The launch of the Thohoyandou National Botanic Garden by the Minister of Forests, Fisheries and Environment, Mrs Barbara Creecy, is a great example of South Africa’s commitment to ensuring that our local communities are supported and built upon while ensuring that our unique natural environments and resources are preserved.
A milestone moment celebrating conservation and uplifting the community was commemorated today, 22 May 2022, at the official launch ceremony of the Thohoyandou National Botanical Garden on the International Day for Biodiversity.
The theme for this year’s International Day for Biodiversity is Building a Shared Future for All Life, which today’s discussions captured so well. The theme, building on the momentum of the celebrations over the past two years, aims to raise awareness of the role biodiversity plays for people and further demonstrate the potential role people can play for biodiversity.
“Conserving and restoring ecosystems, such as wetlands, rivers and watersheds, can reduce the disastrous effects of extreme weather events, including floods and droughts,” said the Minister of Forests, Fisheries and of the Environment, Ms. Barbara Creecy.
At the global level, the Convention on Biological Diversity wants the International Day for Biodiversity 2022 to create new energy and momentum that will support the post-2020 global biodiversity framework, which is expected to be adopted at the next conference of parties (COP 15), where a new deal for nature and people should emerge.
Furthermore, this action-oriented theme is well aligned with the ongoing United Nations Decade for Ecosystem Restoration. This initiative promotes the idea that biodiversity can be the solution to a number of sustainable development challenges.
The official declaration of the Thohoyandou National Botanical Garden today was monumental, as the garden is the first national botanic garden in Limpopo Province and the 11th in the country.
The Thohoyandou National Botanic Garden completes South Africa’s network of national botanic gardens by contributing approximately 82 hectares of the Soutpansberg Mountain Bushveld. With only 2.2% of this threatened vegetation type currently under official protection, the declaration and launch is a conservation victory for the country and its people.
Located in the Vhembe Biosphere Reserve, the largest biosphere reserve in the country, the garden is home to a number of unique species of butterflies, insects and endangered plant species. Of particular importance, not only for conservation but also for local communities, are the various species of plants that have significant medicinal properties and value.
“I would like to thank and appreciate the visionaries who saw fit to establish a Herbarium in 1976.and this area as a Botanical Garden. SANBI envisions the Thohoyandou Garden Plan will increase its educational value, financial viability and l “interest and support from visitors, tourists and the local community. We envision the design of the garden where the choice of species represents the multiple values of plants to people, communicated in a very innovative, yet culturally appropriate way,” said the President of SANBI, Professor Edward Nesamvuni.
Our vision is for this botanical garden to play its part in showcasing and promoting indigenous plants used for food, African arts, medicine, perfumes, traditional architecture, horticulture and agriculture, and a garden that serves to increase the connection between people and biodiversity.
The infrastructure hosted by the garden will serve as a biodiversity center for the province, showcasing traditional features of the botanical garden and scientific research facilities. As a nature-based, cultural and scientific tourist attraction, the garden will contribute to the socio-economic development of the region, supporting surrounding communities, including young people, students and local businesses.
In addition to the conservation and socio-economic value of the garden, it is also of insurmountable cultural importance, especially for members of the Mphaphuli community, who live in and around this area.
This land, now included in the country’s conservation domain, was part of a land claim filed by the Mphaphuli and Tshiluvhi communities, who were forcibly removed from their lands in the past.
These communities, by accepting the governments’ offer to be financially compensated for their lands and to allow their lands to be part of a larger initiative, had already identified and appreciated the essence of what Building a Shared Future meant. for all life.
This garden will continue to support communities in many ways, including: providing access to graves and ancestral ruins; ensure that there is historical recognition through the naming of structures in the garden; it will include traditional designs adapted from the rich traditional knowledge of the Mphaphuli community; the garden will also host workshops for traditional leaders and healers to raise awareness about the sustainable harvesting of medicinal plants; local students will also benefit from educational programs; and overall the garden will create temporary employment opportunities for local communities.
South Africa is equipped with a number of interventions to address the challenges facing biodiversity and the negative impacts this has on people. Implementing these interventions strategically and translating them into impactful actions will help maintain a holistic approach to conservation in which the relationship between nature and people is at the forefront.
One such strategic policy intervention is the National Botanic Gardens Expansion Strategy released in 2019.
“The strategy aims first to establish at least one botanic garden in each province; second to ensure that all biomes are represented in the creation of new botanic gardens and finally to expand existing national botanic gardens as we have done recently for the Harold Porter National Botanical Garden in the Western Cape,” Minister Creecy added.
The creation, future developments and improvements of the Thohoyandou National Botanical Garden will be aligned with this strategy.
There is no better time than the present to change direction and encourage change for the world and South Africans to care for nature, for the well-being of people and the environment.
Minister Creecy concluded by adding that this milestone in the establishment of the Thohoyandou National Botanical Garden paves the way for future initiatives to protect the country’s precious biodiversity and simultaneously uplifts and supports local communities, through which South Africans continue to learn to build a shared future for life.