02 July 2020


Marico listed as UNESCO biosphere reserve

by: Thebe Itumeleng   date: 03 August 2018

Minister of Environmental Affairs, Edna Molewa, has welcomed the approval of the Marico area as a United Nations, Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Biosphere Reserve.
An official announcement for the inclusion of Marico Biosphere Reserve was made at the 30th International Coordinating Council sessions of Man and Biosphere Programme in Indonesia last week.
“The positive response to the application is most encouraging ecologically, not just for us, as a country, but also for the people of the region as this is an important water catchment area for Limpopo River that supplies water to various countries,” said Minister Molewa.
The Marico Biosphere Reserve – South Africa’s 10th Biosphere Reserve which has been designated by UNESCO - is one of South Africa’s prime eco-tourism regions. This international designation status will boost its ecotourism potential, thereby increasing economic opportunities for local communities. It is an area rich in terrestrial and fresh water ecosystems where conservation of the rich biodiverse region is ably reconciled with sustainable use practices.
A South African delegation led by Director for Protected Areas Governance in the Department of Environmental Affairs, Caiphus Khumalo and Head of Department at Bokone Bophirima’s Department of Rural, Environment and Agricultural Development (READ), Dr Poncho Mokaila, accepted the international accolade on behalf of South Africa.
During his acceptance speech, Dr Mokaila said the road to secure the honour was not an easy one. 

“The public engagement process, the development of the management plan and the compilation of the biosphere nomination dossier for listing of a unique fresh water system was commissioned three years ago but we had to use lessons learnt from Magaliesberg Biosphere nomination application to our advantage and to ensure that we get our facts right,” he said. 

READ MEC, Manketsi Tlhape, equally expressed her delight at the honour and said the current administration had made strides in rebranding, repositioning and renewing the province. 

“This clearly reflects a society that is able to interpret the vision of the current administration so well and has lived up to the expectation of communities. 

“The onus is now upon the Marico management body to ensure that the Biosphere reaches its goal of maximising conservation of the natural environment, sustainable development, advancement of research programmes and social upliftment,” she said.

The Marico River is the only inland free-flowing river in South Africa still in its natural condition. The Marico region has also been identified as an important water recharge area, supplying clean water to surrounding communities and neighbouring countries Botswana, Zimbabwe and Mozambique. 

The Marico Biosphere is, therefore, a good example to showcase sustainable economic, social and environmental development. 

The biosphere reserve has a remarkable aquifer visible through clear, unpolluted mountain streams emanating from the area. A large majority of dolomitic ‘eyes’ are located within the biosphere area. 

“These are areas that are much more than “protected areas” and form an integral part of a regional planning and development strategy aimed at promoting sustainable development and conservation. They conserve diversity and integrity of plants, animals and micro-organism; Promote research on ecological conservation and other environmental aspects and also provide facilities for education, awareness and training,” said Minister Molewa.
Biosphere reserves are voluntarily nominated by national governments and remain under the sovereign jurisdiction of the states where they are located. Their status is internationally recognized. .  
Molewa said this area also held significant cultural and political historical value.  The site is where former President, Jacob Zuma, and other uMkhonto weSizwe recruits were arrested by apartheid police in 1963 as they made their way to Botswana.
MEC Tlhape applauded all the stakeholders who supported the listing process including landowners and communities and expressed her gratitude to their dedication. She said initiatives within the Biosphere Reserve would be driven by the local community and through a public participatory approach, using an integrated management plan.