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Author: Claret Walker - Walker Environmental Management Solutions

( Article Type: Explanation )

Biodiversity Stewardship, Conservation Stewardship, Land Stewardship and Environmental Stewardship Land stewardship is an ancient concept which refers to the wise use, management and protection of land that has been entrusted to an owner/user. Biodiversity stewardship is about landowner/users being custodians of their land (including natural resources and biodiversity) through the sustainable use, management and protection of resources.
Biodiversity Stewardship in South Africa is implemented through various mechanisms and approaches. The most dominant uptake of the stewardship concept is by the BSP (Biodiversity Stewardship Program), which is a national initiative, driven by the National Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA), as an attempt by Government to engage landowners in the voluntary securing of parcels of biodiverse land. Keeping natural ecosystems intact both within and beyond protected areas helps to ensure continued provision of crucial ecosystem services and to sustain South Africa’s ecological infrastructure (without which sustainable development cannot occur). Approximately 80% of the biodiversity that is critical to conserve, is situated on private or communally owned land, and is often under substantial pressure from other land and resource uses. What is important to note is that Biodiversity Stewardship aims to address the conservation of biodiversity, whilst enhancing the sustainable utilisation of the resources that underpin the individuals dependant on them.
This is why Biodiversity Stewardship is seen as such a fresh approach to a lifelong problem within the conservation sphere. For the first time landowners/users are seen as part of the solution and are given the opportunity to cooperatively work with Government and conservation authorities towards sustainable livelihoods within South Africa`s Protected Area network. The BSP is operated by Provincial Conservation Authorities, currently varying in phases of development and efficacy.
However, Stewardship is not only the responsibility of Government and selective landowners. Stewardship is an ethic by which every citizen can care for our air, land and water as parts of a natural life-support system and can act collectively to sustain and enhance it for generations to come. A Stewardship Community of Practice should be a body of people unified by their common interest in ecosystem sustainability, usually with a specifically focused interest, such as wetland conservation, or protecting water quality and quantity. Stewardship thus falls on the shoulders of each and every South African, living and working in our various landscapes and environments. Stewardship embodies cooperative planning and management of environmental resources with organizations, communities and others, working towards the prevention of loss of habitat and contributing towards the long-term sustainability of the environment around you.
Here are a couple of pointers of how you can become involved in Environmental Stewardship in your local area:
1. Find out if there are any existing environmental initiatives which might be of interest to you e.g. a wetland rehabilitation project, a clean-up of a park, a bird count, an outreach and education to a community etc.
2. Become a trend setter and an ecological example in your friendship circle - tell them what you know about your local environment and share your local knowledge. Create an eco-logical interest!
3. Show initiative and leadership by trying to build partnerships amongst government bodies, conservation organizations, industry and community groups around issues relating to your local environment – partnerships are essential to strengthen and maintain a positive framework for a stewardship initiative.
4. Try and gather your local community members towards a collaborative action, local capacity and ownership of a problem – a wetland rehabilitation effort on a Saturday morning.
5. The sharing of information and the training of local community members about their environment to raise the levels of awareness, interest and capability for stewardship actions and activities is a key point for any stewardship initiative to succeed.

Environmental Stewardship is a responsibility shared by all those whose actions affect the environment.