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The Vhembe Biosphere Reserve (VBR) must work with all its stakeholders for their benefit as well as the natural worlds in a sustainable and regenerative way which builds in adaptive capacity, resilience and progress for all. 


Within the context of a Biosphere Reserve, “development” is defined as: “the fostering of economic and human development which is socio-culturally and ecologically sustainable". This is a fundamental objective of any Biosphere Reserve and particularly relevant in the case of the Vhembe Biosphere Reserve.

The VBR has, on the one hand, a relatively large area that is environmentally sensitive of which the bio-diverse Soutpansberg and Blouberg mountain ranges comprises the major portion, while correspondingly it also has a relatively large human population that has a rich cultural heritage but is predominantly very poor and whom up to now have been presented with few economic opportunities. 

The challenge is to establish a development framework and strategy that is aimed at conserving the bio-diverse environment while at the same time creating socio-economic opportunities for the people of the area.


As the VBR, the main tenants which guide us in  Development across the region are that:

  • It must integrate the current wildlife and tourism industry with the cultural assets of the people in order to jointly promote the sustainable utilization of the area for the benefit of all its inhabitants.

  • It must empower local communities to take responsibility for the development and conservation functions of the areas in which they live in a manner that contributes towards their economic upliftment.

  • It must help to create partnerships between the private sector, community structures and Government in order to share knowledge and co-operate in solving natural resource problems.

  • It can meaningfully contribute to the restitution process by acting as an innovative tool for the resolution of land use conflicts, which implies negotiation and consent by legitimate stakeholders, including the local communities.



“The focus of Biosphere Reserves is on developing projects to serve as models and learning-sites for stakeholder communities to collaborate in translating global principles of sustainable development”.


These are known as Biosphere Demonstration Projects (BDP). Demonstration projects serve as examples of how community, private and public (“PPP Projects”) can collaborate to generate profitable, sustainable livelihood enterprises in harmony with nature. 
Across the VBR, the focus is on the stakeholders who consist mostly of local communities that need assistance with skills and resources and is intended to provide the basis for encouraging them to use their knowledge and entrepreneurial skills to establish their own Biosphere Demonstration Projects. 

There are already a number of existing Biosphere Demonstration Projects in the VBR that align with the same objectives.

Delve into our unique Research Portal, search for a variety of articles, case studies and reports but also stay updated with all the latest conservation and community news from the region. Click here



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