MINISTER of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries Barbara Creecy says the on-going conservation of South Africa’s biodiversity is essential for the protection of over 400 000 jobs.
The tourism sector, which was one of the hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, benefits from the creation of more than 88 000 jobs through nature-based travel.
“Our unique biodiversity status means we have a significant economy which creates jobs in parts of our country where there are few other opportunities,” Creecy said.
“In addition, biodiversity or nature-based tourism generates a direct spend of approximately R31 billion in the economy annually”.
Creecy was speaking at the launch of the South African National Parks Week in the Western Cape, which is hosted under the theme “Know Your National Parks”.
As part of week-long initiative, national parks will be accessible to South Africans at no charge between Monday, 16 November and Friday 20 November. Social distancing protocol will be followed to adhere to COVID-19 restrictions.
The week is intended to shed light on the importance of national parks on not only the country’s biodiversity, but also communities that live on the surrounds of these parks and benefit economically from their activity.
This is also an attempt to boost an ailing tourism sector by showcasing national parks as affordable local holiday destinations.
South African National Parks CEO Fundisile Mketeni said expanding access to national parks placed the body in a position to support rural economies.
“SANParks is perfectly positioned to contribute towards addressing pressing developmental objectives such as socio-economic development, through the provision of employment to rural communities living adjacent to National Parks and support to small, medium and micro enterprises,” Mketeni said.
With South Africa’s long history of land dispossessions, numerous national parks remain the subjects of emotional land redistribution claims by surrounding communities.
SANParks said it was aware of South Africa’s “painful past” and would use its initiatives as a way to make contributions towards these communities.
Creecy said government was working with the Commission on the Restitution of Land Rights to finalize outstanding land claims affecting protected areas.
(SOURCE: INSIDE EDUCATION)