will encourage the reduction of unsustainable subsistence farming in sensitive wildlife dispersal areas and ensure food security, which are key elements to the TFCA’s functioning.
Towards the end of 2011 the Greater Mapungubwe TFCA Park Managers Committee was formed to deal with cross-border challenges at ground level. Area managers now directly attend to cross-border or international matters like border safety and security, veterinary concerns and other joint management matters. This ensures a quick response time and immediate success.