The 30th of September and 1st of October saw the celebration and grand opening of two community resource hubs in northern KwaZulu-Natal, namely Mabibi and KwaDapha.
The hub construction and establishment forms part of the Oceans Alive iSimangaliso Marine Protected Area (MPA) Project driven by WILDOCEANS, a programme of the WILDTRUST, in partnership with iSimangaliso Wetland Park Authority and Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife – funded by the Blue Action Fund.
The aim of this project is to increase protection and strengthen management of marine biodiversity at iSimangaliso, while improving the livelihoods of adjacent communities and working towards sustainable fisheries and activities.
“The hubs are intended to be valuable resource centres for the communities in and around the iSimangaliso MPA,” said WILDTRUST Project Manager Nozi Mbongwa.
“The hubs aim to provide support for key initiatives such as building ocean awareness, training, micro-enterprise development, employment opportunities for youth, support for community involvement in conservation activities and tourism opportunities, facilitate access to amenities, promote craft production and sales, and demonstrate projects linked to nature-based solutions and climate-smart agriculture.”
Dr Roelie Kloppers, CEO of the WILDTRUST who delivered the keynote address at the launch events said:
“It is indeed true that without our oceans, there can be no life on earth and one of the most important tasks we can undertake is to look after our oceans and our coastal areas. Our oceans and coastal areas enable life on earth. Over three billion people depend on marine and coastal resources for their livelihoods. The ocean is also the primary regulator of the global climate, an important sink for greenhouse gases and they provide us with water and the oxygen we breathe. No one understands the importance of our oceans and coastal areas better than our coastal communities and we are proud to partner with community leadership, the iSimangaliso Wetland Park Authority and Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife in protecting our oceans and the resources that our coastal communities depend on.”
CEO of the iSimangaliso Wetland Park Authority, Mr Sbu Bukhosini addressed the crowd at the event:
“Not so long ago, conservation used to be the responsibility of government and certain sectors excluding communities, NGOs and the private sector. If conservation is to exist in perpetuity, we will need to have strategic partnerships. It is in that spirit that I am standing here today as the CEO of iSimangaliso Wetland Park in partnership with the WILDTRUST but most importantly with the community. We are fast realising and recognizing that conservation cannot be a unilateral function of one state entity.”
Joe Phadima, Senior Executive at Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife had this to say:
“The handover of these hubs is equivalent to us reaping the handwork of all three organisations involved in establishing these hubs, and at the same time we are gathered to plant for the benefits of our communities. For any planted seed to grow it needs watering. For this hub to succeed we need the community to water it by taking care of it.”
“The Oceans Alive MPA Project underway in the iSimangaliso Wetland Park has provided an opportunity to implement interventions at scale on the ground and to initiate a regional case study for improving MPA management effectiveness, while working to deliver sustainable benefits to local communities,” said WILDTRUST Executive Dr Jean Harris.
74 community members were employed to assist with the hub establishment including plumbing, carpentry, paving, fencing of the hubs and painting and will all be awarded an Accredited Construction Certificate. These community members will also be included in an intense mentorship programme to enable them to develop sustainable construction businesses.
The Oceans Alive project is also providing enterprise mentorship and grant support through the establishment of sewing businesses across 9 communities. 56 local community members have been awarded with 20 sewing machines and have received training on how to use them and how to produce face masks (480 masks produced thus far), which will be distributed in schools, clinics, and households to reduce the spread of Covid-19. The beneficiaries will still undergo an intense mentorship programme and be provided with guidelines, training, and tools to build sustainable sewing machine businesses. The project aims to enable 120 micro-enterprises by 2023 and in the process mitigate socio-economic challenges, increase employment, and improve livelihoods.
These hubs will not only serve as an ocean centre where the community will learn about the importance and benefits of MPAs but will also serve as a multi-purpose educational centre used for skills training and capacity building, and a variety of activations linked to ocean awareness.
“Special mention must be made of Drew Wilson of EcoEng, Louise Duys, Tjeka Training Matters (Pty) Ltd and Container Conversions for all they did to make these hubs a reality,” said Mbongwa.
The funders of the Oceans Alive project, the Blue Action Fund who support NGOs like the WILDTRUST, are putting in effort to conserve the ocean and improve the livelihoods of coastal communities across the world. Their support has not only made these hubs possible but will also be supporting activities associated with the hubs over the next 2 years – seeking ways to ensure that it can be sustained into the future.
“Each hub is designed to reflect cultural activities, local species and promote the management of marine biodiversity,” said Mbongwa. “They are a place of hope, full of positive energy and will no doubt become hubs of education and awareness.”