At the end of a successful 5-year investment in the Maputaland-Pondoland-Albany Hotspot (MPAH) by the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF), partners and grantees came together to celebrate this milestone.
Overview of the CEPF and critical ecosystems worldwide
Everyone depends on Earth’s ecosystems and their life-sustaining benefits, such as clean air, fresh water and healthy soils. Founded in 2000, the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund is a global leader in enabling civil society to participate in, and benefit from, conserving some of the world’s most critical ecosystems. It is a joint initiative of l’Agence Française de Dévelopement, Conservation International, the Global Environment Facility, the Government of Japan, the MacArthur
Foundation, the World Bank and the European Union, who have the mission of safeguarding biodiversity hotspots – the richest and most threatened reservoirs of plant and animal life on earth. Over the past 15 years, CEPF has invested over $191 million into more than 1 900 civil society organisations, which has resulted in 12.8 million hectares of new protected areas across 22 different countries, securing some of the world’s most important biodiversity.
CEPF’s belief is that conservation is better with civil society involved, allowing partnerships with government to be strengthened and help guide development while taking the environment into consideration. The four pillars which help guide this work are Biodiversity, Civil Society, Human Well Being and an Enabling Environment.
Local investment – the Maputaland-Pondoland-Albany hotspot
In 2005, the Maputaland-Pondoland-Albany region was identified as one of these global biodiversity hotspots. It is home to six of South Africa’s eight biomes and includes three centres of endemism, namely the Maputaland, Pondoland and Albany centres of endemism. It covers an area of about 275 000 km² along the east coast of southern Africa, below the Great Escarpment – spanning South Africa, Swaziland and Mozambique. Its incredible levels of biodiversity and endemism make it one of the most important biodiversity hotspots in Africa for its size.
The hotspot is under serious pressure due to unsustainable use of natural resources, the spread of invasive alien species, human-wildlife conflict, loss and degradation of habitats, and overharvesting of marine and estuarine resources.
In 2010, the CEPF initiated a $6.65 million investment in the region that would “support civil society in applying innovative approaches to conserving under-capacitated protected areas, key biodiversity areas and priority corridors, thereby enabling changes in policy and building resilience in the region’s ecosystems and economy to sustain biodiversity in the long term”.
Through the guidance of Wildlands, in their capacity as the Regional Implementation Team for the investment, a total of 59 civil society organisations have been supported over the past five years.
This funding was directed into these organisations in the form of 38 large grants and 50 small grants within the following strategies:
- Strengthen protection and management in under-capacitated protected areas
- Explore innovative approaches to conservation area expansion in key biodiversity areas
- Maintain and restore ecosystem function and integrity within broader corridors
- Improve the enabling environment within the Hotspot.
The investment catalysed an improvement in conservation management of 1 107 342 hectares across the hotspot, including 404 023 ha in protected areas and 703 319 ha outside protected areas. 331 158 ha of new protected areas were secured through the Biodiversity Stewardship process, with a further 79 788 ha currently under negotiation. Through the investment, 253 threatened species are now better protected or managed. The investment also played a crucial role in building capacity in the hotspot with 157 training interventions that benefited a total of 25 221 recipients. It further supported 127 different communities through various initiatives with 520 direct jobs created.
With the investment coming to a close at the end of 2015, The CEPF, Wildlands, and the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI) convened the final MPAH Forum in KwaZulu-Natal on 13 – 14 October 2015. This celebration showcased the achievements made by project grantees in the region and highlighted the relationships built, partnerships established, and the passion shown by people to reach their project goals and harness opportunities.
Wildlands is committed to building on this foundation, particularly in sustaining the gains made on the ground and strengthening the network of learning across the region. Wildlands will focus on scaling up these gains, empowering new partnerships and biodiversity stewards, and influencing emerging policies and markets to secure biodiversity, continually improve capacity in the region and make areas more resilient to climate change. On behalf of civil society in South Africa, Swaziland and Mozambique, Wildlands thanks CEPF for their amazing support and investment into the Maputaland-Pondoland-Albany hotspot over the past five years.
Deputy Director: Conservation SPACE