GREF highlights the importance of environmental management and connects the dots between a sustainable regional economy and agriculture
Article by Cobus Meiring
“The Garden Route has a deceiving way of creating an impression of prosperity, whilst in fact, it is poor in resources, prone to drought, regular and severe natural disasters,” says Cobus Meiring of the Garden Route Environmental Forum (GREF) Secretariat.
“Whilst up until the 1980s the region had a strong forestry industry backbone, the mainstay of the regional economy now is agriculture, followed by tourism and small and medium enterprises.”
According to Meiring, severe wildfires in recent years decimated the regional forestry industry and with political and policy uncertainty regarding the future of the regional forestry industry as a whole, the forestry industry’s role as an important income generator seems to have shrunk to an all-time low with little light in the tunnel.
“In the light of advancing climate change, fast increasing population figures and a number of recent natural disasters, the significance of a high-quality natural environment, and the way it is managed and preserved, is increasingly clear,” says Meiring.
He emphasised the importance of environmental management as part of a sustainable regional economy and agriculture.
“Risks associated with wildfire and invasive alien plants in our catchments must be reduced and freshwater systems must be managed with greater effectiveness.”
Spearheaded by the Garden Route District Municipality and the Western Cape Government, local municipalities, regional authorities and environmental management entities are not oblivious of the challenges that lie ahead if the region is to survive economically.
Addressing the annual Garden Route Environment Forum (GREF)’s key stakeholder event on 11 December last year, the Western Cape Minister of Local Government Environmental Affairs and Development Planning, Mr Anton Bredell, emphasised the relevance of his Department and the role it has to play going into the new decade in ensuring the long-term prosperity on the whole of the Western Cape.
Delivering a keynote address on the state of agriculture in the Western Cape, Mr Jannie Strydom, CEO of Agri Western Cape, provided an overview of the state of agriculture in the Western Cape. Mr Strydom pointed out that there are many positives regarding growth in agriculture, but that challenges are also on the rise, and the persistent drought over the past years, as well as unpredictable rainfall patterns, are having a significant negative impact on all agricultural sectors.
In conclusion of the GREF event, Mr Clive Africa, Executive Manager: Community Services of the Garden Route District Municipality, reflected on the challenges the region faces in managing the regional environment, including the reduction of risks associated with wildfire, invasive alien plants in our catchments and the state of freshwater systems. He stressed that close coordination and collaboration by all key stakeholders in going forward hold the key to environmental management.
** The Garden Route Environmental Forum (GREF) is a regional forum for collaboration in conservation, environmental adaptation and community interaction. The forum aims to coordinate regional conservation efforts, serve as a catalyst to drive climate adaption practices in the Southern Cape and strive to establish a better-coordinated approach to environmental management.