Promoting healthy ecosystems to build resilience to climate change


3.2. Research (Feasibility document) - Investing in Sustainability (Wilderness Foundation)


Through CAP, the DG Murray Trust awarded the Wilderness Foundation (WF) seed funding to develop a business case for planning and implementing subtropical thicket restoration in the Eastern Cape. A partnership was formed with the Department Water Affairs Eastern Cape Restoration Programme and a workshop was held in July 2009 .

The product is a collaborative feasibility document, entitled “INVESTING IN SUSTAINABILITY - Restoring degraded thicket, creating jobs, capturing carbon and earning green credit” (Editors Cowling, R. and Skowno, A. 2009).

Overview of content

The viability assessment looks at the planning and implementation of subtropical thicket restoration in the Eastern Cape. The detailed report is an economic model of thicket / woodland restoration, using the most up-to-date sequestration and cost data together with spatial modeling.

This booklet is an powerful tool in the hands of government, corporate and civil society leaders and project developers. It is an “accessible” summary report, which could be used in fundraising within the NGO and research sector, for awareness raising within farming and investment sectors, and for use in lobbying and capacity building government, as well as act as a reference for government restoration programmes.

Contributors and distribution

The contributors included leading experts on thicket restoration, thicket ecology, resource economics, public works implementation and government programme strategy. A second round of funding was secured through CAP and DG Murray in September 2009 and with this the document was converted in to a glossy booklet, which is currently being published and distributed by the Wilderness Foundation, CAP and DWEA to appropriate agencies, companies, organisations and individuals.

Viability Assessment download (2 MB)

Download full 'Investing in sustainability' viability assessment here


Matthew Norval - Wilderness Foundation Conservation Programme Director
Tel: + 27 (0) 41 373 0293
Fax: + 27 (0) 41 374 1821

Sarshen Marais - Climate Action Partnership Manager
Tel: 021 799 8824

Executive Summary

This document presents the case for restoration of degraded thicket as a means to revive the rural economy in the Eastern Cape. Its purpose is to stimulate investment in the large-scale restoration of degraded thicket, basing its case on sound practical and scientific evidence and economic models built on existing working programmes. It is aimed at corporates seeking green credit, and also at government, given that restoration is aligned with government’s strategies.

More than one million hectares of vegetation - the spekboom-rich thicket of the Eastern Cape - has been converted from dense forest-like vegetation to an open desert-like state. This degradation is the result of the injudicious farming of livestock, mainly through over- stocking with angora goats. Fortunately this degraded land can be reclaimed by planting cuttings of the Eastern Cape’s unique and remarkable plant – spekboom or igwanishe – which is able to re-establish from these cuttings and grow rapidly into tall dense vegetation, without irrigation. The special qualities of this Eastern Cape plant provide a tremendous opportunity for restoring degraded thicket landscapes.

Large-scale restoration of tens of thousands of hectares using spekboom cuttings will create major benefits for South Africa, all of which contribute to the three pillars of sustainability: environment, society and economy.

The environmental benefits include: improved carrying capacity of the landscape for judiciously managed livestock and wildlife; conserved topsoils and consequently less silt deposition in rivers and dams; greater water infiltration into soils and aquifers, thereby replenishing ground water; capture of carbon
from the atmosphere; and the return of the thicket’s biodiversity i.e. its plants, animals and their natural systems.

The socio-economic benefits include: the creation of thousands of jobs in the restoration industry; improved ecotourism opportunities; improved livelihoods through the generation of income streams from carbon sequestration; training of the rural poor in both business skills and restoration; and financial returns on investments in restoration. Furthermore, by reviving natural capital and ecosystem services, and facilitating rural development, restoration of thicket will build ecosystem resilience and therefore play a role in enabling local communities to adapt to climate change impacts.

These benefits place the restoration of degraded thicket in complete alignment with the government’s strategies for the Second Economy.

The annual AsgiSA report of March 2009 includes the significant expansion of public employment to the most marginalized, and recognizes potentially significant new opportunities for rural employment, and the potential for earning carbon credits. Thus, in terms of meeting government objectives, the twinning of environmental and economic development within a single programme offer a great advantage.

One vision of the Working for Woodlands Programme is to create a new rural economy in the Eastern Cape, based on the restoration of South Africa’s degraded thicket. The realization of this vision will require from government and the corporate sectors, initial investments which will generate considerable green acclaim and social benefits, as well as financial returns. Carbon credits generated could be used for offsetting government and corporate carbon footprints, or for trading on international markets.

Importantly, sustainable livelihoods will underpin the new rural economy. The sheer magnitude of large-scale thicket restoration means that it would create thousands of jobs for previously disadvantaged individuals and greatly assist the government’s 2004 AsgiSA (Accelerated and Shared Growth Initiative for South Africa) target of halving poverty and unemployment by 2014.

Click the image to enlarge:
Click the image to enlarge: Spekboom (Portulacaria afra)
Spekboom (Portulacaria afra)
Click the image to enlarge: The current extent of intact spekboom-rich thicket and of degraded thicket. Almost all of the 1.2 million hectores of degraded thicket is potentially restorable.
The current extent of intact spekboom-rich thicket and of degraded thicket. Almost all of the 1.2 million hectores of degraded thicket is potentially restorable.
Click the image to enlarge: Creating sustainable livlihoods
Creating sustainable livlihoods
Click the image to enlarge: Socio-economic, environmental and economic benefits
Socio-economic, environmental and economic benefits
Posted: 8/12/2010 (3:11:00 PM)

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