local economy

The agricultural economy of the Klein Karoo is strongly dependent on the very limited surface and ground water supplies for irrigated crops and extensive livestock farming. Lucerne is the dominant cultivated crop, butvineyards, a variety of vegetables (produced both for seed and food) as well as fruit trees and the cereal crops, wheat, oats, barley and rye are also grown. The Klein Karoo is especially recognised for its ostrich production, although other livestock are also farmed in the region, including dorperand merino sheep, angora and boergoats, as well as a variety of cattle breeds.

In the Riversdale-Mossel Bay coastal plain area the agricultural economy depends  ondryland and irrigated crops, such as vineyards, lucerne, fruit, vegetables and pasture, as well as livestock (sheep and cattle) and commercial forestry.

Tourism is no-doubt one of the most important economic sectors in the Gouritz Cluster Biosphere Reserve, both along the coast and inland. The popular Route 62 links Cape Town (which receives over 1.5 million tourists a year) with the Klein Karoo. All the towns en route rely heavily on tourism as an income generator for local communities.

Montagu, for example, a small village at the westernmost limit of the biosphere reserve, offers a “Dried Fruit Route” through orchards, the Montagu Hot Mineral Springs, the Montagu Village Market for farmers and crafters. Four-by-four routes, tractor trips through a Protea farm, rock climbing, and the Breede River Goose River Cruise are also on offer. Five galleries, two museums, a golf course, maze and labyrinth, nature garden, and hiking and walking opportunities clearly illustrate the reliance of the local community on the tourism market (http://www.montagu-ashton.info).

The other towns along the scenic Route 62 (Barrydale, Ladismith, Calitzdorp, Oudtshoorn, De Rust and Uniondale) offer similar attractions, with Oudtshoorn also forming the commercial centre of the Klein Karoo.

Prince Albert, in the Great Karoo, is the only town in the biosphere reserve north of the SwartbergWorld Heritage Site. It also has a thriving tourism sector, specialising in agricultural produce from the area. Karoo lamb, Angora goats, figs, olives (the Prince Albert Olive Festival), vineyards, cheese and sun-ripened fruit are all popular with tourists.

Wisely managed eco-tourism can be vital in stimulating knowledge of the less obvious, yet globally significant diversity of flora in the area. Additionally, the broader tourist market provides employment to producers of food and services based on traditional skills and local knowledge. The towns and villages mentioned above all provide a market outlet for arts and crafts, for communities using local resources (e.g. wood, dried fruit and flowers, stones etc).

All the coastal towns are popular holiday destinations. In the Mossel Bay municipal area the other main economic activities are agriculture (aloe products, cattle, citrus, dairy, ostriches, sheep, timber and vegetables), fishing, light industry and petrochemicals. Other main economic activities in the Hessequa municipal area are agriculturally based, such as thatch and flower harvesting, aloe products, olives, dairy, sheep, fruit, vegetables and vineyards.

Job creation and skills development in conservation and restoration initiatives

 An important parallel to ecotourism is the expansion of protected areas through partnerships. The Gouritz Cluster Biosphere Reserve will continue to link closely with the existing stewardship strategy currently championed by CapeNature. By linking CapeNature’s stewardship options with the various public sector “Working For” programmes, numerous employment and skills development opportunities arise as land owners commit to restoration of degraded land and wetlands, clearing invasive aliens, etc. Within these programmes, a conscious effort is made to target employment of women, youth and people with disabilities. Training is provided in the technical skills associated with restoration as well as a range of life skills. 

In addition, products derived from alien vegetation removal can provide the basis for small enterprises for low-income communities, such as the use of biomass for renewable energy, wood for furniture production, charcoal and firewood sales, etc.

The Gouritz Cluster Biosphere Reserve will investigate the feasibility of employing the Carbon Economy to fund restoration work in highly degraded areas.  Taking a social equity approach, this should include a focus on land reform by involving small-scale black farmers, or alternatively, farm worker equity schemes. Strategic collaboration with the Department of Land Affairs to identify one or more suitable projects, would help ensure that poor people gain direct economic benefit rather than remain ‘trickle down’ beneficiaries. There are international corporate funders which, as part of their social responsibility focus, assist Emerging Black Farmers enter into the carbon economy and increase the sustainability of farming enterprises. The biosphere reserve will deliberately seek to link up these different actors to advance this kind of initiative.

Pro-poor Local Economic Development strategies

 Local municipalities are the designated authority to develop Local Economic Development (LED) strategies. The Gouritz Cluster Biosphere Reserve will link closely with other partners to promote LED that is sensitive to poor communities’ interests and the environment. Building frameworks for collaboration between local government, conservation authorities and other relevant state agencies, private enterprises, landowners and representative community structures is an essential precondition for economic development that offers direct opportunities for poor people (Crane 2007). The proposed biosphere reserve can contribute to building grassroots models of pro-poor enterprise and employment development connected to biodiversity, by ensuring that LED strategies emphasise initiatives which:

  • Support the development of business and marketing skills, infrastructure and systems of small-scale producers involved with nature-based enterprises
  • Develop commercial activity in rural communities in proximity to ecotourism establishments, whether state or privately owned
  • Build community organisations and nurture leadership that can increase poor people’s participation in the biodiversity economy
  • Focus on innovative ways of increasing ownership of economic assets by poor people – including land, property, businesses
  • Support skills development, especially of young people in ecotourism and other nature-based industries.

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