21.06.2017 - UNESCO Office in Harare

South Africa’s Garden Route added to UNESCO’s World Network of Biosphere Reserves

© Brand South Africa

South Africa’s Garden Route is among 23 new sites added to the World Network of Biosphere Reserves during the International Coordinating Council of the Man and the Biosphere (MAB) Programme meeting held in Paris from 12 to 15 June 2017.

Biosphere Reserves are learning places for sustainable development whose aim is to reconcile biodiversity conservation and the sustainable use of natural resources. New sites are designated every year by the MAB Council which is composed of representatives of 34 elected UNESCO Members.

With a total area of 698,363 hectares and a population of over 450,000, Garden Route Biosphere Reserve (GRBR) is part of the Cape Floristic Region biodiversity hotspot region. The Knysna estuary is of great importance for the conservation of this biodiversity. The eastern part of the biosphere reserve is characterised by the presence of wetlands in which farming practices and urban development could have a negative impact. Faunal diversity includes large mammals such as elephants, rhino and buffalo.

According to the South African Government News Agency, Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa welcomed the addition of the Garden Route to the UNESCO World Network of Biosphere Reserves.

“The positive response to the application to declare the Garden Route a biosphere reserve is most encouraging, not just for us, as a country, but also for the people of the region,” said Minister Molewa.

“The Garden Route, one of South Africa’s prime tourism regions, is an area rich in terrestrial, coastal and marine ecosystems where conservation of the rich biodiverse region is ably reconciled with sustainable use practices,” she added.

UNESCO states that biosphere reserves are nominated by national governments and remain under the sovereign jurisdiction of the states where they are located. Their status is internationally recognized.

The Garden Route Biosphere Reserve is the ninth such reserve to be declared in South Africa. The area includes the Tsitsikamma, Goukamma and Robberg Marine protected areas, Wilderness Lake Ramsar site, Garden Route National Park and two components of the Cape Floral Region Protected Areas World Heritage site: the Nelson Bay Cave and the Langkloof Valley, the latter being critically endangered.

The municipalities included in the Biosphere Reserve are Eden and Sarah Baartman District municipalities, as well as George, Knysna, Bitou, Kouga, and Koukamma local municipalities.

The Department of Environmental Affairs said all of these municipalities were consulted in the establishment process and engagements are underway to include the Biosphere Reserve initiative in their Integrated Development Plans.

Launched in 1971, UNESCO’s Man and the Biosphere Programme is an Intergovernmental Scientific Programme that aims to establish a scientific basis for the improvement of relationships between people and their environments.

MAB combines the natural and social sciences, economics and education to improve human livelihoods and the equitable sharing of benefits, and to safeguard natural and managed ecosystems, thus promoting innovative approaches to economic development that are socially and culturally appropriate, and environmentally sustainable.

The World Network of Biosphere Reserves of the MAB Programme promotes North-South and South-South collaboration and represents a unique tool for international co-operation through sharing knowledge, exchanging experiences, building capacity and promoting best practices.

For more information, please contact: p.oti-boateng(at)unesco.org


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