Life in our Hands: protecting our environmental assets

Life in our Hands: protecting our environmental assets

Every year the very foundation of our existence and survival is put under pressure by numerous factors, most of which are affected by humans. Over the years, deforestation has affected several regions of the world in a negative way. Greater population growth means loss of forested land, and pressure on natural resources like our water systems and coastlines through the every-growing need to feed people. Yet without our vital environmental assets, we would be unable to farm, fish, and produce food for our people.

Water is lifegiving and trees give us our essential oxygen, to mention just a couple of the extraordinary benefits of our natural assets. Protecting our biodiversity is important for the survival of all living in the Western Cape, ensuring capacities can be preserved and built upon to make the future sustainable.

We are already working to protect and preserve when we make changes in our daily lives; reducing greenhouse gases, factory and vehicle emissions, recycling, changing from plastic to more natural materials, using energy efficient appliances, installing solar geysers. Not to mention planting more trees, the source of oxygen, the very air we breathe.

Conservation and preservation

Conservation focuses on using natural resources such as wild and aquatic life, water, soil and forests in a way that ensures they are not consumed faster than they can be replaced. Development should work hand-in-glove with conservation, preparing for a better future but making sure that progress does not waste vital resources.

In contrast, preservation looks to maintain areas untouched by humans as pristine as possible, attempting to hold back encroachment by farming, industry, housing, etc, so that we do not lose precious natural spaces which nurture and ultimately deliver our vital resources. Unfortunately, human behavior disturbs the ecosystems and environmental balance, which is harmful to all. Seeking a balance between the needs of the environment and the needs of human development becomes an increasingly complex and challenging issue daily.

Taking action

This is not only a problem affecting the Western Cape, but humanity across the globe. Preserving and protecting our unique natural heritage is vital to keeping ecosystems operating in a way that benefits us all. It’s a responsibility that lies with state agencies, including all tiers of government, the private sector, and every individual who expects to enjoy a reasonable standard of living.

Recently, the Western Cape Biodiversity Spatial Plan (WCBSP) has been developed to ensure smart and sustainable growth. Challenges to our natural resources include pressures of population growth, unemployment, poverty and climate change. To make effective efforts  in the care of our environment, certain actions are called for:

  • good scientific information must be effectively collected and interpreted, and made available to end-users
  • all stakeholders and institutions must be armed and prepared to take responsibility for the effective management and governance of biodiversity assets
  • well-informed policies must be devised, legislation drawn up, and leaders with the educated knowledge to manage the process should be brought to the fore
  • a biodiversity spatial plan must be devised to effectively assist in the best land use, while constructively guiding development planning, together with the management of natural resources at the most practical and sustainable levels
  • educational and awareness programmes should be implemented by government to crucially assist in environmental protection
  • soil must be valued and protected, allowing for only minimum soil disturbance, ensuring maximum soil cover, and effectively working crop rotations; this intervention alone, has seen increased production levels among our wheat farmers, reduced soil erosion and improved soil health
  • there can be huge savings of water through the use of drip irrigation; in addition, satellite technology can be used to analyse crop growth and therefore enable the more efficient and cost-effective use of water
  • with the introduction of smart technology, economic growth should not mean that our natural resources face degradation and depletion.

With the right regulatory framework developed for land use, technology, and a canny eye for the demands of a growing population, we can safeguard the very resources that sustain us, and ensure the conservation and restoration of protected areas.

Managing projects, seeing results

Casidra is the acronym for Cape Agency for Sustainable Integrated Development in Rural Areas. Casidra works to implement and manage projects specifically designed to improve the lives of people and alleviate poverty. With our mandate as Agricultural and Economic Development within a Rural and Land reform context, we see ourselves as a catalyst for growth and sustainability, maximising outcomes by ensuring that we make a difference in people’s lives through effective project management.


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