This is a multifaceted project which lends itself to being declared an Integrated Conservation and Development Project (ICDP) whose underlying objectives are to strike a balance between livelihood improvements and biodiversity conservation. The project lies within and adjacent to the iSimangaliso Wetland Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site (www.isimangaliso.com) and one of South Africa’s prime eco-tourist destinations. A substantial part of the project is currently within iSimangaliso where people have settled informally (and illegally) within what remains of the once pristine Dukuduku Forest. The balance of the project comprises two communities that have been relocated from the Dukuduku Forest in recent years.
The project is of national priority since the Cabinet has decided, after many years of unsuccessful negotiations, to allow inhabitants to remain within the former Dukuduku Forest, but, subject to the following conditions in return for the full spectrum of government service delivery. Firstly, with the minimal displacement of people, whilst at the same time rehabilitating the original forest along a new boundary with iSimangaliso. And secondly, to preserve the environmentally sensitive Umfolozi Floodplain, where illegal agricultural activities are eroding the function of the floodplain to filter water flows into Lake St Lucia with consequential negative impact on the dominant tourism economy in the area.
An important aspect of the project is the provision of service delivery parity amongst the three communities within the project area, which is estimated to be approximately 4,300 households. Two of these communities were established through earlier government interventions to remove inhabitants from the Dukuduku Forest, and there remains severe service delivery backlogs within these two communities. It is therefore paramount, from a socio-political perspective, that all three communities receive the same level of services and are all formalized through the appropriate development planning legislation.
I was appointed as the project manager of the Enhance Project Team, which in turn had an overall project leader that facilitated the institutional arrangements for the project. Enhance Strategies International (www.enhancestrategies.co.za) was awarded the contract by the provincial Department of Co-operative Governance & Traditional Affairs (DCGTA) for the overall programme management of the project. In turn, DCGTA was responsible for the institutional management of other government departments and reporting to the Cabinet.
The project brief from DCGTA was to initially undertake a holistic and thorough planning process with all stakeholders (government and community) in order to put in place a development framework with relevant controls that protects and maintains prime conservation areas, and simultaneously, provides for much needed socio-economic development for the affected communities. The planning process is to include a spatial plan and associated portfolio of projects designed to suit the funding policies of various government agencies. Thereafter, resources for the project are to be secured from government and donor funding entities by actively lobbying for such funds and ensuring that adequate budgets are provided. As funding is secured, the project team is to package projects for implementation by assisting government entities with procurement issues. The project team is also to provide the overall programme management that monitors and evaluates project progress that is reported to the project’s institutional structure.
This is a complex and multifaceted project which embarked upon a detailed planning process from which projects could be implemented. This planning process was essential since a substantial portion of the project area was still within the iSimangaliso World Heritage Site, but now had to be re-zoned for residential and integrated within the adjacent communities that had been relocated from this former conservation area in recent years. The design process shown in Figure 1 entailed the preparation of a status quo assessment; the preparation of a Development Plan (encompassing a Spatial Framework Plan and an Implementation Framework Plan); packaging of specific projects; implementation of projects; and, an overarching institutional structure to govern, monitor and evaluate the overall project.
Figure 1 - Design Process
A status quo assessment was initially undertaken in order to unravel the socio-political dynamics that had plagued this project area for almost 20 years, and also, to assess the status of all planning and other project work in the general project area. Only once the status quo assessment was understood, could the institutional structure for the overall governance of the project be established with all stakeholders and the relevant meetings be arranged to guide the project.
The Spatial Framework Plan was then compiled which entailed the collection of base mapping data from which various sectoral assessments could be undertaken, such as, environmental, geotechnical, hydrological, settlement patterns, bulk infrastructure (water, roads, solid waste and electricity), land legal issues, local economic development opportunities (tourism, agriculture, etc.), and, project boundary definition. The consolidation of all sectoral studies resulted in the Spatial Framework Plan which was then endorsed by and embedded within the local municipal Integrated Development Plan (IDP) and Land Use Management System (LUMS) of Mtubatuba Municipality.
The Implementation Framework Plan then built onto the Spatial Framework Plan by identifying and conceptualizing a wide range of specific projects that were clustered into various programmes, such as, infrastructure, housing, economic development, environmental conservation, community facilities. The Implementation Framework Plan also prioritized the sequence of projects from which resource distributions could be estimated for the envisaged overall project duration.
A Development Plan, comprising the Spatial Framework Plan and Implementation Framework Plan, was compiled and endorsed by all the institutional committees, including a broader consultation process with other “interested and affected parties”, such as, environmental interest groups, other nearby communities, concerned citizens, etc. The Development Plan was then presented to a provincial cabinet oversight committee, which endorsed the plan. This followed with specific high level meetings with heads of departments to secure funding commitment for the project.
As funding was secured, the associated projects were packaged for implementation by assisting government entities to fast track procurement and the appointment of service providers. An overall programme management service has been provided through regular reporting to the institutional structures for the project, and also, to support specific government entities as service providers are appointed and briefed into the project.
An important Permaculture contribution to this project was the conceptualization of an agri-village approach for the Spatial Framework Plan, and, the emerging agricultural development policy, not only for this project, but for the province as well. This emerging policy recommended a 3 phase approach to agricultural development for low income community development type projects.
The first phase entails the establishment of Permaculture homestead gardens as a means to provide food security. This follows with the second phase which develops productive commonage for niche cash crops by using predominantly keyline rainwater harvesting systems and other Low External Input Sustainable Agriculture (LEISA) systems. Finally, the third phase establishes a farmers support centre / co-operative as a means to co-ordinate agricultural initiatives; provide marketing and logistical support; and, by value adding processes that will further generate local economic development.
A case study for the Dukuduku project was presented at the Strategic Planning Workshop of the provincial Department of Agriculture Environment & Rural Development (DAERD) in mid-July 2009 and was well received. Subsequently, some members of the Enhance project team and myself were requested to assist DAERD to prepare their Strategic Plan. To this end, a draft Strategic Plan has been prepared but still needs to be workshopped with officials at DAERD.
Meanwhile, DCGTA is funding the establishment of a first tranche of 180 Permaculture homestead gardens which is currently being implemented. The project team has also been successful to secure Corporate Social Investment (CSI) funding from two large private sector entities, namely, UNILVER and FOSKOR, for 120 Permaculture homestead gardens, which have already been implemented. The design process for the Permaculture homestead gardens entails;- community sensitization, selection of beneficiaries, training, site design, site implementation, refresher workshops, and, mentoring. In parallel to this delivery process is project management and participatory videos (PVs). PV is a cutting edge concept that provides a strategic communication linkage to enhance the participation of project beneficiaries to maximize the productive potential of their land and by sharing their collective experiences not only amongst themselves, but with their community and other stakeholders at large.
The planning process for the project culminated with the adoption of the Development Plan by all stakeholders. This included the negotiation of a new project boundary between the community leaders and iSimangaliso. Funding is still being secured from various government entities and projects are being packaged for implementation as and when funding is made available.
It is now obvious that the initial 3 year planning horizon was ambitious, especially given the current funding cutback for development projects in order to accommodate FIFA 2010. Nonetheless, the projects that have commenced include;- the bulk water supply project, the 3 housing projects, several community works projects, and, the Permaculture homestead gardens.
The project has been able to disseminate an emerging policy for sustainable agricultural development to DAERD, and also, to galvanise co-operative governance into a co-ordinated holistic approach for this emerging Integrated Conservation Development Project (ICDP).
The Permaculture homestead gardens have provided a unique way to pioneer sustainable and affordable agricultural development practices. This approach has even been compared to (with costings) DAERD’s response to food security, which instead is based on the distribution of fertilizers, pesticides, a rainwater tank and GMO seeds. In fact, DAERD has admitted that its approach to food security is not sustainable, but they are still evaluating alternatives and are closely following the progress with the Permaculture homestead gardens approach in Dukuduku.
The Permaculture homestead gardens approach has been successfully marketed to various large private sector entities for CSI funding support, who are very keen to assist with food security and local economic development projects. It is hoped that other CSI funding will be secured to follow on from the very positive contribution made thus far by UNILIVER and FOSKOR.
The implementation of the Permaculture homestead gardens within the three communities has also sensitized people at large about environmental issues and instilled a new appreciation for the remaining tracts of the Dukuduku Forest. In particular, a new food forest project is being conceptualized to complement the rehabilitation of the indigenous Dukuduku Forest along the new boundary with iSimangaliso.
My own personal reflection on this project is that whilst the best plans can be prepared, in reality, there is a very sad lack of co-operative governance and timely funding commitment. In hindsight, it would have been more appropriate to simply implement a large scale Permaculture homestead gardens project in order to enhance food security and instil an appreciation for sustainable agricultural practices, which could then be applied for the larger commonage areas in accordance with the Spatial Planning Framework to stimulate local economic development. The other aspects of service delivery, such as, water, housing, roads, community facilities, etc., will all be delivered in due course as and when government funding becomes available.