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Vernon Gibbs-Halls

Garden Route Initiative

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GRI represented at the UNESCO Man and Biosphere National Meeting 2012

I recently had the fortunate opportunity to represent the Garden Route Initiative in the Waterberg Biosphere Reserve in Limpopo Province at the FIFTH NATIONAL MAN AND THE BIOSPHERE COMMITTEE MEETING between the 19th and 21st November. The two days was an exhilarating experience. The Waterberg have been a biosphere for 10 years now and have achieved great strides regarding the upliftment of the poor and people in conservation within their domain.

After the Meeting had opening and the formalities covered, the new biosheres were granted an opportunity to present an update on their progress. The presentation I gave on the GRI was very well received and there is keen support from all the biospheres for us to become a new UNESCO registered biosphere. I will be spending much of my time in 2013 working towards this goal, and fundraising wherever I can to make this dream a reality to protect our natural resources and our people in the GRI domain. The new biospheres include:

• Magaliesberg Biosphere Reserve
• Marico Biosphere Reserve
• Garden Route Biosphere Reserve
• Amathole Biosphere Reserve

After lunch the following items were discussed on the agenda.

• Development of national strategy
• Biosphere Reserve Tourism signage boards
• Biosphere reserve information sharing
• Web link
• Report back on the 24th ICC meeting in Paris
• AfriMAB Book Project
• Research related to the MAB Programme
• Strategy on Buffer Zones for National Parks
• UNESCO / DEA requirements for amending BR spatial plans

The next day was site visit around the Waterberg Biosphere where we were introduced to some amazing projects. Starting at our base, the Inzintaba Lodge, we were transported to the Waerberg Biosphere Reserve Office (Yes, they even have their OWN office!!!!!!) where they have started an amazing beadwork factory which brings an income to many previously unemployed. At the meander site 5 we were treated to a geology lesson which revealed the Waterberg area as the oldest geological site in South Africa created by rivers transporting sediments hundreds of millions ago. We then moved to a Pedi Cultural Village sponsored through the Biosphere by the Limpopo government, and treated to wonderful dance and song routines from the locals including a buffet spread of great traditional Pedi food. We then moved quite speedily (in fact very fast on the dirt road) to Lapalala Wilderness School, the patron and founder Clive Walker, a truly lengendary figure in pioneering environmental education in South Africa back in 1986. We finally ended an exhausting day of driving with a game drive and cocktail sundowners, ending our two days with a feeling of melancholy and relaxation. Thank you to everyone at Waterberg, Rupert Baber in particular for hosting us and allowing us to explore his treasures of the Waterberg. We will be back. It is also a point of celebration that the GCBR will be hosting the next UNESCO MAB meeting in the Little Karoo end of March early April. We certainly look forward to hosting the biospheres in this regard.

Available on Request
Author's permission required
Photographs courtesy of Vernon Gibbs-Halls
Subject to International Copyright
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