Often in the past conservation projects have been based on the idea that conservation and community are two separate things and often conservation efforts have resulted in the exclusion of local communities; however these days many conservation initiatives are taking a new direction and often aim to include local communities in order to ensure their success.
There are many ways in which local communities can be involved in conservation – it could be through a direct involvement in a conservation project which brings the community a direct benefit; or through educating local communities about conservation and the environment, which in turn encourages understanding and respect for the natural world.
If I think of community-based conservation in Knysna there is one project which really stands out for me – the Khayalethu eco-trail.
Nestled in the middle of the Khayalethu Township there is a colourful Rastafarian community. The Judah Square Rastafarian Community is the biggest Rastafarian community of its kind in South Africa. This community has great respect for nature and on their own initiative they have established a nature trail that meanders along the Khayalethu River basin.
This piece of land had previously been covered with Pine tress and other alien invasive species and the river was extremely polluted. The Rasta’s initiated the rehabilitation of this eco-system and has turned it into a sustainable community project. They are creating walkways and removing alien species (which in turn is allowing the natural vegetation – fynbos – to grow, and attracting back indigenous wildlife).
The long-term aim of this project is to develop the tourism aspect by running guided tours and night walks in the trail. The idea is for the tours to also include other areas of Judah Square such as restaurants and a chance to see the local Rasta band! In the long term this project will bring direct benefits to the whole community at the same time as preserving the environment.
The Khayalethu eco-trail is a truly unique project and the Brothers and Sisters of Judah Square are extremely dedicated to it, therefore EDGE of AFRICA makes every effort to support this project through volunteer participation. This project was initiated by members of the local community and is very much community based – a fine example of how successful community based conservation can be!
EDGE of AFRICA firmly believes that conservation relies on community appreciation and understanding. Thus the creation and running of conservation themed workshops is one of the main priorities of Conservation EDGE.
As part of EDGE of AFRICA’s Everything Elephant Project, international volunteers are responsible for putting together Elephant workshops, incorporating topics such as anatomy and behaviour, as well as threats to elephants and conservation strategies. These workshops are then run in local schools in Knysna, working with children from age 3 to 16.
The children of Knysna are also exposed to other conservation topics such as biodiversity and tidal systems through EDGE of AFRICA’s holiday workshops. Not only is this a valuable learning experience for the children but it also gives them a chance to visit the tidal pools and the beaches, and many other places that a lot of the children wouldn’t normally get the chance to visit.
By Jo Lancaster