Eastern Cape: New body protects our local forests
An enviromental organisation has been established in Port St Johns to assist communities in sustainable forest management.
Wildlife and Environment Society of South Africa (Wessa) and the Wild Coast Farm and Forest organisation in Port St Johns have recently established the Wild Coast Forest Users Association.
The purpose of the association is to identify the needs of all role players in relation to the use and management of the indigenous forests.
Wild Coast Farm and Forest’s Mbulelo Mkanka said the association represented the actual people using the natural forests and put them in a position to sustain their natural resources.
“We undertake training, workshops and raising awareness of biodiversity and the need to sustain the natural resources for the present and the future.
“This knowledge is passed on to other community members in order to have the message spread through natural resource users,” said Mkanka.
Douglas Cwaba, chairperson of the newly established Wild Coast Forest Users association and an established craftsman in Port St Johns, stressed that their role was to improve public awareness on biodiversity and natural resource use.
“We target the youth as this is the knowledge memory base and therefore the association engages all stakeholders, including the chiefs, so that the message is strong in the community,” said Cwaba.
In the school environment, the Wessa, through its eco-schools programme, creates opportunities for teachers and pupils to appreciate biodiversity.
Cwaba said teachers were supported by linking biodiversity activities to their class lessons.
“Pupils get to participate in practical activities such as planting indigenous gardens, creating ponds and bird feeders to attract and get closer to different species,” said Cwaba.
He said one of the goals of the initiative was to provide career opportunities in the biodiversity sector, such as botanists, marine biologists and ecologists.
“This will ensure future generations will keep on enjoying and protecting the unique areas, plants and animals in the Eastern Cape,” said Cwaba.
All South Africans, said Mkanka, can contribute to protecting biodiversity.
“Plant indigenous trees and encourage your community to be aware of our natural resources. Alien vegetation is a threat to biodiversity because it competes with indigenous vegetation.
“Birds and insects are attracted to indigenous trees and plants. Indigenous gardens improve their chances of sustainability,” said Mkanka.