Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Positive Change in South Africa- An Environmental Success Story

I have just returned to the busy city of Johannesburg after three days in one of South Africa's most beautiful areas, the Baavianskloof in the Eastern Cape. In a model program, the South African and Dutch governments have partnered together with civil society organizations and local communities to restore the environment. This area used to be covered in sub-tropical thicket, made up mostly of the humble Spekboom tree. This tree secured water in the soil, and built up an ecosystem that supported a vast array of plants and animals. Spekboom also secures carbon in the soil, a lot of carbon. When the vegetation was stripped off the landscape by farmer's sheep and goats, the climate changed radically, forcing many to leave farming altogether. Water rushed out of valleys that used to have wetlands, and desertification set in.

A reserve, called the Baavianskloof Mega-Reserve was created out of these former farmlands, and it is from this reserve that the partners hope to rebuild the shattered ecology of the area, and bring back the water that helped make this place a World Heritage site. Farmers and local communities hope that by certifying carbon from this massive replanting scheme, money will flow back to them and revive an economy every bit as broken as the environment.

I joined one of the Working For Water teams to bring you this report from deep in the Baavianskloof.

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