Protected areas (PAs) on state, communal and private land play an important role in safeguarding high priority biodiversity areas and ecosystems in the ORC. The majority of nature reserves in Limpopo and Mpumalanga are under land claim or have already been restituted to communities. These will all be governed through some form of co-management between the provincial conservation agencies and claimant communities. However there is not much experience of co-management (especially of institutional arrangements and beneficiation models smaller reserves) in South Africa despite longer standing regional and international practice. The lack of experience and capacity in this field poses considerable challenges and even threats to protected areas and livelihoods.

The Legalameetse Nature Reserve (LNR), lying in the biologically-diverse Wolkberg Mountains and headwaters of the Selati River, is one such reserve

Legalameetse Nature Reserve (LNR)

. However lack of capacity together with institutional dynamics and tensions have challenged successful co-management arrangements thus far despite its provincial priority status.

Brief history of land claimants and the LNR

Communities that were forcibly removed from the Legalameetse during the apartheid era, claimed land successfully in 2005 and started work on a co-management together with Limpopo Economic Development, Environment and Tourism. There are six communities with land claims in the LNR: Madutula (Mangena), Mamashiana, Paris, Cyprus, Balloon and Madeira. The LEDET together with its parastatal Limpopo Tourism Authority (LTA) is responsible for the reserve. LEDET is the ‘Management Authority’, responsible for overseeing conservation and biodiversity management, while LTA is responsible for reserve tourism as the ‘Executing Agency’.

A co-management agreement was signed by LEDET and the Legalameetse communities through the Legalameetse Management Committee (LMC) in 2007. This was based on the full lease model of co-management in which communities get a lease fee (per hectare per year) but with little or no involvement in the management and decision-making of the reserve. Each community is expected to form a legal entity called a Communal Property Association (CPA) to administer activities of the claimants/ beneficiaries [The Communal Property Association Act No. 28 of 1996 (CPA)]. Only two communities (Mangena and Mamashiana) had completed their land claim process and CPA registration which enables them to receive the lease fees.

AWARD’s involvement

Given this, a new co-management agreement is being discussed between LEDET and the communities with claims in Legalameetse. AWARD was approached to assist the Legalameetse Management Committee to ensure a tenable, equitable, transparent co-management process is followed so as to ensure sustainable natural resource management and community beneficiation.

In 2016 we started work with communities and LEDET to support both the development of new co-management governance structures of these high priority biodiversity areas and to contribute to the livelihoods of community members through the development of various beneficiation mechanisms. The objective of the our work is to support the development of a functional, tenable and appropriate institutional arrangements for, and subsequent implementation of, co-management that takes into account:

Our main activities support:

  • appropriate institutional arrangements as the basis for the co-management process
  • enhanced capacity of communities and government to collaboratively govern and manage the natural resources in LNR for livelihood beneficiation whilst maintaining the natural resources;
  • the development of a draft co-management agreement using an inclusive, transparent process; and
  • sharing of lessons from these processes.
  1. ) sustainable biodiversity and natural resource management and
  2. ) meaningful, equitable and sustainable beneficiation of community members under current and future scenarios. It aims to do this through support for:

Dialogues on climate change and adaptation strategies will also be undertaken. Support for a successful co-management arrangement will build the resilience of both the area and dependent communities.