The Vhembe Biosphere Reserve was inscribed on the UNESCO World Network of Biosphere Reserves in 2009, becoming the sixth South African Biosphere Reserve and the third in Limpopo Province. The VBR has since established itself as a representative body in the Vhembe District Municipality and Blouberg Local Municipality with its primary aim being the conservation of the areas uniquely bio-diverse environment, while simultaneously supporting and promoting much needed sustainable development.
The current work programme includes the preparation of an Environmental Management Framework (EMF) for the VBR.
There is at present no holistic environmental plan for the sub-region.
This EMF will provide a basis for future decision-making based on sustainable development principles including:
- A detailed Biodiversity Hot-Spot Analysis of the entire VBR: already completed by the Conservation Sub-committee and in use to inform planning for future core-conservation areas and corridors between protected areas.
- An assessment of how to address poverty alleviation using the natural assets of the area in a sustainable manner.
- A list of existing and potential “Biosphere Demonstration Projects” which can contribute significantly to job creation and sustainable living.
- An education programme based on identifying and developing specific skills training courses that will contribute towards socio-economic upliftment.
- Design and implementation of a research programme to identify the potential use of biodiversity for sustainable commercial exploitation and job creation. Indigenous Knowledge Systems will form a major part of this study.
- A study of the heritage resources of the area which will be included in conservation planning.
Furthermore, the VBR has been very involved in the debate on the establishment of mines in the area and engages actively in Environmental Impact Assessment processes. To this end it is seeking undertakings from mining companies to set a benchmark for best environmental practice according to international standards.
The VBR has also been active in the debate between the Department of Environmental Affairs, UNESCO, South African National Parks and others about a buffer zone to protect the Mapungubwe Cultural Landscape from mining applications.
Read more and download the background and current work VBR May 2012