How landowners can finance sustainable land management


Landowners are the custodians of society’s future. According to experts at the ABI Partners meeting, held on Tuesday 25 November, landowners own most of the natural ecosystems, which deliver essential services to society. Now it’s up to this group to secure support, in new and innovative ways, from those who benefit from the services.


According to Onno Huyser, formerly from WWF-South Africa and now an environmental consultant, in the Western Cape it costs on average R71 per hectare to ensure natural vegetation remains intact and soil erosion doesn’t occur. However, this service, provided by private landowners, is not being paid for.  “Landowners can’t subsidise public value streams indefinitely, or fully.”


Huyser said there is now a need to provide better evidence and arguments of the value provided by these ecosystems. “We now need to make the case for this. Arguments around soil, carbon, ecological infrastructure and water look the most promising, and where resources are likely to come from next.” Ecological infrastructure refers to wetlands, rivers, riparian corridors, catchments and other naturally functioning ecosystems on which lives and development depends. “Farmers should collaborate around these issues, and present a serious business case.”


According to Bernard Niemand, Control Officer: Biodiversity at the Western Cape Department of Environmental Affairs & Development Planning (DEADP), the loss of water to invasive alien plants in the Western Cape is valued at around R1.3 billion per year. The total estimated loss of natural capital amounts to around R4.5 billion a year in the province.


The department is now looking at ways of encouraging investment into biodiversity, to prevent deteriorating ecosystems and biodiversity loss. Through the Eco-Invest Project, DEADP is looking at the insurance industry, large corporates and small to medium enterprises. The project is also assessing ways to encourage change in decision-making within government.


He said, “We’ve found that financial returns for investors are fundamental. Going green cannot compromise returns. And returns must accrue over the short term.”  The project is now in its second phase, with DEADP working closely with municipalities, other organs of state and non-governmental organisations.


The ABI meeting brought landowners, government officials and NGOs together. ABI is currently coordinated by the Flower Valley Conservation Trust. The meeting took place at Van Brakel Store, and sought to address the challenges and opportunities for landowners to finance sustainable land management.


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