Over the past 22 years, the Mondi Wetlands Programme (MWP) has moved wetland conservation from being a side issue to centre stage. This has irreversibly changed the way government, communities, public, as well as the forestry and sugar industries understand and manage their wetlands.
MWP works nationally to conserve wetlands predominately outside nature reserves. Most of the country’s wetlands in fact lie outside protected areas so MWP’s interventions are of vital importance. MWP promotes wise use and rehabilitation of palustrine wetlands – these are predominately wet meadows, marshes and floodplain wetlands.
Wetlands play a crucial role in managing, at no cost, what little water we receive, which is South Africa’s most precious natural resource. Wetlands are therefore of national importance for the functions they perform of water purification, water storage, recharging of underground aquifers and streamflow regulation.
More than half already gone
They are of a further national importance for their control of erosion, flood attenuation and biodiversity value. It is estimated that development and poor land management have already destroyed over 50% of our freshwater wetlands. The continued destruction of our wetlands will result in the disappearance of these priceless wetland functions and values.
In order for the Programme to make its biggest impact on wetland conservation, the MWP has to concentrate its work not just on the physical destruction and rehabilitation of wetlands, but also on the root cause of it. This includes a lack of awareness, capacity, knowledge, responsibility and the political will to do something about it.
For this reason the MWP undertakes projects that work towards catalysing and supporting voluntary social change for improved wetland management, which falls directly under WESSA’s Water thematic programme of work.
These projects work towards:
- Catalysing and supporting stewardship of key wetland ecosystems and surrounding catchments, securing stakeholder engagement for sustainable management of wetlands and associated biodiversity
- Strengthening the capacity and skills of appropriate authorities, businesses and the public for efficient and wise use of wetlands. The MWP works closely with the sugar and forestry industries, communal wetland users, commercial farmers, municipal, provincial and national government.
The Mondi Wetlands Programme has two staff based at its main office in Centurion, Pretoria, and a further six staff at an office in Howick, KwaZulu-Natal. Work is also contracted out to three specialist MWP associates in Limpopo and Western Cape.
Initiated in 1991, by the Wildlife and Environment Society of SA (WESSA) and the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), the Programme is funded by two corporate sponsors who are also partners of MWP. These sponsors are the Mazda Wildlife Fund and Mondi Ltd. Since the MWP is funded by these corporates, the MWP can work with whom it wants free of charge. The Programme is jointly managed by a steering committee made up of all the sponsors, each with equal influence.