Since its inception six years ago, the Greater Kromme Stewardship initiative has been widely recognised for securing more priority land for conservation in the Kouga region than any other independent conservation body in the last fifty years.
The organisation is a partnership of five local wind farms, who are its funders, and an environmentalist NGO.
The organisation was set up to pursue the declaration of new protected zones within conservation priority areas. This is no small undertaking, considering the number of stakeholders involved, the extensive procedures required and the bureaucracy involved.
However, it is weighed off against the protection of large numbers of critically endangered, vulnerable and rare species, making it all worth the effort.
“We have managed to secure four tracts of land so far, which were declared within high conservation priority areas in the Kouga region, and we are excited to announce that a further three new protected areas are currently in the advanced stages of being declared,” said Rafiq Ebrahiem, Chairman for the Greater Kromme Stewardship.
He went on to explain that in one particular case a 25-year delay caused by complex regulatory issues, which were preventing a recognised local nature reserve from being formally declared, had been overcome through the efforts of the GKS.
The organisation established relationships and collaborated with pertinent stakeholders and secured the necessary funding and legal expertise to resolve the issues and the declaration process for a new municipal nature reserve is now underway.
Maggie Langlands, of the Kromme Enviro-Trust, said, “Through our ongoing partnership and support from Gibson Bay Wind Farm, Jeffreys Bay Wind Farm, Kouga Wind Farm, Oyster Bay Wind Farm, and Tsitsikamma Community Wind Farm safe havens are being created in the district to protect valuable plants, animals and the natural habitat.”
The area is home to exceptionally diverse fauna and flora species of conservation concern. A total of fifty-eight local vegetation types occur across the region, which includes twelve types that are listed as ‘Critically Endangered’ Furthermore, many of the threatened species are also endemic to the region, which means that they are not found anywhere else in the world.
The wind farms are major role players in the region and as producers of renewable energy they are at the forefront of the move to sustainable use of natural resources. This partnership of wind farm operators is leading the way in environmental responsibility that goes beyond lip service.
Through the GKS initiative, the wind farms are making a collective effort to secure valuable biodiversity assets and resources in the broader landscape as a means of off-setting or compensating for their environmental impacts, allowing for truly just and sustainable renewable energy in the region.
This is done mainly by establishing a network across the region of new protected areas, such as Nature Reserves, in well recognized conservation priority areas with important biodiversity.
The initiative is managed and implemented by Conservation Outcomes, a specialist biodiversity stewardship organisation, working with the Eastern Cape Parks and Tourism Agency.
Conservation Outcomes not only identifies and manages the process of protecting threatened biodiversity, but also operate environmental education initiatives among local landowners and communities in the region.
The wind farms are independently implementing a number of additional mitigating measures, with Jeffreys Bay Wind Farm, for example, making positive strides to achieve no net loss to biodiversity from its operations, in line with the International Finance Corporation’s (IFC) Sustainability Framework.
Its measures to reduce, eliminate or offset bird and bat fatalities are at an advanced stage of implementation.